Canongate is to publish Lemn Sissay's first children's book, Don’t Ask the Dragon, illustrated by Greg Stobbs.
The book tells the story of a little boy called Alem, who goes on an adventure to find somewhere to celebrate his birthday, and is illustrated in full-colour throughout.
Publishing director Francis Bickmore acquired world rights to the title from Clare Conville at C&W and Arabella Stein at The Bright Agency.
Sissay is a British and Ethiopian Bafta-nominated writer and broadcaster. His Landmark poems are visible in London, Manchester, Huddersfield and Addis Ababa, and he has been made an honorary doctor by the universities of Manchester, Kent, Huddersfield and Brunel. Sissay was awarded an MBE for services to literature and in 2019 he was awarded the PEN Pinter Prize. Canongate published My Name is Why, Sissay’s memoir about growing up in care, in 2019. He has sold 82,197 books for £892,438 via Nielsen BookScan's UK TCM, with My Name is Why on 31,336 hardbacks sold.
Commenting on the children's book, he said: "Each week over the past year Greg and I met on Zoom. We shared the screen and shared our dreams of a story about a child. The illustrations bloomed and the story grew. The characters in Don’t Ask the Dragon became our friends and we hope they become yours too."
Stobbs (pictured right) is an illustrator, street artist and visual development artist from the South East of England. Using both traditional and digital techniques, and drawing on walls since he was a little boy, he develops magical stories that attempt to cross the boundaries between fine art, street art and children’s book illustration. He has previously worked with clients from various industries including the BBC, CBeebies, Urban Outfitters and John Lewis. "Lemn’s words are so full with light, shadow, texture and depth that they make pictures by themselves," he said. "Step by careful step we worked together on an extraordinary journey, to draw the illustrations out of those words and make a world where it’s alright to say 'I don’t know', and keep on going."
Bickmore added: "It’s a special delight to be bringing Lemn’s voice to young readers with this picture book all about a boy finding his place in the world. Lemn’s work, like Lemn, brims with life. Greg is the perfect collaborator as his illustrations are flooded with colour, openness and relatable feelings. This book will bring untold joy and hope to younger readers, and their parents, worldwide."
Canongate will publish the picture book in hardback in March 2022.