Books have long been a tool for helping children understand their world and calm their fears, especially in times of crisis. As families seek out ways to discuss the current coronavirus pandemic and encourage kids to embrace more vigilant hygiene practices, they can now turn to a title from popular British illustrator Tony Ross. On April 28, Putnam will release the U.S. edition of Ross’s I Don’t Want to Wash My Hands! as an e-book and a downloadable audiobook narrated by Zehra Naqvi, followed by a trade paperback edition publishing on June 2. Jen Klonsky, president and publisher of Putnam Books for Young Readers, made the deal for North American print, audio, and e-book rights with Liz White at Andersen Press.
Ross’s picture book was originally published by Andersen Press in the U.K. in 2001 as part of his series starring the Little Princess. In I Don’t Want to Wash My Hands! the Little Princess questions why she needs to wash her hands after playing outside or using the bathroom, and learns that doing so is the best way to be rid of “germs and nasties” that can cause illness. Over the past two months, Andersen Press has experienced unprecedented demand for the book and has seen sales increase more than 2,000%.
“What’s happening in our world right now is difficult for any of us to process, and much more so for the youngest readers,” Klonsky said in a statement announcing the project. “We hope Tony’s book gives caregivers another way to explain the importance of hand washing while also laughing with their children over the read.”
Ross has been surprised and pleased about his book’s second life after its initial publication nearly 20 years ago. “When I first wrote the story, it was about cleanliness at mealtimes,” he said in a statement. “Never in a million years did I think we’d be in the public health crisis we are in and that people would be reading the book in this way! I just hope that it can help, and that all the little princesses and princes out there learn to wash their hands!”