What to read in 2017
2017 started with a bang in children’s books, when Frances Hardinge’s masterly gothic thriller The Lie Tree was named Costa Book of the Year. Hardinge also won a UKLA Book Award with The Lie Tree, but then it was pretty much a clean sweep for Sarah Crossan who won the CILIP Carnegie Medal, the YA Book Prize, Ireland’s Children’s Book of the Year Award and the CLiPPA for One, though she had to share the latter with Michael Rosen.
But what are the hot new books of 2017? Leading children’s books editors tell us about the books they expect to see on prize shortlists.
Susan Van Metre, Editor-in-Chief, at Abrams says: ‘A beautiful, touching picture book this spring is South, a debut by Chesham-based illustrator Daniel Duncan, about the friendship between a lonely sailor and an injured bird. For those young fans of Rosie Revere, Engineer who have longed for engineering projects of their own, we have a companion activity book full of things to make: Rosie Revere’s Big Project Book for Bold Engineers. Beloved elephant Babar takes young readers on a tour of his favourite city in Laurent de Brunhoff’s latest offering, Babar’s Guide to Paris. F.C. Yee’s YA debut The Epic Crush of Genie Lo, a fantasy cum-modern romance, stars a butt-kicking fifteen-year-old and her immortal love interest who take on a pantheon of demons from Chinese mythology.’
At Alanna Books, publisher Anna McQuinn says: ‘2017 looks fantastic – we have a new Zeki book, a new Lulu book and the 1st editions in paperback of two classics. I published Lao Lao of Dragon Mountain back in 2006 and it has never been out of print. I can’t describe the thrill of adding this classic and its sister title Masha and the Firebird (both by storytelling supremo, Margaret Bateson-Hill) to the Alanna list. They come out in paperback just in time for Chinese New Year. Zeki Can Swim comes hot on their heels in February with a super cute story and probably the best cover I’ve ever commissioned. The brilliant way Ruth Hearson captures the joy of the babies in the water will have parents and little ones smiling. Lulu rocks up in June and Rosalind Beardshaw’s illustrations are as gorgeous as ever. Lulu wants to get a cat but Mummy says it’s too much responsibility for a small girl. Lulu has other ideas and after a trip to the library is armed with enough information to persuade Mum she can do it.’
Elisabetta Minervini says: ‘Alma Books is very excited to continue publishing children books in translation: in Spring 2017 we will be publishing The Story of a Snail who Discovered the Importance of Being Slow by multi-award-winning Chilean author Luis Sepúlveda, illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura; the next installment in Dominique Demers’s The Adventures of Miss Charlotte series – calledThe Mysterious Librarian – a wonderful story about the magical power of books, illustrated by Tony Ross; the first English translation of the most famous work of Italy’s foremost children's author, Bianca Pitzorno – The House in the Tree – beautifully illustrated by well-renowned children’s illustrator Quentin Blake, as well as How to Get Rid of a Vampire (Using Ketchup, Garlic Cloves and Bit of Imagination by French author J.M. Erre.’
Angela Naomi at Allen & Unwin Children’s Books says: ‘Our stand-out illustrated books are Mel Tregonning’s unforgettable Small Things (April), about a child battling anxiety, and Anne Spudvilas’s stunning visual retelling of Swan Lake (September). For younger children, Elise Hurst has created a rich fantasy about friendship in Adelaide’s Secret World (February), shortlisted for Australia’s Prime Minister’s Award. For children learning to read we have the utterly delightful set of four Fizz the Police Dog stories (August), by Lesley Gibbes, illustrated by Stephen Michael King (September). For middle grade readers we have three addictive adventure fiction series: Angelica Banks’ Finding Serendipity (July), Lian Tanner’s The Keepers (April) and Mardi McConnochie’s Quest of the Sunfish (August). In YA, look out for fearless and compelling writing in Scot Gardner’s The Dead I Know (April) and Dianne Touchell’s Forgetting Foster (June).’
Charlie Sheppard, Publishing Director, Andersen Press: ‘2017 is about new beginnings - but then I'm an optimist. With good reason because the second novel from Costa-winner Jason Wallace is finally here. And let me tell you that Encounters was worth the wait. Inspired by alleged alien sightings in 1990s Zimbabwe, this is one of the most fascinating, brilliant and ambitious novels I've ever read. As an optimist I should be worried because Optimists Die First according to Susin Nielsen's fabulous new novel. This is a love story for cynics which won't disappoint Nielsen fans. Want a new name to watch? Catherine Barter with her debut Troublemakers. You heard it here first. And been wondering what the inimitable Sally Nicholls will do next? Well we'll be announcing that late January.’
Libby Hamilton, Editorial Director, Picture Books at Andersen Press says, ‘I hate playing favourites, but just between us I can’t wait to publish Meg McLaren’s second picture book, Pigeon P.I., in March. Starring a hardboiled detective, this is Poirot for pre-schoolers. I also feel incredibly lucky to be bringing out the debut of highly talented Robert Starling, introducing his adorable (if hot-headed) dragon in Fergal is Fuming. And then there’s the top-secret, unbelievably-exciting-yet-strangely-Zen-like picture book debut that we can’t announce until February… even though I’m bursting to! Watch this space.’
Mairi Kidd of Barrington Stoke says, ‘In May we publish My Name is not Refugee, a picture book following a little boy and his mother as they seek a safe place to live. We fell in love with the book last year at Bologna; it went on to win a V&A Illustration Award. As well as the stunning visuals, the text - peppered with questions to the reader - is at the perfect level for little ones. At the other end of the spectrum we have the late Siobhan Dowd's stunning Pavee and the Buffer Girl, illustrated by Emma Shoard. It's a love letter to Traveller life, to strong women and to the power of literacy, and it's seriously special.’
Her colleague Emma Hargrave adds, ‘In March we publish a brilliant picture book – The Covers Of My Book Are Too Far Apart (and other grumbles) – which explores myths around the joys, or otherwise, of reading. It features a cast of lively, diverse and unexpected characters – an FT-reading crocodile and a dungaree-clad grandma repairing a motorbike are my favourites – who together challenge grumbles such as “Reading’s rubbish!” and “Reading is hard!”. It’s ground breaking, full of fun and busts lots of reading myths! Meg Rosoff is lauded as one of the world’s best children’s authors and it’s an honour to publish her. April brings Good Dog McTavish, a novella that sparkles with Meg’s distinctively dry wit. Phil Earle’s Mind the Gap, published in January, is the most compelling, stunningly written heart-breaker of a book I’ve had the privilege to edit. I’m a huge fan of Tanya Landman’s superb historical fiction, so when she sent us an idea based on the real-life story of Ellen and William Craft, I couldn’t believe my luck. Passing for White, published in May, is the powerful tale of a girl born into slavery in the American South. We have the highest hopes for this extraordinary book from the Carnegie Medal winner.’
David Bennet at Boxer Books is thrilled to be publishing The Elephant’s Garden - a brand new picture book based on an Indian folktale, by Jane Ray in April 2017. ‘Jane Ray has been nominated for the 2018 Hans Christian Andersen Award,the highest international recognition given to an author and illustrator of children’s books. She has an amazing body of work, and this new picture book epitomises what a fabulous storyteller and illustrator she is. She has adopted a new style, which has a clean, contemporary feel, working with cut paper collage, in rich, vibrant colours. The result is gorgeous - a very special picture book.’
‘The Fearless Travellers’ Guide to Wicked Places by Pete Begler is an unforgettable fantasy’ says Curious Fox's Editorial Director, Beth Brezenoff. ‘Welcome to a big, spinning magical world full of hellscapes, dreamscapes, birds, brothers, witches, and magical umbrellas. A bruise-colored cloud hovers over Nell Perkins’ city, where women are disappearing and blood-spattered shoes fall from the sky. When Nell’s mother disappears, she and her brothers must become Fearless Travellers and go into the dreamlands to get her back. I can’t wait for readers to enter the Wicked Places themselves to experience it.’
Bella Pearson, at David Fickling Books says, ‘2017 is our most exciting year yet! Lisa Williamson’s sparkling YA new novel All About Mia brings us the wayward and irresistible Mia, whose talent for trouble is legendary. Lissa Evan’s Wed Wabbit is a laugh-out-loud middle-grade tale of accidental heroism, while King Coo by Adam Stower guarantees to have all 7- to 12-year-olds in stitches - Pippi Longstocking meets Dennis the Menace in a fabulous new series. Thornhill by the talented Pam Smy tells two intertwining stories through illustrations and text in a chilling story of loss and betrayal. And look out for The Call by Peadar O’Guilin out in paperback - as Frank Cottrell Boyce says of this original YA novel: ’Dark and brutal…there’s no denying its power.
Ginee Seo, Children’s Publishing Director, Chronicle Books says: ‘This Is How We Do It is a beautifully illustrated book that follows the lives of seven real children from Italy, Japan, Iran, India, Peru, Uganda, and Russia. We see what they eat for breakfast, how they play--and realize that while traditions may differ, our common experiences unite us all. Benjamin Chaud and Davide Cali are up to their usual hyperbolic tricks, this time on a school trip, with A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Museum. It's always a delight to see what Herve Tullet has up his sleeve, his newest book for Say Zoop! is all about sound. I read it aloud to a group of salespeople recently and by the second page they were all joining in -- I'd call that a hit!’
‘Electric Monkey is bursting with YA treats in 2017’ says Stella Paskins Fiction Publisher at Egmont, ‘Stand-out for me is the first of a new Michael Grant trilogy: Monster is the GONE series sequel we’ve all been waiting for and it’s an absolute firecracker. At the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, Lisa Heathfield’s Flight of a Starling is going to put a few more hearts through the wringer with her unravelling of sisterly secrets. New author Penny Joelson brings us the original I Have No Secrets, a page-turning thriller seen through the eyes of a unique narrator, which is both thought provoking and utterly compelling. And with titles from Kevin Brooks, Rachel McIntyre, Eugene Lambert and Lynn Weingarten, it’s a properly epic year.’
Ali Dougal, Egmont’s Fiction Publishing Director adds, ‘2017 is set to be a blockbuster year for the Egmont list, with new books from rising stars including Jim Smith and Katherine Woodfine, and a real treat for Robin Jarvis fans in our stunning Modern Classic edition of The Whitby Witches. Plus, some phenomenal debuts: Sarah Driver’s The Huntress trilogy is full of heart and adventure and oozes magical detail, reminiscent of Pullman and Paver; Laura Ellen Anderson makes her authorial fiction debut with the hideously funny and revoltingly lavish Amelia Fang series; and there are more laughs in The Fintastic Diary of Darcy Dolphin, the first in a new young fiction series by Sam Watkins featuring an irrepressible new heroine in a vibrant underwater world.’
‘There are some real corkers on the Francis Lincoln Children’s Books’ picture book list’, says publisher Rachel Williams. ‘In the spring, we have the award-winning The Night Gardener (Feb, £12.99) from Terry and Eric Fan, followed closely by David Litchfield’s heartwarming story of friendship with an outsider, Grandad’s Secret Giant. In September, we publish a picture book in collaboration with Amnesty International, Imagine (Sept, £11.99), which is set to the original lyrics of John Lennon’s song and illustrated by Jean Jullien. With pre-sales in 15 languages and a huge worldwide press and marketing campaign, the book follows the adventure of a young pigeon on a mission for world peace.
Over the summer, we launch our Natural History Museum series, with 13 titles: from newspaper-style activity books (The Prehistoric Times, June, £5.99) to sticker titles (Sticker Art, June and July, £5.99), and reference for the young naturalist with 10 Reasons to love a… series (August, £8.99). And we have gift books galore next Christmas, including The Story Orchestra: The Nutcracker (October, £14.99), by Jessica Courtney Tickle, and A Menagerie of Stories (October, £14.99) by Angela McAllister, illustrated by Aitch.’