Child's play: Ricky Gervais's first book tops chart

Ricky Gervais, who achieved comic stardom with his Bafta-winning series
The Office, is on the brink of success in a very different field - as the author of children's books.

Ricky Gervais, who achieved comic stardom with his Bafta-winning series The Office, is on the brink of success in a very different field - as the author of children's books.

Flanimals, the comedian's first foray into cartoon books, featuring a menagerie of wacky creatures, is not officially published until tomorrow, but the publisher Faber & Faber has already ordered a reprint following an initial print run of 100,000.

A promotional push at the weekend - with appearances on Parkinson and Jonathan Ross's Radio 2 show - also helped Gervais's book go to the top of Amazon.co.uk's pre-order chart. "On my first attempt at literature I go straight in at number one. I feel just like Hear'Say," Gervais quipped, comparing himself with the band that won the ITV talent contest Pop Stars - and promptly flopped.

Although Flanimals is aimed at children, it appears to be fans of adult comedy who are ordering it in their droves. Customers who have pre-ordered the book from Amazon have also bought DVDs of The Office, Little Britain and Monty Python. "It seems it is fans of Ricky Gervais who are buying it rather than mums for their kids," a spokeswoman for the internet retailer said.

Kate Beal, the children's sales manager at Faber & Faber, said that ordering a reprint at such an early stage was highly unusual. "In this season with all the big Christmas books out and the Booker shortlist as well, coming top of the Amazon pre-order chart is really important for us," she said.

Gervais this year became the first British star to win a television comedy acting award at the Golden Globes in the US. He also won the Bafta for best comedy performance, while The Office won best situation comedy for the third year in a row. He admitted that his fame had helped get his book published. "I've been trying to do it for about six years, but nobody answered the door until I knocked on it with four Baftas."

The comedian added that Flanimals was based in part on his zoological knowledge. "I've been interested in zoology as long as I can remember. I actually went to university to study biology but changed courses after two weeks to avoid the 9 o'clock lectures. I did philosophy instead. They both came in useful for this book," he said.

The star of The Office is not the first celebrity to pursue a new career in children's literature. Madonna has quickly followed the success of her first book, The English Roses, with a series of children's titles, while Sarah Ferguson and Prince Charles have turned their hand to writing for the young.

Gervais's literary creations include the Plamglotis, a creature born without feet who swallows its hands to walk on while looking for food, but when it finds food cannot eat because its mouth is already full. Flanimals was illustrated by Rob Steen, a Los Angeles designer.

A lucrative Christmas beckons for the comic, whose DVD The Office: Christmas Specials is 10th in the Amazon pre-order chart.

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