The Emperor's New Clones is illustrated by Martin Chatterton and is the second book Martin and I have done together for Egmont's Bananas early reader series, the first being Danny Dreadnought Saves the World.
The idea for book came to me when I was thinking up ideas for another book, Skyboy and other Stupendous Science Stories. As the title suggests, that book contains a collection of stories with a science theme, so I began by writing out a list of scientific fields and then tried to come up with a story idea to go with each of them. One of the fields on my list was “Genetics and Cloning”. As soon as I thought about clones, the punning title “The Emperor’s New Clones” popped into my head and I came up with idea of Robbie Remus, the reluctant boy Emperor, to fit it.
In the end, I didn’t use that story in the Skyboy collection, but I expanded the outline and offered it to Egmont for their Bananas series. Series editor Hanna Sandford liked the idea, so I wrote it up as a story and, a couple of drafts later, Egmont agreed to take it.
One thing that was missing from the early drafts is the blasterball match at the beginning of the book. Blasterball is a futuristic sport, played in zero-gravity, in which two teams score points by firing a ball into the opposing team's black hole. Robbie is passionate about the sport, but has to give up playing it when he becomes Galactic Emperor. However he’s able to take it up again thanks to Professor Parton and his Duplitron cloning machine. Although Robbie’s love of blasterball was described in the first draft, I’d neglected to show him actually playing it. Following the classic writing rule of “show, don’t tell”, Hannah pointed out that the story would work better if we showed the reader what Robbie was missing out on. So I wrote a new opening scene that drops the reader straight into the closing minutes of a blasterball match.
|The book starts with a blasterball match. I love the "pigtail grommets" Martin drew in the girl's helmet in the foreground.|
I give a lot of thought to character names and occasionally use them to sneak in little in-jokes or references that some older readers might possibly pick up on. There are a couple in this story. Miss Sourdust, the overly officious Imperial Assistant is named after Sourdust, the similarly officious Master of Ritual in Mervyn Peake’s magnificent Gormenghast books. The second reference is even more tenuous and geeky; cloning genius Professor Parton is named after Dolly Parton the country singer, who also gave her name to Dolly the sheep (the first animal to be successfully cloned from another adult).
I really liked Martin Chatterton's illustrations for our first Banana book, Danny Dreadnought Saves the World and Martin’s energetic comic-strip-like style is a great fit for this story too. He’s really captured the excitement of the Blasterball game (see spread above) and I love the zany-looking cast of multi-species characters he’s created.
|Martin Chatterton's illustrations include some weird and wonderful alien characters.|
Here's a trailer for the book.
The cloned versions of Robbie are practically identical. See if you can tell them apart on this activity sheet.
|Click the image to download the activity sheet.|