By Annabella Costantino, Lauren Gantt and Emma Rogers
The interest in children’s books written by celebrities has been a hot topic of discussion in publishing for years. With many actors, musicians and figures in the media having an existing fan base, publishers can easily harness their popularity to promote and publicise their work. So, let’s dive in and explore some of the recent developments in celebrity children’s books for all ages – varying widely in genre, format, theme and target audience.
From Natalie Portman, famous for her roles in Thor and Star Wars, comes Natalie Portman’s Fables, a retelling of three children’s tales. Published in 2020, Portman uses the classic stories of The Tortoise and the Hare, The Three Little Pigs and Country Mouse and City Mouse to encourage hard work and perseverance – these allegorical stories are perfect for children.
Earlier in 2021, it was announced that Golden Globe winner Idris Elba, known for his commitment to the Marvel cinematic universe, as well as Zootopia, The Mountain Between Us and The Jungle Book, has signed a book deal with HarperCollins. Set to publish later on this year, Elba has teamed up with author Robyn Charteris to produce both picture books and fiction inspired by his daughter. We look forward to learning more about these books later in the year!
Nadiya Hussain MBE rose to fame after winning The Great British Bake Off in 2015, growing as a national treasure in British TV. Her children’s book, Today I’m Strong, is an uplifting picture book illustrated by Ella Bailey. School life can get tough – this book is all about finding inner strength to overcome it all, with an empowering message for young children.
TV and radio presenter, now turned author, Fearne Cotton has come out with Yoga Babies, aimed at two to four-year-olds, illustrated by Sheena Dempsey. Yoga Babies is the first in a picture book series to introduce young children to yoga, with plenty of fun and simple yoga poses for little ones to try! The sequel, Hungry Babies, explores the differences in families’ mealtimes.
Dougie Poytner & Tom Fletcher
Members of the English pop band McFly, Dougie Poytner and Tom Fletcher, have collectively written various children’s books. Most recently, Poytner has written The Whale Watchers, published by Owlet Press, which highlights climate change issues. This book is in collaboration with WDC (Whale and Dolphin Conservation), to help raise funds for sea-life protection. Meanwhile, Fletcher has been incredibly active in the children’s publishing sphere for many years. Some of his most popular titles include The Christmasaurus series, originally published in 2016, as well as The Dinosaur that Pooped series, co-written with Dougie Poytner. He has also written The Creakers series, aimed for children between the ages of six and eight. The writing muscle must run in the family, as both his wife and sister also have several published works.
English singer, dancer and former X-Factor judge, Alesha Dixon, has written multiple children’s books, with a main target audience of young girls as her demographic. Her books include Lightning Girl (2018) and the Superhero Squad series, as well as standalone titles, Girls Rule (2021) and Star Switch (2020). Her books all follow a theme of empowerment, fame and adventure and can be sold in box sets, which is often an appealing format for children aged eleven and above.
YouTuber and influencer Zoe Sugg has built quite the online audience for herself over the last decade. Following the previous ghost-writing controversy surrounding her Girl Online series, she has most recently collaborated with Amy McCulloch to write a murder mystery for the YA arena. The Magpie Society is a duology, originally published by Penguin in 2020.
Carrie Hope Fletcher
Most known for her musical theatre career and YouTube videos, Carrie Hope Fletcher has been writing since 2015, following her first non-fiction publication, All I Know Now. Since its success, she has gone on to publish many YA fiction titles, such as On the Other Side and All That She Can See. In 2020, she published her first children’s book, Into the Spotlight, a re-telling of Ballet Shoes and most recently, The Double Trouble Society, for readers aged nine and above.
People in the Media
The Boy with Wings is an exciting middle-grade adventure, written by comedian Lenny Henry CBE, with illustrations by Keenon Ferrell. Aimed at nine to twelve-year-olds, this is Henry’s first novel for children. It tells the story of a boy called Tunde, who suddenly sprouts wings and learns that he and his friends are the ones responsible for saving the world!
Ibtihaj Muhammad, Olympic medallist, brings forward picture book, The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family. Faizah’s first day of school is here and so is her older sister’s first day of hijab, though not everyone at school is nice. The Proudest Blue is about new experiences, the bonds between sisters and staying true to who you are. Published by Little, Brown, The Proudest Blue has gone on to become a New York Times bestseller.