2014 was a good year for children’s books: for the first time the sector’s full-year value sales eclipsed those of BookScan’s Adult Fiction category and that’s without even including 2014’s number one bestseller, John Green’s Young Adult novel The Fault in Our Stars, which is classified as Adult Fiction in the UK. So which books in 2015 will set the cash tills ringing, and get readers really excited? We asked leading children’s books editors to give us their tips.
Charlie Sheppard, Editorial Director, Fiction says ‘The buzz is already building around We’re All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen. There is something so funny and tender about this book that people seem compelled to share it when they’ve finished. It’s about blended families, grief, individuality and I think it will be the breakout book of 2015. Another very exciting publication is The Bolds, whose author, Julian Clary, needs no introduction. He brings wit and warmth to his off-the-wall story, illustrated by the incredible David Roberts, about a family of hyenas living in disguise in a semi in Teddington. We’re also publishing a wonderful new book by Guardian-winner Rebecca Stead. Goodbye Stranger sees her writing another huge book her fans will love. And look out for The Dogs by Allan Stratton. It will take your breath away.
Libby Hamilton, Editorial Director, Picture Books says ‘There are so many great books on our list in 2015, but I think the crown goes to The Prince and the Porker, a mistaken identity tour de force from dynamite duo Peter Bently and David Roberts. This year we’re also celebrating the 35thanniversary of the subversive classic Not Now, Bernard by the legendary David McKeewith a special paperback and a limited edition hardback. And I don’t think anyone will be able to resist the monstrously funny third book in the Lonely Beast series – The Snow Beastby Chris Judge.
Barry Cunningham says ‘I adore being a part of the Times/Chicken House Fiction Competition judging panel – although picking a winner is sometimes tricky. But Kerr Thompson’s The Sound of Whales hit us all in the face, and heart – like a breath of pure Scottish sea spray. It’s a classic story of young people in a traditional community facing up to a very modern challenge, with the unexpected help of wild forces at once real and somewhat supernatural. Kerr was a joy to edit, stubborn when he needed to be, sensitive to sensible suggestions. A perfect debut!’
David Fickling Books
Editor Bella Pearson says ‘The Art of Being Normal is that rare thing: a book that tackles an issue without becoming an ‘issues’ book. Lisa Williamson’s debut novel about two boys, David who believes he was born into the wrong body and Leo whose own devastating secret threatens his everyday life, is packed with empathy and warmth and humour, treating the subject of transgender teenagers in such an accessible way that everyone who has read it has been bowled over. For anyone who has ever felt different and wanted to be ‘normal’, this book asks that pertinent question: what exactly isnormal?’
Publishing Director Sarah Hughes says ‘The It Girl by Katy Birchall is a sparkling, deliciously funny debut, perfectly pitched for fans of Geek Girl. The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow is the first of a series from the fabulous Katherine Woodfine, who juggles writing with her day job of Arts Project Manager for Booktrust. Think Mr Selfridge meets Nancy Drew, with a wonderful lightness of touch and wit for readers of10+.Finally, Mel Foster and the Demon Butler launches a new series from award-winner, Julia Golding. Original, fresh and pacy, this is The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen meets Goth Girl for middle-grade readers.
Publisher Stella Paskins says ‘Some fantastic YA debuts in Electric Monkey this year, in particular Me & Mr J by Rachel McIntyre, oozing warmth and wit yet never trivialising its themes of bullying and forbidden love. Also Seed by Lisa Heathfield, perfectly capturing the claustrophobia of cult life.
David Levithan returns to Every Day and explores the other side of the story in the never-expected but much anticipated Another Day. (OMG the ending!) Andrew Smith follows up his genre-busting Grasshopper Jungle with another addictive epic, The Alex Crow, and Michael Grant is back to chill with The Tattooed Heart.’
Faber Children’s Books
Leah Thaxton Publisher, says ‘It is such an exciting year for Faber with Kate Saunders winning the Costa Book Award. Happily, there’s a full roster of goodies to follow…. First up,True Face, an inspirational life guide for girls: an empowering read that has a cult-following already. Next – Murray the Horse, one of the funniest scripts I’ve ever read, or acquired, since Mr Gum, (June). In the autumn, Ride by Nights, a sumptuous picture book from Carolina Rabei and Walter de la Mere to follow Snow. There’s also an epic, Arabian Nights trilogy – but more about that another day!’
Frances Lincoln and Wide Eyed Editions
Publisher Rachel Williams highlights gift-led titles that celebrate the natural world: ‘The Wonder Garden is a celebration of the diversity of life on Earth featuring 50 rare and exotic animals, illustrated by Kristjana S Williams: winner of the Yellow Pencil at the 2011 D&AD awards and Grand Prize Award at the NY International Advertising Award. Open the gates of this book and enter the garden to walk through five different habitats, including the Amazon Rainforest and the Chihuahuan Desert, discovering the creatures that live there. Breathtaking, engraved illustrations bring to life Earth’s spectacular garden.
Counting Lions is an art-inspired gift that makes learning to name and explore wildlife a family adventure. Larger-than-life black and white drawings are paired with poetic texts that reveal the ways in which endangered creatures – including lions, elephants, giraffes, tigers, gorillas, penguins, Ethiopian wolves, macaws, turtles and zebras – live on Earth. Artworks by wildlife artist Stephen Walton are rendered in charcoal and give little ones the chance to get up close and personal with nature’s wildest creatures.’
Janetta Otter-Barry says, ‘I’m very excited to be publishing William Shakespeare: Scenes from the life of the world’s greatest writer by inspirational duo Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom, a picture book biography for 7-10 year olds published in association with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and endorsed by Simon Callow. Packed with fascinating information about Shakespeare’s life, from his childhood in Stratford upon Avon, through his early career as an actor/playwright in London and ending with fame and fortune as the greatest writer of the age, the book includes lively graphic novel presentations of the most famous plays, including Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Editor at Large Emma Matthewson says, ‘Two incredible debuts are coming this year: Jess Vallance’s Birdy– a darkly compulsive YA read, plus Oskar Jensen’s The Yelling Stones, a richly atmospheric Viking tale reminiscent of Rosemary Sutcliffe. Archie Kimpton’s The Porridge of Knowledge and Dawn McNiff’s Worry Magic both have lovely wit and charm for younger readers. The Dog, Ray by Linda Coggin is a memorable, moving story about a girl who is reincarnated (accidentally) as a dog. Plus two novels by Queen of Teen James Dawson – Under My Skin (delicious tattoo horror) and the important All of the Above, a romance exploring sexual fluidity. And at the end of the year: Emerald Fennell’s uniquely macabre and brilliant Monsters and Hayley Long’s magnificent Sophie Someone, which is brave, bold and a must-read.’
Senior Editor Tilda Johnson says, ‘My two choices are starkly different. The Jam Doughnut that Ruined my Life is a hilarious school romp by Roald Dahl Funny Prize-shortlisted author Mark Lowery. I mean, I’m keen on my food, but Roman Garstang sees life purely through a raspberry-jam lens. Of course this trait backfires on him in a big way and I’ve cackled along with each reading, but there’s also an unusual friendship that gently grows amid the mania. In contrast, The Big Lie by Julie Mayhew is a tense alt-history drama set in Nazi England, 2014. It is thrilling, thought-provoking and hard to shake off – an unforgettable read. ‘
Junior Editor Naomi Colthurst likes If You Like This, ‘a touching, wonderful, modern Mark Twain-style adventure about a boy who must piece together the mystery of his grandfather’s missing heirlooms. It’s a true classic of its genre. My second choice is Jackdaw and the Randoms, the children’s book debut of Belle and Sebastian co-founder Stuart David. It is completely hilarious as well as being a thoughtful look at friendship and masculinity. Finally, Anything That Isn’t This by Chris Priestley is set in a deliciously dark Kafka-esque nightmare of a world, but with a wonderful, witty and wise story at its heart.
Editor Debbie Hatfield says, ‘I’m thrilled the world will get to meet the Beasts of Olympus in 2015, courtesy of the wonderful Lucy Coats and fantastically illustrated by David Roberts. These fun reimaginings of the Greek myths turn the world on its head: Heracles isn’t a hero and the mythical creatures he defeats in his trials are the real stars of the show. Can young Demon – son of Pan – make the gods and goddesses happy by curing the injured beasts and keeping the peace on Olympus? Arnie the grumpy Griffin is my favourite (but I’ve a soft spot for Doris the nine-headed Hydra too!).’
Camilla Reid, Editorial Director, says ‘Packed with the usual winning combination of dinosaurs, vehicles and exciting adventures,Dinosaur Rocket is the latest in Penny Dale’s hugely successful series and sure to delight young fans.
What do you get if you cross a monkey with an anteater? Why that would be a monkeater, of course! Following on from Farm and Safari, Axel Scheffler’s new novelty title,Flip Flap Jungle, will make young and old alike giggle.
Finally, Box is an adorable novelty picture book from Rosalind Beardshaw, which celebrates the simple cardboard box. It’s great to be reminded that children don’t need much to entertain them and that a nice big box and a little imagination goes a long way!’
Louise Bolongaro Head of Picture Books and Non-Fiction says ‘There are some fantastic picture books coming from Nosy Crow in 2015 including eye-catching There’s a Bear on My Chair from award-winning Ross Collins. Featuring mouse, bear and a chair that just isn’t big enough for two, children will just love it! Tracey Corderoy and Steven Lenton’s robber dogs are back in Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam: The Cat Burglar. But this time there’s a new robber in town – the infamous Kitty-le-Claw! Later in the year, The Last Book Before Bedtime from the super-talented Nicola O’Byrne turns a familiar fairy tale upside down when everyone decides they want to be in the last bedtime story.’
Fiction editor Kirsty Stansfield says, ‘Once in a while, a submission comes in that you will stop at nothing to get, even if that means wearing a novelty T-shirt in front of total strangers. My Brother is a Superhero by David Solomons was just such a submission, and I can’t wait to see it on the shelves in July. It’s hilarious, moving, beautifully written and has been a joy to work on. It’s perfect for everyone of nine and over, whether their sibling is super-powered or not.’
The O’Brien Press
Nicola Reddy says ‘The O’Brien Press will kick off its spring season with bestselling author Nicola Pierce’s new novel, Behind the Walls. We’ll also have the debut fantasy adventure from graphic artist Matt Griffin, A Cage of Roots, and new books from Gerard Siggins, Brian Gallagher and Celine Kiernan. A Hollow in the Hills, the follow-up to Ruth Frances Long’s mesmerising debut A Crack in Everything, will be out in autumn, along with Conor’s Caveman by Alan Nolan. We’re also working on a beautifully illustrated storybook inspired by Gulliver’s Travels, a collection of WB Yeats’s writing especially for children, and new titles from Judi Curtin, Anna Carey and Erika McGann. Happy reading!’
Oxford Children’s Books
Liz Cross, Head of Publishing, highlights Railhead by Philip Reeve, ‘Railhead is a book I feel I have been waiting over fifteen years to publish… I started work with Philip Reeve on the fabulous Mortal Engines at Scholastic, but left before it was published. That’s always been a regret, so I’m delighted to be working with Philip on a new, epic adventure – a story of tremendous scope and power which combines Philip’s wonderful ability to create complex, engrossing characters with his unparalleled imagination and world-building. All aboard for an incredible ride with intergalactic trains, common thieves, daring rescues, danger, and love, in a story like nothing you have read before.’
Peter Marley, Commissioning Editor, says ‘Super Happy Magic Forest is one of the most exciting debut picture books of 2015. Written and illustrated by Matty Long, it is a ‘Tolkien for toddlers’ tale that follows five brave heroes – Blossom the unicorn; Twinkle the fairy; Herbert the gnome; Hoofius the faun; and the mushroom Trevor – as they embark on epic quest to save the Super Happy Magic Forest. Matty’s combination of hilarious characters, highly detailed artwork, and irreverent take on classic adventures will appeal to the whole family.’
Clare Whitston, Commissioning Editor, is ready for May: ‘With a General Election rapidly approaching, I find it easy to envisage a situation where people become so fed up with the status quo that they’re willing to let someone – anyone – else have a go. That’s how an ordinary kid called Joe ends up (sort of accidentally) becoming Prime Minister. Not only is The Accidental Prime Minister a hilarious piece of silly satire, it’s also a celebration of just how amazing kids are. Joe is optimistic, weird, kind, and eccentric, with a real desire to make things better. Given the choice between Joe and the names on my ballot paper in May, I know who I would vote for.’
Helen Mortimer, Senior Commissioning Editor, asks us to ‘Picture this. On a country lane, you hear an emergency siren. As the ambulance approaches, you see who’s at the wheel. A cat. Sitting next to a mouse. And, judging by what they’re wearing, they’re both healthcare professionals. Would you be surprised? Probably. But, if you were a poorly fluffy resident of Thistletown, you’d be relieved that first-aid help was on its way in the shape of Dr KittyCat and her able assistant, Peanut. This series of heart-stopping medical dramas for 5-7 year olds is set in a world of cute animals and illustrated with a smile-inducing surreal mix of photos and artwork.’
Orion Children’s Books
Fiona Kennedy, MD & Publisher, says ‘Multi-talented Lauren St John’s standalone thriller The Glory will delight her fans as much and more as The One Dollar Horse trilogy and there’s a fifth adventure in her popular middle-grade White Giraffe series, Operation Rhino. We look forward to celebrating Orion stalwart Sally Gardner’s first novel with a 10th anniversary edition of I,Coriander and paperback outings of her masterly Double Shadow and breath-taking Tinder, illustrated by David Roberts. It’s a big year for Liz Kessler with her Indigo YA debut, Read me Like a Book, as well as a sixth mermaid tale about the bestselling Emily Windsnap. The summer sees us launch our exciting collaboration with Born Free with real-life rescues stories about lions, dolphins and elephants, while Annabel Pitcher’s much anticipated third novel, tantalisingly entitled Silence is Goldfish, completes the year. Something for everyone!’
Jenny Glencross, Commissioning Editor says, ‘The super-talented Phil Earle can turn his hand to anything – his middle-grade debut, Demolition Dad, is full of humour and heart, a mad-cap plot and characters you really root for. Perfect for fans of Roald Dahl or David Walliams. Another treat is The Cake, the Wolf and the Witch by Maudie Smith – a brilliantly scrambled fairy tale adventure with a real classic feel, reminiscent of The Magic Faraway Tree or The Wishing Chair. And look out for The Dead House by debut author Dawn Kurtagich – a twisty turny psychological thriller; beautifully written and utterly compelling, with a wonderfully unreliable narrator. We’re thrilled to be publishing Six of Crows, the new novel by NYT bestseller. Leigh Bardugo. Returning to the same gorgeously imagined fantasy-world as Shadow and Bone, this is a heist novel with a difference and Grisha fans won’t want to miss it.’
Fliss Johnston, Editor, says ‘Our Early Readers are designed to be the perfect stepping stones from picture books to fiction and there are plenty of new gems in store, including heroic ants, aspiring knights, enchanted cupboards and a daughter from Lifta who surprises everyone during Ramadan. 2015 also marks the expansion of the Early Reader series into non-fiction, launching in March with The Deep Dark Sea by Horrible Sciences illustrator Tony De Saulles. Alan Gibbons takes on the murky world of arms dealing and political corruption in his new thriller, You Took My Son. And Victoria Eveleigh brings the Exmoor countryside to life with inimitable heart-warming style in her fourth Katy’s Ponies story – pony heaven for all!’
Publisher Brenda Gardner says ‘The two titles I am excited about are filled with humour, but both are quite different. Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tomly is a debut novel where the mystery of catching the crook isn’t the only hook, a romance where the leading man is decidedly unromantic (but definitely charismatic), and a story about friendship where they aren’t even sure they like each other. Think Mulder and Scully for the relationship between Zoe and Digby. And The Endless Trials of Tabitha Baird by Arabella Weir who provides a fresh comedic voice. Tabitha has A LOT to contend with – a mother who writes a blog, a Gran who knits outfits for her dog, and a brother, who is a super nerd and doesn’t always aim properly for the loo. And a new Goth girl at school who threatens her Queen of Cool status.’
Pushkin Children’s Books
Publisher Adam Freudenheim says ‘As we approach our third year of children’s publishing at Pushkin, we’re more excited than ever about this year’s exciting and varied list of great children’s books from around the world. To focus on just a few of the treats we have in store, in April we are thrilled to be publishing our first Brazilian children’s book, the amusing and amusingly titled Fuzz McFlops by Eva Furnari. Fuzz has sold over 200,000 copies in Brazil alone, and we think this charming and thoughtful book, with the author’s own silly illustrations, is bound to make English-speaking readers fall in love with everyone’s favourite depressed rabbit writer. In June a childhood favourite of my own comes back into
print with Pushkin – E.L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler. This award-winning American children’s book has never been out of print across the Pond over nearly 50 years and it deserves the widest possible readership here too; its many fans include film
director Wes Anderson. In September, our biggest book of the year will no doubt be the much-awaited sequel to the acclaimed The Letter for the King.The Secrets of the Wild Wood by Tonke Dragt continues the adventures of young knight Tiuri and his trusted friend Piak with all the vim and vigour that has made The Letter for the King such a phenomenal success. As the year comes to a close we have a magical Russian children’s book (our first) – Catlantis by Anna Starobinets finally explains why cats have nine lives!’
Publisher Maxime Boucknooghe says, ‘QED continues to rise in 2015! Our successful series 50 Things You Should Know About… will expand to include new titles The Second World War and Pre-Historic Britain. We also venture into the new realm of Coding, with a series aimed to help parents and teachers tackle the scary topic of computer programming. Edutainment will be provided in the fantastic The Ultimate Explorer Guide, written by real-life explorer Justin Miles. Little hands will also keep busy with our new activity books Make & Do, board books Pull-Out Stencils and gift books Fling, Sling and Battle Your Way to Victory.’
Random House Children’s Books
Fiction Publisher Annie Eaton says ‘There are many books on our list that I am hugely excited about, and one is Sophie Kinsella’s first YA novel in June. It’s one of the wittiest books I’ve ever read – I chuckled my way through it, every time I re-read it – and yet it has real heart, being about a teenage girl who is going through a traumatic time following bullying at school. Audrey’s crazy family is one of the most loveable and entertaining households I have ever met. And who could fail to fall for Linus, the boy who helps her emerge from behind her dark glasses! The third LOCKWOOD & CO episode, The Hollow Boy will be coming this Autumn, and it’s every bit as brilliant and terrifying as the first two in the series. This series goes from strength to strength and Jonathan Stroud is one of my all-time favourite authors. Once picked up, I defy anyone to put it down. We also have a remarkable historical novel coming from Catherine Johnson in July: The Curious Tale of Lady Caraboo is set in 1817, and based on the true story of a beautiful young woman who, masquerading as an exotic princess, managed to hoodwink high society. Wonderful stuff! ‘
Editor Natalie Doherty says ‘Two books publishing this year particularly stand out for me. The first is Arsenic for Tea by Robin Stevens, which is the second middle-grade mystery following Murder Most Unladylike. Set in Daisy Wells’ country manor, it involves a murder at a birthday tea party and is brilliantly plotted and narrated by the Watson to Daisy’s Holmes, Hazel Wong. The second is a stunning, dark and haunting YA debut, The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle, which I can’t stop talking about. It’s the story of three teens living with a mysterious curse, and features the most gorgeous kiss scene I’ve ever read.’
Simon and Schuster
Jane Griffiths, Commissioning Editor says ‘There are lots of brilliant books coming from Simon & Schuster Children’s Books in 2015, both from established authors and debuts, so there’s plenty to be excited about. But if I had to pick, one of my most anticipated books is debut author Abi Elphinstone’s middle-grade adventure The Dreamsnatcher. The novel is completely enchanting, full of magic and mystery as well as being a real page-turner with plenty of action, I can’t wait until it’s out there! I’m also very excited about Danny Wallace’s debut children’s novel, Hamish and The WorldStoppers which publishes in March, it’s hilarious and perfect for bedtime reading.’
Creative Director Helen Wicks says ‘The ever-rising star of children’s literature – Jonny Duddle – is back in February with the hilarious World Book Day title, A Pirates Guide to Landlubbing. This will be followed in April by The Jolley-Rogers and the Cave of Doom, the secondhis fully-illustrated younger fiction series. This time Matilda and Jim Lad face sea hags, shrunken ships and cursed gold in a spine-tingling adventure.
Central to our Christmas offering is the magnificent Historium,the second title in the Welcome to the Museum series and the follow up to Animalium.Illustrated in spectacular detail by Richard Wilkinson, this collection of wondrous objects is a fascinating gateway to the ancient world.’
Anne Finnis and Sarah Stewart say ‘There are so many incredible books we are excited about. We start the year on a sombre note with the deeply moving The Earth is Singing by Vanessa Curtis, about the fate of the Jews in Latvia during WWII. The Dolls by Kiki Sullivan is a sultry, dark and utterly glamorous take on witches, with an American Deep South twist – totally addictive. Also YA, but in a completely different vein, is Maggie Harcourt’s The Last Summer of Us – stunningly written, this story of an end-of-summer road trip will shatter your heart and then piece it back together in one sitting; it’s just exquisite. And rising star in YA Holly Bourne will seal her fast-growing reputation in Am I Normal Yet? – edgy, witty, and real in its portrayal of mental health.
For younger readers, we have two fantastically funny new series: Knitbone Pepper, Ghost Dog, and his gang of spectral buddies are desperate to hang on to their ancestral home in this completely bonkers first story, written by Claire Barker (yes, really) and brilliantly illustrated by Ross Collins. And Completely Cassidy by Tamsyn Murray follows the misadventures of lovable, laughable Cassidy as she struggles to find a special talent that will make her shine (and fails disastrously).’
Publisher Denise Johnstone-Burt says ‘2015 is a very exciting prospect for me as we are publishing Patrick Ness’s new novel in August. The Rest of Us Just Live Here is brilliant – utterly compelling and genre defying – and will thrill all readers. For summer-reading Non Pratt’s new novel Remix, is a terrific follow-up to Trouble, and describes the joy and pain of teenage friendship with real understanding. For Christmas, Niroot Puttitapat’s The Nutcracker with its delicate laser cut pop-up makes the perfect gift and in November, The Blue Penguin, by Petr Horacek is a heartrending picture book with both unforgettable art and an unforgettable story.’
And from Australia,
Allen and Unwin
Angela Namoi, Allen & Unwin says ‘We’re particularly excited about A Small Madness (April) by Dianne Touchell, a devastating, compelling novel for older teens that will get everyone talking. Every Breath (March), book one of a smart, sexy YA thriller trilogy by talented debut author Ellie Marney, has ‘a layered, suspenseful plot, with lashing of romantic sexual tension…’ (Melbourne Age) and Love and other Perishable Items (January), an achingly beautiful YA novel by brilliant debut writer, Laura Buzo. My picture book favourite is Whale in the Bath by Kylie Westaway and Tom Jellett.’