Hodder Children’s Books will next year publish the first picture book by Watership Down author Richard Adams, with illustrations by Alex T Smith.
The book, The Adventures of Egg Box Dragon, is about a mischievous homemade dragon who loves solving mysteries. Hodder Children’s picture book publisher Emma Layfield acquired world rights to the text from Laura West at David Higham Associates. The deal with Smith was struck with his agent Alison Eldred of Arena Illustration.
The news that Adams was hoping to publish a picture book broke earlier this year when Adams told the Independent that The Adventures of Egg Box Dragon was inspired a craft project one of his daughters took part in at school in the 1960s.
His agent, Veronique Baxter at David Higham Associates, had earlier sent the text of the book to Juliet Mabey, editorial director at Oneworld, which published an illustrated edition of Watership Down in 2014. However, Mabey said the story had now found the right home with Hachette.
“We had really got involved as it looked like it might go unpublished, which would have been a shame as its a great, warm-hearted story,” she told The Bookseller. “[After the Independent article came out] several publishers expressed an interest, including Hachette, even though they had turned it down previously, and I advised Richard's daughter Juliet Johnson that given their renewed interest, I thought they presented the best option for her. I'd have loved to publish it, but if Hachette get behind it I think they will do a great job.”
Layfield said: “It’s not often that you have the opportunity as an editor to acquire a book by one of the greatest authors of our era. It’s an incredible privilege to work with Richard Adams. The Adventures of Egg Box Dragon is an enchanting picture book, and I’m also so pleased that we have paired Richard with Alex T Smith whose distinctive, witty style perfectly complements the text.”
The Adventures of Egg Box Dragon will be Adams’ first book since 2006.