Prince Charles pens climate change book for new Ladybird Expert series

Prince Charles pens climate change book for new Ladybird Expert series

Prince Charles has written a book on climate change as part of a new Ladybird Expert series, set to be published later this month.

His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales has written The Ladybird Expert Book on Climate Change, outlining its challenges and possible solutions, along with former executive director of Friends of the Earth Tony Juniper and climate scientist Emily Shuckburgh. 

Set to be published by Penguin Books on 26th January this year priced £7.99, the new Ladybird Expert series is a serious follow on from the roaring success of The Ladybird Books for Grown-Ups parodies, which launched in the market in 2015 and has sold over 3 million copies to date.

In a so-called “post-truth” world of Brexit and Donald Trump, which saw the advice of experts dismissed by political campaigns, the series will aim to provide clear, accessible and authoritative introductions, informed by expert opinion, to subjects from the world of science, history and culture. They will all be penned by “outstanding communicators” in their fields, Penguin said. 

The two other titles in the Ladybird Expert series set to be published for its launch later this month are Evolution by Steve Jones and Quantum Mechanics by Jim Al-Khalili. Two additional titles in the collection will be released in June: The Battle of Britain by James Holland and Shackleton by Ben Saunders.

Prince Charles first approached Penguin with the idea for the climate change book last Spring and then they met with him, Juniper and Shuckburgh to approve the final version at Balmoral in August. The book was extensively peer reviewed in what is a first for any Ladybird book. The review, contributed to by figures within the environmental community such as David Warrilow, the chairman of the climate science special interest group at the Royal Meteorological Society, and a team of seven other climate specialists, was undertaken at the request of the authors, and not instigated by Penguin, according to the publisher. 

Prince Charles' interest in publishing a Ladybird book with Penguin on climate change acted as a "catalyst" for the series, according to publishing director Rowland White, who said the serendipitous approach from Clarence House "focussed the mind" and ultimately brought forward the whole publishing process. 

White told The Bookseller Penguin was having "early but not particularly urgent conversations" about a serious follow-up to the parody Ladybird Books for Adults series when Prince Charles got in touch: "We were able to cut through all the discussion and the debate that so often internal initiatives like this can be hampered by. That was hugely beneficial. We wouldn't have published these books in January this year from the position we were in last summer had we not had that phone call from Clarence House. It really focussed the mind; it was catalyst for the project happening as quickly as it did and in the way that it did," said White. "It really was a wonderful bit of serendipity."

Emily Shuckburgh, HRH The Prince of Wales and Tony Juniper

The Expert series aims to provide a way in to subjects that readers will be aware of – even subjects they feel they should broadly understand – but which they might struggle to explain. Each title will provide context, history and appraisal of the subject in hand, giving readers an appreciation of its significance.

White said: "The extraordinary success of the Ladybird Books for Grown-ups pastiches has been a powerful reminder of the affection and trust enjoyed by the brand.  Generations of children grew up in world illuminated and explained by the original Ladybirds.  Each book made them feel smarter.  Similarly, the new Ladybird Expert books, by marrying that much-loved imprint with some of the leading figures in their fields, serve as introductions to subjects that, in adulthood, those same readers feel they’d like to better understand; which are familiar but out of reach.” 

Of the series' name, White said the Penguin team had been aware of the political context in which it could be interpreted less favourably, in what has been described as a "post-truth world" after Brexit where the opinions of experts have recently been dismissed. "I am of the view expertise is a good thing and, I suppose, we weren't unaware of the way in which the term 'expert' has become almost a prerogative term in some quarters over the last year or so. I wouldn't go so far as to say we were trying to reclaim the world expert, but our view is expertise in a subject is a good thing and if you want to gain a greater understanding of something then your best course of action is to try and learn from an expert rather than from a Google search," he said.

Authors who are lined up to publish further books in the series in 2018 are Maggie Aderin-Pocock, Iain Stewart, Mark Ellen, Suzannah Lipscomb, Marcus Chown and Fiona Maddocks.

Consumers are likely to see more "shorter books" being introduced to the market, according to White, who predicted a deepening of the trend as a response to the internet age in which people are very time-poor.

"Partly it's based on the way the internet seems to be changing the way we consume information. It doesn't seem unreasonable to expect that trying to provide properly rigorous, authoritative, trustworthy, accessible, entertaining information on important subjects in relatively bite-sized chunks is in tune with that.

"People's attention spans are a little shorter and, as aspirational as reading can often be, people don't have the time that they would always like to read one 600-page history or popular science book after another. To be able to pick and choose the subjects that are of interest at any given time and know over the course of half an hour's reading you're going to get a distillation of that subject from somebody who is absolutely expert in that - and can put it in context and bring the colour and the analogy and illustration to that subject - is really appealing. I think we are going to see a great many more shorter books on pithy subjects, because it fits with the way people's life styles are moving on and the demands on our time," he added.

News of the series follows that of Vintage Minis at the end of last week, a new series of small books on big, powerful topics drawing on its extensive backlist. Contributing authors include Haruki Murakami and Salman Rushdie.