It’s become a tradition for our first issue of the year to ask editors at the UK’s publishing houses about the forthcoming books that they most want us to read. We have another bumper selection for 2023. Thank you to everyone who contributed, especially those who stuck to our 100 word limit.
From Fay Erek, Co-publisher Alanna Max
Lulu’s Nana Visits, and we are so excited that the family reunites. Words by Anna McQuinn and illustrations by Rosalind Beardshaw, this amazing story captures moments between three generations celebrating life and passing on traditions. Every page reflects moments shared between family from Lulu’s eyes, and it’s impossible not to share her excitement.
From Alison Green, Alison Green Books
Discovery Atlas by Thiago de Moraes (September) is a huge and glorious book in every way. It’s witty, gorgeously illustrated, and chock-full of amazing facts about the discovery of everything from Technology and Medicine to Food and even Sport. I defy anyone not to be fascinated!
From Ailsa Bathgate, Publisher Barrington Stoke
Our short novellas punch far above their weight in terms of depth of content and richness of language, and nowhere is this more exquisitely displayed than in Nightjar by Katya Balen (June 2023). As Noah prepares for his Bar Mitzvah, he has to navigate his troubled relationship with his father, and a disagreement over helping an injured nightjar exposes the painful distance between them. Katya writes beautifully about relationships and nature, and this is the story of a wonderfully unique boy on the cusp of adulthood, learning to navigate challenges with a rare sensitivity towards the people and natural world around him.
From Lara Hancock, Head of Illustrated Publishing, Bloomsbury Children’s Books
In this important new book, Brilliant Black British History, author and storyteller Atinuke takes us on an illuminating journey that celebrates the history of Black people in Britain, from the very first inhabitants on these islands to the present day. A fascinating chronological narrative, this captivating book also shines a light on figures from the past whose stories are inspiring and often surprising. Nigerian artist, Kingsley Nebechi, brings the story vividly to life, with illustrations that are detailed, rich and strikingly contemporary.
From Ellen Holgate, Associate Publisher, Bloomsbury Children’s Books
For me, Katherine Rundell’s Impossible Creatures is the publishing event of the year. It’s the story of a boy called Christopher who discovers the Archipelago: a cluster of magical islands, where all the creatures of myth live and breed and thrive alongside humans. They have been protected from discovery for thousands of years, but now the protection has worn thin – with unimaginable consequences for their world and ours. The book has been years in the making and is both a thrilling adventure and a hugely ambitious story about the problems of power, knowledge, and what love demands of us. In the hands of this great writer, we have one of the most extraordinary books I’ve ever read and the beginning of a landmark trilogy.
From Hannah Sandford, Editorial Director, Bloomsbury Children’s Books, Children’s Books
Gwen and Art Are Not In Love by Lex Croucher is a hilarious, angsty, romantic romp through medieval England that reads like Red, White & Royal Blue meets A Knight’s Tale! Gwen and Art are life-long enemies, and, rather inconveniently, betrothed to be married. This tournament season they’re out to dupe everyone into thinking that they’re happy about their upcoming nuptials. But their secret crushes (Gwen’s on Bridget Leclair, Camelot’s only female knight, and Arthur’s on Gabriel, heir to the throne) might just prove that the path to true love is far from … straight? It’s funny, joyful, brave, subversive and touching – escapist YA fiction at its most brilliant and accessible best.
From Hannah Rolls, Editorial Director, Bloomsbury Children’s Education
I’m particularly excited to be publishing the first book in a new young fiction series by comedian and podcaster Iszi Lawrence in April. The Time Machine Next Door: Explorers and Milkshakes tells the story of Alex the inventor and her next-door neighbour Sunil. When Sunil accidentally breaks his grandfather’s most prized possession, Alex has an unusual solution to his problem – a time machine! Soon they’re off on a madcap adventure visiting Shackleton in Antarctica and meeting the Apollo 11 astronauts – all while trying to stay away from a mysterious man with a suspicious pet kiwi… This series will bring history to life with hilarious plots, fascinating facts and fantastic illustrations by Rebecca Bagley. I love it!
From David Bennett Publisher Boxer Books
The book we are most excited about publishing in 2023 is A Year of Good News! (May). This book was inspired by the constant barrage of bad news filling the media – particularly during the pandemic year 2020. Slovakian film-maker Martin Smatana made it his mission to collect a good-news story for every week of 2020. Martin then illustrated each individual story with models made from used and scrapped fabrics and shared these with his friends and neighbours bringing a smile to their faces. It’s a perfect book to share, spreading something we all need in these difficult times – positivity and happiness.
From Sam Hutchinson, Editor BSmall
I’m particularly excited to be publishing Beth Cox’s inclusive guide to talking about bodies, All Bodies Are Wonderful (September 2023). Illustrated in full colour by Samantha Meredith, the book untangles the complex topic of DNA to communicate the idea that our genetics naturally lead to bodies that work in different ways. It’s just science! We’ve established a name over recent years for our STEM publishing so it’s exciting for us to use this experience in order to create a book that adults and kids will find an invaluable tool for big conversations. The target age is 7+.
From Rachel Leyshon, Editorial Director Chicken House
My pick for this year is a haunting middle-grade debut publishing in September – The Witchstone Ghosts by Emily Randall-Jones. Winner of the Chicken House Times Competition, Emily has all the qualities for a big writing career. She’s funny, curious, original – and scary! – with true child-friendly empathy at the heart of everything she writes. Her debut novel is set to be a classic Halloween special, and everyone at Chicken House is looking forward to what Emily does next…
From Sue Baker, Editor Child’s Play
This year, Child’s Play is publishing a poetry collection by Mandy Ross about the wonderful and mysterious role trees can play in all our lives. Tree Whispers imagines the songs that trees might sing and the words they may whisper. It is a book that celebrates the role trees play in our personal well-being and the protection they offer to wildlife and our environment. Evocative illustrations by Juliana Oakley encourage us to rejoice in their existence, to appreciate the rich diversity of their lives, and ensure their protection for the future.
From Liz Cross, Publishing Director David Fickling Books
I am very excited that we will be launching a new, full-colour series from Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre in 2023 – the wonderful Adventuremice! These books manage to capture the instant appeal and immersive nature of TV series like Paw Patrol, but with all the qualities of story, writing, art and design, and all the heart, you’d expect of a children’s classic. I can’t imagine any 5-7 year old who wouldn’t be thrilled to discover this series. The ever versatile Philip Reeve is also bringing out Utterly Dark and the Tides of Time for a 9+ audience in September – an absolutely astonishing conclusion to this trilogy, which makes my jaw drop each time I read it.
From Anthony Hinton, Commissioning Editor David Fickling Books
The very best stories show you the world in a whole new light, such as Candy Gourlay’s incredible new YA novel Wild Song. Luki, a Filipino girl, and a main character in Candy’s Costa and Carnegie-shortlisted Bone Talk, journeys from her remote mountain village to become part of the Saint Louis World’s Fair of 1904. Her dreams of breaking out of the prescriptive life of a young woman in her home village, combined with the reality of the new world she encounters for the first time, are evocative, deeply moving, and utterly extraordinary. Wild Song is rare, special, and entirely unique.
From Alice Swan Editorial Director, Faber
An absolute book of my heart, The Rescue of Ravenwood by Costa-Award winner Natasha Farrant, out in February. Prepare to feel all the feels! You will fall in love with Bea, Noa and Raffy, three fearless children looking to change their world for the better. This rollicking adventure invites you to escape up into intricate tree houses, to jump off the cliffs into the sea and to stow away on trains across Europe… It is a story about what it means to have a voice and use it, and a celebration of the incredible natural world on our doorstep. It might just be one of my favourite books of all time.
From Matthew Howard, Publishing Director Graffeg
Ever since Nicola Davies spotted the talent of (then) student Abbie Cameron, Graffeg have enjoyed working with both on Animal Surprises; a fun, informative series of books exploring the natural world we live in. Bright, colourful and exciting, Abbie’s images are unerringly accurate – there are no smiling cartoon creatures in a Nicola Davies book! Instead you’ll find a delight in nature, a desire to explore, and masses of encouragement to discover more about the weird, wacky, wonderful world around us. Closing the series, Versatile Reptile is a book that will send many young readers on their own journey of exploration.
From Bella Pearson, Guppy Books
Guppy only publishes a few books each year so picking just one feels wrong! But I’m really looking forward to the publication of Maggie Blue and the White Crow by Anna Goodall. It picks up Maggie’s adventures after the Costa-shortlisted Maggie Blue and the Dark World. Maggie is trying desperately to forget the Dark World – but the world can’t let go of her. This second book in the trilogy reflects the difficult times we ourselves are living in, exploring climate and political unrest, and it promises to be one of the most prescient of our time with a heroine who is courageous, individual and flawed. Unmissable.
From Rachel Wade, Editorial Director Hachette
Kiran Millwood Hargrave says In the Shadow of the Wolf Queen is the book of her heart, the book she’s wanted to write since she first realised she wanted to be a writer. It’s the sort of story which, as an editor, you can only dream will come your way. The first in an action-packed fantasy trilogy, it took my breath away – Ysolda’s epic adventures with her sea-hawk Nara immerse us in the magic of nature, the lure of power and the strength of love. It’s for all readers, young and old, aged 9 and above. And it will be the publishing highlight of 2023!
From Aliyana Hirji, Editor Hodder Children’s Books
In Meet the Maliks, Zanib Mian has written an infectiously warm and funny own-voices book, filled with her trademarks – a strong family dynamic, mystery storyline and perfectly pitched giggle-inducing jokes. It is the book I longed for as a child, one that gives an organic and natural insight into everyday Muslim family life. I cannot wait for readers to fall in love with these twin detectives as they get into hijinks and uncover clues at their mosque to catch a cookie culprit. The Malik twins might be total opposites but together they are an unstoppable team!
From Penny Morris, Associate Publisher, Macmillan Children’s Books
Poet Pam Ayres has a devoted following and is well-known for her love of British wildlife, so I was thrilled when she agreed to write a series of animal picture books for Macmillan. I am Oliver the Otter has a rhyming text about Oliver, his mate Ottilie, and their cubs, and the illustrations by Nicola O’Byrne are gorgeous. Pam cleverly weaves lots of otter facts into the story; we learn that otters can close their ears and noses to keep water out; and sea otters hold paws when they sleep so they don’t drift apart – the book is a complete delight for all ages.
From Emma Jones, Editorial Director Macmillan Children’s Books
Greenwild is a stunning debut novel: at once an epic fantastical mystery and a love letter to the magic of nature. Pari Thomson’s writing is spellbinding, and she’s woven an unforgettable tale that grabbed me on its very first page and never let me go. Her brilliant, bold protagonist steps into a world bursting with magic, and the resulting adventure feels a little Diana Wynne Jones, a little Eva Ibbotson – but hugely original too. It’s perfect for contemporary readers, who I know are going to love joining Daisy on her journey to protect the wild and beautiful magic of the Greenwild.
From Archna Sharma, Publisher Neem Tree Press
Neem Tree Press is a vibrant, independent publishing house producing books that change and broaden perspectives. They are recent recipients of a prestigious English PEN grant, a literary award for an upcoming work in translation. The Seven Seas collection focuses on fiction for junior and young adult readers that showcases diverse cultures and protagonists.
Feast of Ashes by Victoria Williamson is a YA dystopian novel set in East Africa. With a strong environmental theme, and warnings on the dangers of corporate takeover of genetic engineering research and development, it is an action-based story that takes a deeper look at family, friendship, romance and sacrifice. A stand-alone novel, Feast of Ashes has the potential to be become a trilogy.
From Lucas Adams Editor New York Review Books, says –
Let’s Go Swimming With Mister Sillypants is one of my favorite books in childhood, and I’m very excited to bring it back into print. M K Brown was one of National Lampoon’s great cartoonists, and she brings all of her kindness and humour to this book. It’s got everything: a wildly dressed everyman (allegedly based on the author’s Scandinavian father-in-law), concerns about learning to swim (Mister Sillypants asks: ‘What if I step on a fish?’), gorgeous 1980s watercolour illustrations, pickle and peanut butter sandwiches, and solid lessons about finding ways to laugh at your fears and overcome them. A must for the curious and weird kids out there, it’s published 19th September.
From Sarah Walden Managing Director, Noodle Juice
From the beginnings of human history people have tried to explain the wonders and mysteries of the universe around them through the stories that we share with one another. These are the stories that have stood the test of time, from all four corners of the globe, helping to build the cultures and societies we hold dear today by changing the way we think and communicate. From ancient Greek myths and legends to African and Indian folk tales, from Perrault’s fairy tales and Aesop’s fables to Norse Sagas and Shakespeare comedies, the 52 beautifully illustrated stories in Stories That Built Our World (October) really have all helped to build our world.
From Ruth Huddleston Old Barn Books
This year A M Dassu is a World Book Day £1 book author with Boot it!, a bridge between Boy, Everywhere, and October’s full-length novel, Kicked Out!. Dassu writes from the heart and Kicked Out! will be the most personal of her titles to date. She displays extraordinary empathy with her teenaged subjects trying to find their places in the world, their footballing dreams battling the conflicting forces of family, friendship and racism. I can’t wait to get this book into the hands of her young fans, particularly those South Asian readers who are currently woefully under-represented in children’s literature.
From Anne-Marie Ryan, Editorial Director Orchard Books
Tom Easton gives Gelos, the Greek god of laughter, a run for his money in Hotel of the Gods: Beware the Hellhound, a madcap adventure set at a hotel where the magical, mischievous gods and goddesses of world mythology are looked after by a boy named Atlas and his family. I can’t wait for readers to meet Tom’s hilarious immortals in this first instalment of a new four-book series. 2023 is set to be a challenging year, but Beware the Hellhound, featuring irreverent illustrations by Steve Brown, provides much-needed belly laughs while also introducing young readers to stories from Greek, Roman, Norse, Egyptian, Aztec and Polynesian mythology.
From Janetta Otter-Barry, Otter-Barry Books
In April we are incredibly proud to publish Naima B Robert and Nadine Kaadan’s first picture book collaboration, A Child Like You, showing through four inspirational real children how children everywhere can speak truth to power and change our world for the better. Then in September comes The Star Whale, a stunningly beautiful and powerful poetry gift book by Nicola Davies and Petr Horacek. In this unique celebration of the natural world, Nicola’s extraordinary, powerful poems are perfectly matched by Petr’s expressive, glowing paintings. This truly is a book for all ages, for families and schools alike. I’d love to see it in every classroom in the UK and beyond. 96 pages, jacketed with silver foil, a special book for readers aged 6 and up.
From Lou John, Head of Reading Oxford Children’s Books
We’re so excited to be publishing Harriet Muncaster’s brand-new Isadora Moon spin-off, Emerald, in 2023 – with the first book in the series, Emerald and the Ocean Parade, publishing in March. The series follows Isadora’s mermaid friend Emerald, who was first introduced to readers in Isadora Moon under the Sea, released in 2022 and chosen by The Times as one of the best children’s books of the year. These charming, funny and beautifully illustrated first-chapter books will take readers on a spellbinding underwater adventure, filled with enchanting characters who share valuable lessons about the importance of staying true to ourselves.
From Sarah Odedina, Pushkin Children’s Books
Kereen Getten has made her name in the world of touching, family-focused, stories set in Jamaica and with DI Island Crew Investigates The Case of the Lighthouse Intruder, her first in a series of three, she brings her hallmark kindness and care to younger readers. Fayson is a bright, slightly cheeky, very determined girl who dreams of being a detective. When she gets to visit her cousins on their exclusive island for a summer holiday she finds she and her new group of friends have a real-life mystery to solve. Filled with humour, friendship and some relationship friction, this wonderful story has it all.
From Rhiannon Findlay, Quarto
Monsters in Trucks has been such a joy to work on and I am itching for it to publish. It’s jam-packed with a hilarious array of monsters in incredible trucks. Monsters and trucks, what more could you want? Thanks to Nina Dzyvulska’s gleeful artwork there is so much to spot on each spread… and lots to laugh at. Laura Baker’s gently rhyming narrative and wordplay is ideal for pre-schoolers and early readers. This is the first book in a super-fun series, and if you think this sounds good just wait for Monsters at Christmas!
It’s always fun to work with an innovative format and shaped, layered board books are the perfect home for Evie and her dog, Juno. In their most exciting adventure yet, Explore Under the Earth sees the pair travel to the centre of the Earth… featuring a shaky earthquake, amazing fossils and an explosive ending! Publishing simultaneously, the richly-illustrated Explore the Rainforest finds Evie climbing to the top of the rainforest canopy. Neil Clark’s colourful, entertaining artwork makes this series shine – the sleepy sloths in Rainforest are incredibly cute and the daredevil mole in Earth always makes me chuckle!
The World’s Most Atrocious Animals is the third in the series from the uber-talented Philip Bunting. It features some of the scariest, most feared and shocking creatures in the natural world. There are lots of fabulous gruesome facts for children to absorb and share, as well as incredibly witty captions and contemporary illustrations in Bunting’s distinct style. As with the previous titles in this series, I particularly love the clever layers of humour – silly and fun for the kids with an extra depth of subtle humour for grown-ups. Real laugh-out-loud moments for young and old!
From Janice Thomson, Scallywag Press
Scallywag Press is delighted to launch its poetry list in February 2023 with performance poet and Scriever, Simon Lamb. His first collection, A Passing On of Shells, for readers of 7+ and beyond, is inimitably illustrated by Chris Riddell and is a collection of such diversity and breadth, so imbued with wisdom, wit and warmth – and so intriguing in Riddell’s generous and thought-provoking interpretations – that I can say without fear of contradiction: here is a luminous collaboration and one which will engage the hearts and minds of children and adults alike.
(PS, it’s difficult to choose a favourite poem – everyone will have their own – but, for me, The Boys at Summer’s End (pp102/103) is perfection.)
From Elizabeth Scoggins, Non-Fiction Publisher Scholastic
As a young survivor of Bergen-Belsen, Peter Lantos’ memoir about his family’s journey to the concentration camp, The Boy Who Didn’t Want to Die, and his eventual return home is an important read for all ages. At its heart is the value of learning and understanding, which the author conveys so powerfully. It is a real honour to be publishing his story.
From Fiz Osborne, Publisher Illustrated Books Scholastic
This Is Me by George Webster, Claire Taylor and Tim Budgen, one of the books I’m most excited to publish in 2023 is – just like George – full of energy, warmth and a cheeky sense of fun. It’s a book for everyone, and a genuine celebration of the things that make us different.
From Lauren Fortune, Fiction Publisher, Scholastic
From the creator of SPOOKS, David Wolstencroft, The Magic Hour is a funny, high-octane, race-against-time adventure in which our heroine Ailsa discovers that there are in fact twenty-five hours in a day and the extra hour exists in a fantastical parallel world, accessed at twilight. Sparkling writing and a brilliant hook give this story a future-classic feel.
From Aoife Datta, Scribble
With words and art by the internationally acclaimed illustrator Reza Dalvand, I Have the Right introduces children to the universal rights they are entitled to under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Adopted in 1989 and ratified by 190 countries, the convention promises to defend the rights of children and to keep them safe, respected, and valued. Dalvand’s stunning illustrations speak to children all around the world, some of whose rights are often challenged and must be protected every day.
From Susie Brooke, VP and Publisher, Sunbird Books, an imprint of Phoenix International Publications Inc
From our very first glimpse of the gorgeous cover, which evokes childhood, creativity, and imagination, we couldn’t wait to publish The Chalk Garden (April). Emma’s actual garden is made up of concrete paving, which she uses as a canvas. Day after day she draws flowers and birds while her father digs and plants beside her. Over time, the chalk garden and real-life garden merge to create a place where real-life birds come to visit! Along the way, Emma learns what plants need to grow. Beautifully written and illustrated by Sally Anne Garland, the story inspires hope, and rewards curiosity and patience.
From Hazel Holmes Publisher, UCLan Publishing
We feel really lucky to be publishing Liz Flanagan’s new series, Wildsmith. Brought to life with beautiful illustrations by Joe Todd Stanton, these accessible reads really bridge that gap between chapter books and lengthy middle grade. They’re a huge asset to our developing list. Liz has created a world full of magic, imagination and inspiration, along with a sensitive focus on conservation, and I’m genuinely excited for children to discover the wonder of Wildsmith.
From Rebecca Hill, Fiction Editorial Director, Usborne
It is Usborne’s 50th anniversary in 2023 and to celebrate we have a bumper year of brilliant fiction. There are hugely exciting debuts from authors G.M. Linton, Kimberly Whittam, Ravena Guron, Ayaan Mohamud and Isi Hendrix. Plus a yet to be revealed festive story from the fairy-tale world of Sophie Anderson. One book that everyone must read is The Boy Who Made Monsters from Laugh Out Loud Book Award winner Jenny Pearson. A tender novel about love and hope after loss – this book will make you laugh, cry and hold your loved ones dear. It is a triumph!
From Denise Johnstone-Burt, Editorial director Walker Books
Walker Studio has something for everyone but next year, historian Tom Holland’s The Wolf Girl, The Greeks and The Gods stands out for me for the sweep of its narrative coupled with Jason Cockcroft’s astonishing art. Tom, known for his brilliant adult history writing and his phenomenal podcast The Rest is History, has brought the wars between the Ancient Greeks and the Persians to life through the eyes of Gorgo, a Spartan princess. This is a tale of vengeful gods and invincible heroes, of wolves and the intrigue of war as a mighty empire threatens Athens. With spellbinding art on every page this is a book that is both mesmerising and lasting – one to devour and treasure.
For Walker in 2023, Angie Thomas’s first middle grade adventure Nic Blake and the Remarkables: The Manifestor Prophecy stands in a league of its own. Angie is an incredible writer with a gift for character, pace and emotion and her books transcend age and geography. Middle grade fiction was what made her fall in love with books. In her own words ‘I could ignore the gunshots in my neighbourhood if I was immersed in a magical world’. And she has created the most fabulous fantasy world, full of spells and curses, folktale characters and prophecies. There may even be a dragon. But, more than this, she has written a story which shows young people, young people like her, what is possible, about how to find the power within, magical power this time.