Emma Thompson and Axel Scheffler team up for heartwarming V&A Christmas tale

This autumn, Puffin, in collaboration with the V&A, is to publish the heartwarming Christmas tale Jim’s Spectacular Christmas, written by Dame Emma Thompson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler.

Oscar-winning actor Dame Emma Thompson has teamed up with bestselling illustrator Axel Scheffler to write the story about Jim, the real-life dog who belonged to Sir Henry Cole, the V&A’s founding director. Sir Henry Cole famously sent the first-ever Christmas card in 1843.

Sir Henry Cole founded the V&A in 1852 when it began as a Museum of Manufactures, and it was officially opened by Queen Victoria at its current Kensington site in 1857. Jim was Sir Henry Cole’s Yorkshire terrier, and Cole’s diary entries indicate the fondness they had for one another, regularly strolling around together, with Jim accompanying Sir Henry everywhere around the museum. There is now a commemorative plaque dedicated to the “Faithful Dog” set into the wall of the V&A’s John Madejski garden.

After receiving a Jim-shaped Christmas decoration and becoming enraptured by a drawing that Sir Henry had made of his faithful pet, Emma Thompson was inspired to pen the tale of the scraggly canine hero, who she fondly describes as having a “gamey whiff”. Emma weaves fact and fiction together, as Jim goes on a Christmas adventure filled with high emotion, redemption, unexpected presents and a life-changing brush with royalty. Axel Scheffler’s magical illustrations bring the story to life with his own special brand of warmth and humour, creating what is sure to become a beloved Christmas classic.

Emma and Axel have corresponded for 30 years, their relationship based on mutual fandom for one another. This culminated in the pair finally meeting at a Waterstones Christmas event in 2019, the moment serendipitously captured on video. Jim’s Spectacular Christmas will be their first project together, celebrating their enduring friendship with a heartwarming Christmas story.

Emma Thompson says: “Upon learning about Sir Henry and Jim for the first time, I couldn’t help but run amok with ideas about what it must have been like for this unlikely pet to be living in such an amazing museum. I’ve been a fan of Axel’s work for many years because of the humanity and humour in all his illustrations, so to be collaborating with him on this project is an utter joy.”

“Emma originally contacted me by letter to request a commission some 30 years ago (and many followed over the years),” says Axel Scheffler. “That’s how our correspondence began, and we only met in person at a signing in a bookshop a few years ago. When Puffin came to me with this project, I was very excited to get involved and to do a book with Emma. Illustrating her wonderful story has been a great pleasure and I hope that many readers – young and old – will share the enjoyment in time for Christmas.”

Tristram Hunt, Director of the V&A Museum, adds: “Sir Henry Cole’s legacy is relatively unknown to the public, yet 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 completely thrilled that 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 published by Puffin in association with the V&A on 27 October. To find out more, and to pre-order the book, visit Penguin.co.uk.