Sleeper surprise…

In the wake of the Christmas shopping frenzy, we often look back and reflect on titles which sold well (as we thought they would) and also on those titles which came out of nowhere and took us by surprise.  In this we are not alone with booksellers both in New Zealand and overseas.

In mid-October we received “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” by English illustrator and Spectator cartoonist Charlie Mackesy.  It contained simple illustrations and touching conversations between a boy, a horse, a fox and a mole. One of the more touching ones details the boy asking the horse what the bravest thing he has ever said… “Help” the horse replies.  

Hard to categorise in the shop – was it a gift book, was it art, was it almost self-help?  The questions were a moot point as within two days those first few copies had sold. And thus, a pattern emerged of books arriving and selling quickly.  Word began to spread. Customers were seeing the book at a friend’s house and then coming in for their own and buying multiple copies for Christmas gifts.   We reordered and reordered, and it sold and sold and sold…..

“The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” has topped bestseller lists in the UK and the US and been featured in top selling lists in New Zealand too.  The publisher has scrambled to print more copies, and nobody is more surprised by his success than Charlie Mackesy himself. In an interview in The Guardian he said that he fears people will “suddenly realise it’s not a very good book”, but that is extremely unlikely.  Is it a sign of the world we are living in that people identify with his simply drawn characters and their fears? Mackesy explains that all four characters “represent different parts of the same person …the inquisitive boy, the enthusiastic mole, the fox who is hurt and withdrawn from life and the wise horse who is the deepest part of you, the soul”.

So a book that is hard to explain, is beautifully drawn and written, flying off the shelves and reprinting …all the elements of a surprise sleeper at a time of the year when reliable sellers are the perennial thrillers and biographies we all want for the summer days and a relaxing read.

We look forward to seeing what may surprise us at the end of 2020.