Produce Business UK talks to Andy Barrett who is marketing a new book written by his wife, a first-time author, which shows potential for fresh produce tie-ins that could help the industry reach out to youngsters
The Great London Banana Mystery is the work of Lynda Barrett, a medical PA with a passion for monkeys. Her 74-page volume is the first in a planned series of Cheeky Chimp City stories and features a clutch of ape characters going on a romp through England’s capital city, chasing down the evil Professor Grumpy Gorilla and his orangutan gang.
Published by Consilience Media, the picture book is full of engaging, colourful illustrations by Magical Creations Studio and is ideal for adults to read to six-to-eight year-olds as they try and work out who is stealing all the delicious, irresistible bananas.
Fresh approach to writing
Marketer Andy Barrett explains the series: “Lynda has taken a really fresh approach to compiling a book and it took about two years to develop the characters,” he says.
“There is quite a large group of principal characters instead of just one or two that you would typically find in a picture book of this type. We have also developed two soft toys to accompany the series that we will launch later as part of the marketing plan.”
There are another two books completed already in the sequence – the second is set in Paris and the third in New York. They continue the quest of the group of friends led by Cheeky Chimp to solve the banana mystery.
Irresistible banana link-up
“The professor is treating the bananas as a commodity, as though they were a currency,” explains Barrett. “Bananas are certainly instrumental to the storyline as they feature right the way through the series.” There is one character in particular, a squirrel monkey named Kendra, who is particularly keen on bananas.
“One thing we wanted to promote with the stories is activity outdoors and that is the point of the clues emphasising different landmarks in the city to get families out and exploring,” says Barrett.
“We also feel strongly about access to healthy food and that message about eating bananas is important, even if it is subliminal.”
Barrett feels there are possibilities for banana producers or others along the supply chain to link up with the book series as a way of reaching youngsters. “I think there is probably strong potential there as these are stories we know kids are interested in,” he says.
Another tie-in that the Barretts are keen to work on is links with indoor-play centres, a significant percentage of which have names associated with cheeky monkeys and chimps.
“We want to encourage activity and linking in with soft play is a way to do that,” explains Andy Barrett. “There is so much competition out there nowadays to reach children through the internet and tablet computers that kids must feel bamboozled by everything.
“It is not just about making them grow up to be strong characters though, it is also important to get them out of the home and interacting with each other face to face.”
The brand is developing and the Cheeky Chimp City series has a website which is being built with interactive fun and education in mind for its young visitors when they can’t go out to play. And Barrett is also establishing links to expand the stories internationally and is in touch with one of the largest Chinese publishers Yilin Press.
“Whatever we do, we make sure it is developed properly so that we communicate the messages and the strong links with the stories,” Barrett says. “Lynda firmly believes in the development of children’s imagination and actively encourages children’s […] engagement in reading and developing young minds keeping them active and healthy.”
Cheeky Chimp loves a mystery and he likes to fight crime too. Just as well because security trucks loaded with bananas have been stolen. Cheeky and his friends Sam, Lucy, Darcy and Kendra need to know who is taking the bananas and why.
Cheeky knows what to do and he sets his friends challenges all over the city. One clue leads to another until finally they meet a very important chimp – the Prime Minister. He tells them who is behind the recent robberies and that two Monkey Intelligent 5 (MI5) agents sent to follow the gang have now gone missing.
Professor Grumpy Gorilla and his Orangutan Gang are back in town after escaping from the Clink Prison. They were caught stealing the Crown Jewels and the Queen was so furious that she told the prison guards to throw away the keys. But now the professor is free and stealing all the bananas and storing them in a huge warehouse on the river. The Cheeky Chimps have to work together to find the professor and the mountain of bananas.
Can they avoid capture as they follow the clues speeding down the river in hot pursuit of the grumpiest mastermind in the world?
The Great London Banana Mystery is available to buy here.
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