Welcome to a new year! What do we have to look forward to in 2019? We asked leading children’s books editors to tell us about the books they are most excited to be published (in 100 words only). Here’s the list (publishers L – W and for For Books of the Year 2019, Part One)):
Alice Curry, Founder, Publisher & Managing Director Lantana Publishing: Sometimes a book comes along that perfectly captures the prevailing mood. Mira’s Curly Hair by Maryam al Serkal and Rebeca Luciani (April), is one such book. With stunning artwork that practically jumps off the page, it introduces us to Mira who struggles with her unruly, unmanageable hair and wishes it were straight and smooth just like her Mama’s. But down comes the rain, and Mira is in for a surprise! A book for anyone who’s ever had a bad hair day, but more than that, a book about embracing your natural hair and taking joy in whatever makes you YOU.
Hannah Ray, Editorial Director Picture Books and Gift Books Macmillan Children’s Books: The Go-Away Bird (7 March 2019) was inspired by a real African bird whose call sounds as if it’s shouting, ‘Go away!’. And in the book, the eponymous bird lives up to her name and is aloof and rude – giving short shrift to other birds that approach her tree. The story is written in Julia Donaldson’s inimitable, pitch-perfect rhyming style, and Catherine’s Rayner’s illustrations are stunning – full of movement and colour, perfectly bringing to life the personality of each bird.
Suzanne Carnell, publisher of Two Hoots: Kate Read is a fantastic new talent and her brilliantly simple yet fiendishly clever One Fox: a Counting Book Thriller is a joy. At one level a straightforward counting book, the atmospheric (farmyard noir!) story is also perfect for slightly older children who are learning what numbers really mean. When one fox with two sly eyes creeps under the fence, three plump hens had better watch out! The collage artwork, incorporating paint and print-making, is stunning. The whole book is ingenious, witty, with a bit of an edge – which is just how we like things at Two Hoots.
Venetia Gosling, Publisher 6+ Macmillan Children’s Books: We have fantastic new books coming from our biggest middle-grade names – Chris Riddell, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Lauren St John, Hilary McKay – but we are also very excited to have tempted Sibeal Pounder to the list to write a spooky sequel to Eva Ibbotson’s The Secret of Platform 13 – Beyond Platform 13 (3 October 2019) is brilliant and funny and a terrific tribute to Eva from one of her biggest fans. We also revisit Alice in Return to Wonderland with short stories about favourite characters by some of the bestselling names in children’s fiction, including Robin Stevens, Maz Evans, Patrice Lawrence and Piers Torday.
Kirsty Stansfield, Head of Fiction at Nosy Crow: I couldn’t be more cheerful about publishing The Middler by Kirsty Applebaum in April. It’s a brilliant MG novel – sharp, funny and underpinned with menace; a real page-turner. Maggie’s voice perfectly leads you through her seemingly ordinary world, and as you start to wonder about the wanderers who roam the town boundary and ask why a family’s eldest child must always be sent to the never-ending-but-never-seen Quiet War, so does she. But it’s her determination to discover the truth that makes the book impossible to put down.
Ruth Huddleston, Publisher, Old Barn Books: Like his 2018 Australian Book of the Year, How to Bee, Bren MacDibble’s The Dog Runner is set in a world blighted by climate change – here wiping out all vegetation. Again, Bren brings us resourceful and determined young characters to lead us through a nail-biting adventure (with dog sleds!) to an understanding of how ancient knowledge might save the future. Forty years after school readings from Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring awoke my own ecological awareness, Bren’s compelling writing makes food security and environmental management personal at a crucial time for a new generation. Can’t wait to see what it unleashes!
Helen Thomas, Editorial Director at Orion Children’s Books: The Star Outside my Window by Onjali Q. Rauf follows on from her much-admired empathy-building debut, The Boy at the Back of The Class, with another funny, sad and page-turning story which is also a deft handling of a big topic (domestic violence).
Janetta Otter-Barry, publisher Otter-Barry Books: I have chosen MIGRATIONS: Open Hearts, Open Borders, edited by the International Centre for the Picture Book in Society and publishing in May 2019 This unique collection of words and pictures by illustrators from 28 countries, on the theme of migration, is based on the exhibition at the Biennial of Illustration, Bratislava, in 2017. Over 50 illustrators from around the world created beautiful and moving postcards depicting birds, each sending a powerful message about human migration. With an introduction by Shaun Tan, and contributions from PJ Lynch, Jon Klassen, Isol, Roger Mello, Chris Riddell, Jackie Morris, Marie-Louise Gay, Jane Ray and Axel Scheffler, among many other renowned artists, our book shows that cultures, ideas and imagination will flow despite borders, barriers and bans.
Liz Cross, Children’s Publisher, OUP: If I must choose just one book – so difficult! – then I think it must be The Closest Thing to Flying by Gill Lewis. Gill has an incredible knack of tackling thought-provoking issues in a way that feels at the same time global and intensely personal. This new book shines a light on women’s rights, refugees’ rights, and personal freedoms of all kinds – and for the first time in Gill’s novels, has a historical strand alongside the modern-day. With two amazing heroines who are totally different and yet have a surprising amount in common, it’s a story that will inspire and uplift its readers.
Sarah Odedina, Editor at Large, Pushkin Children’s Books: Bearmouth by Liz Hyder is a unique novel about the abuse of power and the power of friendship. Told in the first person from the point of view of the main protagonist this original novel stands alongside Maggot Moon and Ridley Walker. Newt is a teenager working in a mine, accepting of the status quo until Devlin arrives and starts to upset the established order. Liz researched child labour in mines to write this novel which skilfully looks at social injustice and the belief that helps people make positive change.
Sarah Lambert, Editorial Director at Quercus Children’s Books: I’m absolutely dying to publish bestselling crime writer Elly Griffith’s spine-tingling first foray into children’s fiction – A Girl Called Justice stars super-smart super-sleuth Justice Jones in a truly page-turning school murder mystery that will keep readers hooked till the edge-of-your seat finale…
Janice Thomson, Scallywag Press: Hat Tricks by Satoshi Kitamura is trademark Kitamura – imaginative, amusing and an absolute treat to share with a child. Hattie is a very small rabbit with a huge talent. Along with her hat and the magic words ‘Abracadabra Katakurico!’ a procession of bemused animals are produced spread by spread. The cat is first (his facial expression throughout says it all), then a squirrel, an octopus(!), a moose, and an elephant who gets stuck in the hat. The team effort that leads to his release is hilarious. This is a bravura performance from Satoshi.
Samantha Smith Publisher, Fiction and Picture Books, Scholastic: We are thrilled to be publishing The Smeds and the Smoos, the next future classic from the incomparable duo of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.
Miriam Rosenbloom, Publisher, Scribble: The book I am most excited to be publishing in 2019 is All The Ways To Be Smart, a celebration of all the different talents and attributes that children have, beyond straightforward academic ability. The book has just come out in Australia where it has been a big success, selling out its first and second editions instantly. We’ve been overwhelmed by the response to the book from kids, teachers, librarians and parents – the book’s affirmatory message is more important than ever today as so many children are entering into an education environment where they are being over-tested.
John Stachiewicz, Publishing Director, Tate: We are delighted and most excited to be publishing in time for International Women’s Day in March, an important and beautifully put together title, The Bigger Picture: Women Who Changed the Art World written by Sophia Bennett and illustrated by Manjit Thapp. As well as biographies of over 30 women artists, we have conducted original interviews with 16 of the featured living artists – Rachel Whiteread, Lubaina Himid and Yayoi Kusama amongst others. This book offers a glimpse into the struggles and successes of these artists whilst helping to demystify the art world, build confidence and inspire a new generation. We really hope that younger readers will be motivated to pursue their creativity with this book!
Lisa Edwards Executive Publisher Templar Publishing: Paper World: Planet Earth is perhaps the most ‘Templar’ book we’ve created in recent times. We pride ourselves on being innovative and with surprising die-cuts, cut-throughs and flaps, but the artwork itself is made from cut paper by the artists at Bomboland. This book has been three years in the making and it is worth the wait. We publish Planet Earth in February 2019 and Space will follow in 2020.
Anna Ridley, Commissioning & Managing Editor, Children’s Publishing Thames & Hudson: We have so many books to be excited about in 2019, it’s impossible to choose, but the one I’m giving a special shout-out to is Tony T-Rex’s Family Album by Mike Benton, illustrated by Rob Hodgson. It brings the latest scholarship from Professor Mike Benton to life through a series of quirky tales and chewable facts told from the perspective of Tony T-Rex. Casting his memory back to the beginning of the Jurassic, Tony gives readers the inside scoop on what his dinosaur relatives were really like – from their proudest moments to previously unpublished family secrets. Rob Hodgson’s illustrations are so contemporary in style and full of personality, it seems like only yesterday Tony and his crew were dominating the earth.
Delaram Ghanimifard, Co-Founder and Publisher Tiny Owl: We have eight exciting new titles coming out in 2019, from which we think The Phoenix of Persia is our biggest project of the year. Published in May, this book comes with an original Iranian musical composition available to download, alongside teacher resources and a programme of nationwide events. This 1000 year old story from Shahnameh is retold by Sally Pomme Clayton, and illustrated by Amin Hassanzadeh Sharif. The Phoenix of Persia is part of our One Story, Many Voices series, and has echoes of Snow White and firebird folklore. The project is supported by the Arts Council England, City University of London, and Iran Heritage Foundation.
Rebecca Hill, Usborne Fiction Director: Usborne Fiction’s 2019 titles showcases contemporary YA to get readers talking, epic and immersive fantasies, enchanting, spine-tingling adventures and a lot of laughter. However, I am thrilled to be introducing a very special new character and series for 7+ children. Anisha Mistry leaps off the page – a bright, quirky, vivacious narrator, whose lovable, laugh-out-loud British Indian family will leave readers longing to join the fun. Debut author, Serena Patel’s writing bursts with sparky playfulness and warmth in this laugh-out-loud series with family and friendship at its heart.
Jane Winterbotham, Publishing Director, Walker Books: I’ve chosen Malamander by Thomas Taylor. The Malamander is lurking beneath the waves, waiting to emerge, and for Herbie Lemon, the Lost-and-Founder at the Grand Nautilus Hotel, life is about to get complicated. Set in the deliciously quirky town of Eerie-on-Sea, Thomas Taylor’s middle-grade adventure oozes mystery and suspense. Rattling along at high speed like a seaside fair ride, and with an eccentric cast of characters including headstrong Violet Parma, reclusive Lady Kraken, slippery Sebastian Eels, and the Malamander himself, this is classic storytelling at its best, full of surprises and half-hidden magic.
Christopher Lloyd, What on Earth Books: The book I am most excited to be publishing in 2019 is Humanimal, illustrated by Mark Ruffle. So often, people have assumed that humans are exceptional in every way to other animals. After all, what creatures other than humans can build skyscrapers or put a person on the Moon? But now scientists are discovering that many things we think exceptional to our species are alive and kicking in the animal world. Many were often pioneered millions of years before the first humans could be heard calling across the African plains. Humanimal explores these shared patterns of behaviour in a lively, fun and accessible way for children and animal lovers aged 7 upwards.
Rachel Williams Group Publisher, Wide Eyed Editions and Lincoln Children’s Books: Last year, we were lucky enough to win an 8-way auction to a bundle of sketchbooks believed to have been written by an ‘unknown’ adventurer. After a year of painstakingly transcribing the content with author Teddy Keen, we have a very special book coming out in April. The Lost Book of Adventure from the notebooks of the Unknown Adventurer is full of extraordinary tales of adventure, expedition advice and survival tips, and will inspire any child to get out and explore.
Katie Cotton Publisher for Picture Books – Wide Eyed Editions and Frances Lincoln Children’s Books: Once Upon a Unicorn Horn is the first title in a new picture-book series from debut author-illustrator Bea Blue about magical creatures. Explaining the mystery of how unicorns got their horns, this is a big-hearted story about unicorns, magic and friendship and (if that’s not enough) even has a tiny taste of ice-cream! Watch out for Once Upon a Dragon’s Fire in 2020 too.
Debbie Foy, Publishing Director at Wren & Rook: A Mad Girl’s Guide to Being You by Bryony Gordon: I’m buzzing with excitement that Wren & Rook is the home for Bryony Gordon’s first book for teens. Honest, hilarious and beautifully written, Bryony shares 10 essential life lessons with her readers that she wishes someone had told her while growing up – from self-respect and social media to exercise and exam stress. Told with her trademark warmth and compassion, this is the book is for every teenage girl you know and for the teenage girl in all of us – the one who was never told that the most powerful thing she could be when she grew up was herself.