Jessie Burton’s first children’s book with Bloomsbury’s Children’s Books will be a feminist reimagining of the Grimms’ fairytale “The Twelve Dancing Princesses”, entitled The Restless Girls.
The original tale tells the story of 12 beautiful princesses whose dancing shoes are worn through every morning, despite the princesses being locked in their bedroom every night by their father. In a bid to solve the mystery of how the shoes are becoming so worn, the king promises his kingdom and his daughters to any man who can solve the princesses’ secret within three days and three nights. Burton said the story “completely captured” her imagination as a child, but “when I revisited it as an adult, I could see that there were bits of it that just wouldn’t do”.
She added: “I hope a new generation of readers take this tale to their heart as I once did; it’s an irresistible tale of sisterhood, survival, fun and freedom.”
The book will be illustrated by award-winning fine artist Angela Barrett. Burton described working with Barrett as “a dream come true . . . No one can match her for the beauty and detail of her work, and it is a privilege to have her illustrate my words. It’s been a thrill, giving those girls back their dancing shoes, and watching as Angela gives them life.”
Burton decided to turn her hand to children’s books after Bloomsbury Children’s Books’ editorial director Ellen Holgate approached her with the idea of rewriting the role women and girls played in popular fairytales. Holgate acquired world rights in all languages for The Restless Girls and a second, currently untitled book, from Juliet Mushens of Caskie Mushens last year.
She said of Barrett’s involvement with the title: “Jessie’s dazzling, stylish prose cried out for the incredible draughtsmanship, intricacy and beauty of Angela’s work. Angela’s fairytale illustrations are iconic and we are thrilled she jumped at the chance to tackle this new classic.” Barrett said she was “delighted” to be working on the book, which she called “a wonderfully rich world with a fabulous range of characters who are a pleasure to illustrate”.
Bloomsbury will publish two editions of the book, a hardback and a deluxe slipcase, in September 2018. Last month, Burton signed a deal with Picador for two further adult novels.