Arab Strap singer Aidan Moffat pens children’s book

Aidan Moffat in Queen's Park, Glasgow. Picture: Robert Perry
Aidan Moffat in Queen's Park, Glasgow. Picture: Robert Perry
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HE IS best known for writing songs about sex, drugs and death. But Scottish singer-songwriter Aidan Moffat has taken something of a departure with his latest venture: he has written a children’s book.

The Lavender Blue Dress, which will be published next year, tells the story of a young girl called Mabel who desperately wants a new dress for her school ball but finds her family cannot afford it. The work is in stark contrast with the former Arab Strap frontman’s 2012 album Everything’s Getting Older, which won the Scottish Album of the Year award and included songs titled Ballad of the Bastard and The Sadness In Your Life Will Slowly Fade.

Moffat told Scotland on Sunday that the story was based on a tale he heard as a child.

“The Lavender Blue Dress is a story my grandfather used to tell me and my cousins,” he said. “I used to spend every weekend at my grandparents’ and it was a story he told regularly. A few years ago I wrote it down and put it together as a story which I occasionally read live at gigs. I don’t know where my Papa got the story – I think he made it up. It was very simple and I’ve embellished it a bit.”

The book will be illustrated by Emmeline Pidgen, who has worked on a number of children’s books including Sylvester and the New Year, One More Candle and The Flyaway Blanket. In 2011, she won the American Mom’s Choice Gold Award for children’s book illustration. She said she was “very excited” to be working on the project.

“I’ve read through the text quite a few times thinking of ideas about the characters and what they might look like,” she said. The images would be a collaborative process between her and Moffat, she added.

Moffat, who will also record an audio version of the book, said that despite the darkness in much of his “grown-up” work, the book hit on universal themes that he hoped children would be able to relate to.

“The crux of the story is that the family can’t afford the dress in question so they make it for the girl. It’s very much a story about love, and about love being more important than material items. My grandfather was a working class guy who almost feared money. He was very traditional in the sense that anything that suggested you had to be rich to be happy made him very suspicious.”

And Moffat said he was inspired to write it after having children of his own. “Probably the greatest pleasure I get from reading now is doing it with my son. It’s all about the connection you make with your child.”

He added: “I love the bedtime stories I share with my son, and I’m very excited that my Papa’s old tale will be a small part of that world very soon.”

Moffat is perhaps best known for being the frontman of Scottish band Arab Strap.

In 2011, he released Everything’s Getting Older with collaborative partner Bill Wells, which was ranked number 17 on Mojo’s list of the 50 best albums of 2011. The following year it scooped the inaugural Scottish Album of the Year prize.

His latest album, The Eternalist, was released in July and was made available for free online.

Moffat says that he would like to publish further children’s books if The Lavender Blue Dress is well received. “There’s a second one I’ve finished and I have ideas for a couple more. It’s something I’d like to continue. The second one is about how to cope with your parents arguing, which I can imagine is something
every child has to deal with.”

Moffat is far from the first musician to segue into writing books for children. Madonna famously wrote The English Roses when she had her children Lourdes, Rocco and David, while two members of McFly, Dougie Poynter and Tom Fletcher, wrote the popular The Dinosaur Who Popped Christmas. Paul McCartney, Kylie Minogue, Gloria Estefan, Sting, LeAnn Rhymes and
Dionne Warwick have also contributed to the genre.

Other celebrities who have written children’s books include Holly Willoughby, Bill Cosby, the Duchess of York – whose Budgie the Helicopter books have become extraordinarily successful – Whoopi Goldberg, Julianne Moore, Brooke Shields, John Travolta, Jerry Seinfeld and Steve Martin.

Moffat’s book will be published by Cargo Publishing in time for Christmas next year.

Mark Buckland, managing director of Cargo, said: “We’ve published wonderful children’s authors such as Michael Morpurgo and Julia Donaldson before, but this is our first foray into picture books for children, and I can’t think of two better people to be working with.

“Aidan has crafted a sweet and heartwarming tale that shows why he’s one of the best lyricists working today, while Emmeline’s award-winning illustrations really bring the words to life. I really hope when parents read this to their children at bedtime that they are as excited by it as the kids.”

Twitter: @emmacowing