Author and illustrator Chris Riddell has accused retailer John Lewis of plagiarising his picturebook in its new Christmas advert.
The production, which premiered last week, features a big, snoring monster who lives under a child’s bed. Former children's laureate Riddell has said it has similarities with his picture book Mr Underbed (Andersen Press), which also features a large but lovable furry monster. Mr Underbed was the first picture book written and illustrated by Riddell and was published in 1985.
Writing on Twitter, Riddell posted a video of the advert comparing it to pages from his book, commenting: “John Lewis helps themselves to my picturebook.”
In a further post on Facebook, Riddell added: “In this age of shrinking publicity budgets it is very generous of John Lewis to devote their Christmas advertising campaign to my 1986 picture book- available in this 2009 edition from Andersen press.”
Riddell said he was "struck by the similarity of the concept" when he watched the ad. “The idea of a monster under the bed is by no means new but the ad does seem to bear a close resemblance to my creation – a big blue unthreatening monster who rocks the bed and snores loudly," he said. "Needless to say, I think Mr Underbed is a lot more appealing than Moz, but of course, I’m biased. I’ll be fascinated to hear John Lewis’ thoughts on the matter.”
However a spokesperson for John Lewis has said the story of a monster under the bed is a "universal tale which has been told many times over many years".
“Ours is a Christmas story of friendship and fun between Joe and Moz The Monster, in which Joe receives a night light which helps him get a good night’s sleep. The main thrust of our story is utterly different to Chris Riddell’s,” the spokesperson said.
According to Andersen Press founder and publisher Klaus Flugge, the dispute has led to an increase in sales with the publisher selling out of stock "overnight". The press will now be "rushing through" a reprint of the title to get it out to shops before Christmas.
Children's publisher Nosy Crow has a partnership with John Lewis to publish picture book versions of its adverts. Last week, Nosy Crow published Moz The Monster to coincide with the ad's launch. It is the fifth year the publisher has produced a book for the retailer's seasonal ad. Nosy Crow declined to comment when asked by The Bookseller.