I stumbled across this gorgeous Mr Darcy book online while doing one of my regular trawls. Published in 2011, this book for young readers, written by Alex Field and illustrated by Peter Carnavas, is a gorgeous little hardback from New Frontier Publishing (ISBN:978-1921042836).
It’s delightful, and RSVPs at (US)$24.95. I’m going to be ordering one for my new cousin (who is currently a “bump” in my Auntie’s tummy). The recommended reading age is 9+, but I’m pretty sure this kid is going to be a genius. I’ll also then be ordering the next edition, to be released in April (Pride and Prejudice’s 200th anniversary, for all those living under a Jane-Austen-Shaped-Rock).
The blurb sums up the 32-page book nicely: “Mr Darcy is a rather reserved, gentle duck. He likes to tip his hat and say, ‘good morning’. Mr Darcy would never want to bother anybody. His life is a little lonely until he discovers that it’s okay to let his friends know he needs some help. Alex Field’s great love of Jane Austen’s Mr Darcy from ‘Pride and Prejudice’ inspired her to create Mr Darcy. Mr Darcy has all the great qualities of a gentle English aristocrat. Peter Carnavas has created a gorgeous new look for the well-loved and much admired Mr Darcy.”
I contacted the author who has wonderfully answered some questions I had about the book.
Why did you decide to write Mr Darcy? What was the idea behind it?
A friend of mine had a pet duck called Mr Darcy. He came to the end of his life and her little boy was quite devastated. I thought perhaps Mr Darcy, the duck, could live on in the pages of a book. He was the first person to receive a copy of the book.
I have always been an Austen fan so I had a great deal of fun creating this book and deciding which animals best suited each character from Pride and Prejudice. Ed– which animals do you, readers, think the characters are most suited to?
What was the creation process like?
I wrote the second book, Mr Darcy the Dancing Duck, first. During the collaboration process with the illustrator we decided that a more generic book was needed for the first book in the series. We needed to set the scene and introduce the characters.
Although Mr Darcy has few words, the final published text is very different to the first few drafts I wrote. A picture book is definitely a team effort and the illustrator, Peter Carnavas, brought my words to life and created a rather splendid Mr Darcy!
How much of Pride and Prejudice did you put in?
Part of the fun of this book was keeping the references to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Mr Darcy lives in Pemberley Park and his best friends are Bingley, Caroline (Bingley) and Maria (Lucas). Although the references to the characters will not be grasped by young children, parents may just get a giggle out of it. I thought they would like the fact that Caroline Bingley is the cow! Bingley is the horse as he is a reliable and worthy friend and Maria (Lucas) is the mouse as she is always rather quiet, but also a bit of fun in Austen’s original text.
Why ducks, and are there any other animals in the book?
The idea for the duck came from my friend. I cannot claim it as my own! She called her duck Mr Darcy and I thought it would make a terrific picture book. Lizzy is also a duck as are her sisters.
Do you think parents should try and introduce classics to their children in this way?
It is an entertaining way to introduce young children to a classic. Hopefully when they study Austen as a school student they might remember a picture book they once shared with a parent and it will spark a happy memory rather than the dread that can often come with studying a classic at school!
Where can we buy your book?
It can be purchased from local booksellers or online.
Your second book, Mr Darcy the Dancing Duck will be coming out this year. What is the premise behind this one?
Austen’s original Mr Darcy did not like to dance. His classic response to Sir William Lucas after he entreats him to dance is testament to that!
‘Certainly, sir; and it has the advantage also of being in vogue amongst the less polished societies of the world; every savage can dance.’
This provided the perfect premise for Mr Darcy the Dancing Duck. Mr Darcy has to overcome a few obstacles before he is able to finally dance with Lizzy. It is being released in April next year. 2013 celebrates the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice.
Are you looking to write more in the series after this?
I hope so. I have thoroughly enjoyed bringing these characters to life and already have a third book in mind.
I think it’s fabulous! There are a number of children’s books out there that I think make exceptional gifts. It certainly ticks all my “squee” and “cute” boxes, including: Does it feature sweet little animals? Are there pastel colours? Are the sweet pastel-coloured animals wearing top hats and spouting Jane Austen?
This one is definitely making the approved list.