Exciting news for readers under the age of six: the creator of the popular Clarice Bean picture books has signed a £1m deal to write six stories about a child secret agent.
Lauren Child, whose Charlie and Lola books have sold 1.5 million copies worldwide, will turn her attention to Ruby Redfort – already known to fans as Clarice Bean's favourite literary character.
Ruby is a young and confident girl who also happens to be an undercover sleuth with a knack for solving mysteries. Next year she will get her very own series, published by HarperCollins Children's Books.
The books will have a retro Seventies feel with no mobile phones and "plenty of action and good detective work". The deal comes on the 10th anniversary of the publication of the first Clarice Bean story in 1999.
"Ruby is great fun to write as she's a sassy action heroine and a really aspirational character," said Child yesterday. "She has this amazing dangerous and adventurous life, and is a bit like Pippi Longstocking – confident and clever, and has seemingly limitless supplies of money and real independence from her parents. I think children find that quite attractive."
Child said young readers had written to her wanting to know more about Ruby: "I was receiving lots of lovely letters from fans asking me if Ruby was real and whether they could actually buy the books."
The books in which Clarice Bean reads about Ruby's adventures are "written" by the fictional author Patricia F Maplin Stacey, who has according to Child, given her seal of approval.
Child, 41, lives in London but grew up in Marlborough, Wiltshire, and attended sixth form at Marlborough College, where her father was the head of art. After studying art at Manchester Polytechnic and City and Guilds of London Art School, she set up her own lampshade business. It took five years before her first books were published in 1999, I Want a Pet! and the now-famous Clarice Bean, That's Me.Reuse content