Author and comedian David Baddiel has written his first children’s novel.
The Parent Agency, a humorous novel about a boy who gets to try out different sets of parents, will be published by HarperCollins Children's Books in the autumn for the 9+ market. Exact publication date is yet to be finalised.
Speaking to The Bookseller, Baddiel said the original idea for the book came from his son, Ezra. “We were at a Harry Potter exhibition and Ezra asked me: 'Why doesn’t Harry leave the Dursleys and go and get some better parents?' I said I didn’t know but that it was an interesting idea. So it was Ezra who sparked off the idea.”
As with his adult novels, Baddiel did not draw up a detailed plan but jumped straight into the writing, sending Barry, the hero of the book, to an agency where he tries out five different sets of parents.
“They’re all opposite versions of his own parents. For example his parents aren’t very rich, so the first parents he chooses are rich parents. Then that doesn’t quite work out,” he said. “The second thing he was worried about is that his parents aren’t very glamorous so the second pair he chooses are celebrity parents…Each version he chooses are the opposite of his own parents, as he sees them.”
The book is illustrated by Jim Field, who has worked with HarperCollins, Bloomsbury and Macmillan, among others, and was chosen by Baddiel for his “modern and up-to-date” but “not completely wild and weird” style.
“I wanted something that boys of Barry’s age would like,” he said, adding: “He was also really good at landscapes, and there are a lot of really interesting and funny places that Barry goes to in the book.”
Baddiel has already published several adult books under the HarperCollins 4th Estate imprint, and said writing for children is both easier and harder than writing for grown-ups.
Writing for children stops him from getting “bogged down” with finding the absolute right word for the sentence, but he explained that it can be harder to describe something using just vocabulary that is suitable for children.
He also added that his work as a comedian helped him keep in touch with the child inside. “I think that’s the job of a comedian almost, to try and remain very in touch with the child in yourself.”
HCB the novel in a two-book deal from Georgia Garrett at RCW and Baddiel already has plans for the second title, which will be a stand-alone book involving talking animals.
“It’s strange because in books, talking animals seem to be for a younger audience but in films, kids will accept talking animals until they are about 14,” he said. And, of course, the book will still be funny, he added.
Nielsen BookScan has recorded overall sales of 162,219 copies for Baddiel's previous titles, with his highest-selling book Whatever Love Means (2000) at 85,310 copies.