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 (from publishers A-C – and for Books of the Year 2019, Part Two):
Maggie Lehrman, executive editor, Amulet Books and Abrams Books for Young Readers: Actor and writer Thomas Lennon has delved into his Irish ancestry to create a hilarious world of law-breaking leprechauns, sly faerie folk, and other magical perils in the exciting new middle grade novel, Ronan Boyle and the Bridge of Riddles. Ronan may be the youngest and lowliest recruit of the secret garda (the Irish police force that handles the misdeeds of numerous magical creatures), but he’ll do anything to save his parents and prove they were unjustly imprisoned—even venture into the most dangerous parks of Tir Na Nog.
Charlie Sheppard, Publishing Director, Andersen Press: I didn’t come into this business to make people cry, but some books just can’t help affecting people. When Sadness Comes to Call is one such book. It seems to have touched and moved everyone who has worked on it. It is never too soon to start talking to children about emotions and mental health. It is never too soon to give children the tools they need to help them understand those around them and express their own feelings. I wish I had had this book to offer my children when they needed it. I’m glad it will be out there for others.
Sam Hutchinson b Small: We’ve been working with confidence coach, Natalie Costa, to create a new series of books to encourage confidence and build self-esteem. The series is called Level Headers and one of the first titles, Stretch Your Confidence, is out in August 2019.
Neil Coombe Manager of Black Library Publishing: 2019 will see us publish our first ever children’s books, so we have a massive year ahead of us. I am hugely excited about Attack of the Necron, book one (of six) in our Warhammer Adventures: Warped Galaxies series, written by the well-known children’s author Cavan Scott. The book includes illustrations and is a perfect introduction for younger readers (age 8+) to the science fiction-based Warhammer 40,000 universe. The story is full of danger, heroism, aliens, thrills and spills as we follow our three child protagonists setting out on their action-packed adventures.
Polly Whybrow, Editor (Picture Books), Bloomsbury Children’s Books: The Girl and the Dinosaur by Hollie Hughes and Sarah Massini is one of those very rare and special books where the words and pictures take you on a magical journey far beyond the page. Marianne doesn’t have friends her own age, instead she hunts for fossils to build a very special sort of companion. And then one night, the wishing stars burn bright and a her dinosaur friend might just be waking . . . Truly breathtaking illustrations accompany a timeless story to create the perfect picture book.
Sharon Hutton, Publishing Director (Non Fiction), Bloomsbury Children’s Books: In May we publish a breathtaking story about two unlikely heroes and their most amazing adventure. Everest: The Remarkable Story of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay is captivatingly written by Alexandra Stewart and beautifully illustrated by the award-winning, Joe Todd-Stanton. This narrative tells how two men battled frost-biting temperatures, tumbling ice rocks, powerful winds and death-defying ridges to be the first to triumphantly reach the top of the world’s highest mountain. With a brilliant introduction by the greatest living explorer of our time, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, it’s a story not to be missed.
Hannah Sandford, Commissioning Editor (Fiction), Bloomsbury Children’s Books: The Monster Who Wasn’t is the first in a deeply magical trilogy from Australian debut TC Shelley, whose warm, witty way with words will enchant fans of Sophie Anderson and Jessica Townsend. It tells the story of a creature who is strange and unique. When he hatches down in the vast lair where monsters dwell, he looks like a human boy – much to everyone’s disgust. Even the gargoyles who adopt him and nickname him ‘Imp’ only want him to steal chocolate. But little does Imp know that Thunderguts, king of the ogres, has a great destiny in mind for him…
Zoe Griffiths, Senior Commissioning Editor ( YA Fiction), Bloomsbury Children’s Books: A new book from Sarah Crossan is always cause for celebration! Sarah is completely incomparable and May 2019 sees the publication of Toffee, her outstanding next verse novel which explores mental health. It focuses on the friendship between Marla, a woman with dementia struggling to remember, and Allison, a runaway desperate to forget her past. The incredible bond that they develop helps each of them discover who they truly are. Sarah’s books always fill me with such light. This is bold, brave and beautiful.
Hannah Rolls, Commissioning Editor, Bloomsbury Education: Next year more or less everyone I know will be getting a copy of Midnight Feasts, a wonderful anthology by A.F. Harrold, for Christmas. Beautifully illustrated in full colour by rising star Katy Riddell (daughter of former Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell), this delicious anthology brings together work from a broad range of poets – from A.E. Houseman to Sabrina Mahfouz. Whether you’re in the mood for jelly baby or a jelabi, these poems will satisfy any craving!
Janet Phillips, Editor, Bodleian Library Publishing: I’ve chosen The Princess Who Hid in a Tree by Jackie Holderness, illustrated by Alan Marks. This highly unusual book is a saint’s life, beautifully retold by Jackie as a fast-paced adventure story. The saint in question – or rather feisty young heroine – is a princess named Frideswide. As soon as I saw Alan’s first roughs for the book, showing Frideswide half-way up a tree, hair streaming out in the wind, with the river Thames below, I knew we had something special in our hands. I couldn’t be happier with how the book has turned out, a lovely balance of exquisite illustration and fine storytelling.
Emma Matthewson, Publishing Director, Bonnier Zaffre: One of the many books we are excited to be publishing is Yasmin Rahman’s All The Things We Never Said. With Mehreen, Olivia and Cara, Yasmin has created three unforgettable teenage girls who all have something to say about the very real pressures that teens have to face today. Yasmin ensures the reader cares about each character and when you realise that part of the novel is written in narrative verse it is even harder to believe this is a debut. Yasmin powerfully explores the demons that mental health issues can bring and in this ultimately hopeful novel illuminates how the power of friendship can literally be life-saving.
Felicity Alexander, Senior Commissioning Editor, Bonnier Zaffre: The Time Travel Diaries by Caroline Lawrence is brilliant new series. It follows the adventures of 12-year-old Alex Papas, who goes back in time – first to Roman London and then to Ancient Athens. It was inspired by the temple of Mithras near Bank station, which Alex uses as a portal, and also by the amphitheatre beneath Guildhall – and the story is made even more believable by the fact that local readers can see these sites for themselves. The tone is fresh, funny and surprising – and like everything Caroline writes, makes history feel incredibly real.
David Bennett, Boxer Books: Fifi Kuo is a Taiwanese artist, who trained at the Cambridge School of Art. Since graduation she has won the Macmillan Prize (Bronze), been shortlisted for the AOI World Illustration Awards and won merit in the iJungle Illustration Awards. She is brimming with ideas and enthusiasm and keen for her picture books to convey a meaningful message. The Perfect Sofa is a tribute to the perfect things we already have – we don’t need to spend time searching for them elsewhere. The characters are brilliant, the humour understated and the message real and relevant for today.
Barry Cunningham, Publisher, Chicken House: Fourteen foreign rights sales, several in ‘blind’ auctions and bids before the proof went out (at midnight naturally) – that’s how the buzz around Benjamin Read and Laura Trinder’s The Midnight Hour series began! I loved this story of a mysterious midnight world, with its outspoken heroine Emily and her hedgehog companion, from the first moment I saw its graphic novel beginnings in the office of Altitude Films – a film adaptation is currently in the works too. I love the humour, compassion and sheer excitement – one of our most exciting debuts ever!
Neil Burden, Child’s Play (International) Ltd: This year we are extremely excited to be publishing the first picture book from author/illustrator Beth Waters. Child of St Kilda tells the story of one boy’s childhood experience of living in this remote and isolated community, shortly before the St Kildans were evacuated to the British mainland in 1930. Stunningly illustrated in monoprint, the book celebrates the unique culture that developed over thousands of years, and explains in simple terms the reasons for its failure. A sketchbook appendix details Beth’s own visit to these iconic islands and this is a spectacular addition to the current canon of highly-illustrated non-fiction.
Ginee Seo, Children’s Publishing Director at Chronicle Books: As soon as we saw Jay Fleck’s picture of Tiny T-Rex waving his little arms, and read Jonathan Stutzman’s tender, funny text, we fell in love with the character and knew he could begin a series for us. Tiny T-Rex and the Impossible Hug is a story of one friend determined to comfort another despite the fact that his tiny arms make hugging difficult. It’s a story of persistence despite the odds and the importance of connection—all messages we need in these challenging times! We’ve already signed the second book, Tiny T-Rex and the Very Dark Dark, which is coming in Spring 20.