Dame Emma Thompson said her mind “went wild” when she heard the true story of the V&A Museum founder and his faithful dog, inspiring her to write a heartwarming Christmas book for children.
The Oscar-winning actress said it was an “utter joy” to team up with best-selling illustrator Axel Scheffler to create Jim’s Spectacular Christmas.
The story is based on the actual dog owned by Sir Henry Cole, who founded the V&A Museum in 1852 when it began as a museum of manufactures.
Jim was Sir Henry’s Yorkshire Terrier and entries in his diary indicate the affection they had for each other, with Jim accompanying Sir Henry throughout the museum.
There is a memorial plaque dedicated to the “Faithful Dog” embedded in the wall of the V&A’s John Madejski Garden.
Dame Emma was inspired to write the story of the canine hero, who she describes as having a “puff of game”, after being delighted by a drawing Sir Henry made of his pet and receiving a decoration from Christmas in the shape of Jim.
The 63-year-old actress said: “On learning of Sir Henry and Jim for the first time, I couldn’t help but go wild with ideas of what it must have been like for this animal. unlikely pet to live in such an incredible museum.”
Weaving fact and fiction together, the book will see Jim experience a Christmas adventure filled with redemption, unexpected gifts and a life-changing encounter with royalty, brought to life by Scheffler’s charismatic illustrations.
Dame Emma said, “I’ve been a fan of Axel’s work for many years due to the humanity and humor in all of his illustrations, so collaborating with him on this project is a total joy.”
Scheffler said, “Emma originally contacted me by letter asking for a commission about 30 years ago (and many have followed over the years).
“That’s how our correspondence began, and we only met in person at a book signing a few years ago. When Puffin came to me with this project, I was very excited to get involved and do a book with Emma.
“Illustrating his wonderful story has been a great pleasure and I hope many readers – young and old – will share this pleasure in time for Christmas.”
Tristram Hunt, Director of the V&A Museum, said: “The legacy of Sir Henry Cole is relatively unknown to the public, but it is such an important part of the V&A’s rich history.
“Working with Puffin has been the perfect collaboration for this wonderful project and we are delighted Emma and Axel have taken it on.
“We can’t wait to share this beautiful Christmas story with the public.”
Jim’s Spectacular Christmas will be released on October 27.