Which are the children’s books we’ll all be talking about in 2022? We asked leading editors to tell us about the book (one only) they are most excited to be publishing in the year ahead.
Dadaji’s Paintbrush by Rashmi Sirdeshpande, illustrated by Ruchi Mhasane, is a deceptively simple story about the relationship between a boy and his grandfather, their life in a small village in India and their shared love of art. They only have each other, so when the grandfather dies, it takes his grandson a while to understand that the people you love will always be with you. More than this, the book explores how art allows us the freedom to play, express ourselves and create. It’s a deeply personal book to the author and illustrator, and very personal to me too.
Sue Buswell, Editorial Director Picture Books, Andersen Press
I’m really excited to be publishing While the Storm Rages – the perfect follow-up to Phil Earle’s phenomenally successful When the Sky Falls. Again inspired by real events in World War II, this is a book about the mass culling of pets advised by the British government in 1939. As a result 750,000 pets were killed in just one week. Earle tells the story of a boy who refuses to let that happen to his beloved dog and sets off on a mission to save her and many others. Expect page-turning adventure, unforgettable characters and a few tears to be shed!
Charlie Sheppard, Publishing Director, Andersen Press – Fiction
One of the books I’m really looking forward to this year is Crookhaven, coming in July from exciting new children’s author J J Arcanjo. Crookhaven is about Gabriel, a young pickpocket who is recruited to a secret school for thieves in rural South-West England – but it’s a school for thieves who are committed to using their talents for good rather than bad. With loads of high stakes thievery and classes like crimnastics and forgery, the book is filled with fun, while also exploring the theme of what it really means to do good.
Lena McCauley, Senior Commissioning Editor, Hachette Children’s Books
From Kat Patrick, creator of the Doodle Cat series, and illustrated by rising star Hayley Wells, The Spectacular Suit tells the story of a young girl Frankie, who doesn’t want to wear a dress to her birthday. Instead she dreams of wearing an amazing suit covered in stars and lightning bolts. Bursting with bold, vivid illustrations, this is a buoyant and heart-warming celebration of individuality and identity, that reminds us that clothes have no gender, and invites children to wear what makes them feel joy. There’s nothing else quite like this book out there at the moment, and we’re incredibly proud to be publishing it.
Aoife Datta, Scribe UK
In our fast-paced world, it is a rare thing to have an author who only graces us with one of their masterpieces once a decade. S F Said is just such an author, his hugely bestselling Varjak Paw remains a firm favourite, and Tyger (October 2022) is about to light up a whole new generation of readers. A young boy and girl, a huge mystical beast, a strange and backwards London, powerful magic, adventure – it’s got just about everything one could want from a book and to top it off, the insanely talented Dave McKean is illustrating the pages. Tyger is not just a book of the year, this is a book of the decade.
Rosie Fickling, Commissioning Editor, David Fickling Books
I’m excited to see Xtinct!: T-Rex Terror by Ash Stone publish this year. This new 7+ adventure series is packed full of page-turning action and exciting extinct animals. When a freak accident at his mum’s fossil lab brings a deadly T-Rex to life in a forest full of dangerous hunters, it’s up to Jeevan Singh – and his new neanderthal friend and pet dodo – to save the dinosaur. Beyond the non-stop action, the pacey plot and the humour, there’s also a powerful and timely message around conservation which will resound with young readers.
Gurnaik Johal, Assistant Editor, Orchard Books
Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy – until he is rescued by a beetle-eyed giant, enrols at Hogwarts, learns to play Quidditch and does battle in a deadly duel. The reason … Harry is a wizard! J K Rowling’s spellbinding tale of the Boy Who Lived has inspired countless children to discover the magic of reading ever since it was first published 25 years ago. During a year of fun and celebrations, June will see the release of a gorgeous commemorative edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone featuring Thomas Taylor’s much-loved original cover illustration and exclusive bonus content.
Mandy Archer, Editorial Director, Bloomsbury Children’s Books
As Long as The Lemon Trees Grow is a breath-taking story of love and loss set amid the Syrian revolution, from stellar new talent Zoulfa Katouh. Zoulfa’s motivation for writing will tell you why we are so excited to be publishing it: ‘It is my love letter to Syria, Syrians and hijabi girls who rule their own lives. It’s also a written testimony to a bewildered world on what is actually happening there. I wanted to give a voice to the voiceless, to talk about our love for our country and how no one wants to be a refugee.’
Hannah Sandford, Senior Commissioning Editor, Bloomsbury Children’s Books
I am hugely excited about The Wondrous Prune, a commercial magical adventure for 9+, with a main character that all readers will fall in love with and feel empowered by. Prune is a seemingly ordinary girl who has just moved to a new town with her single mum and older brother. But her life changes forever when she discovers she has a unique and remarkable magical power. It’s the first of a series about extraordinary children and is poignant, surprising and filled with wish fulfilment. It’s perfect for fans of Amari and The Night Brothers and Sharna Jackson.
Zoe Griffiths, Editorial Director, Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Rosie Raja: Churchill’s Spy (July) is set during the Second World War. When Rosie’s mother’s passes away, she moves from her home in India to England with her father. She discovers that he is actually a spy for the British government and can’t bear to be left behind so she stows away in his plane. In occupied France, Rosie is drawn into the struggle against the Nazis. This exciting spy thriller by Sufiya Ahmed has an engaging, instantly likeable heroine and is perfect for fans of Michael Morpurgo and Emma Carroll.
Hannah Rolls, Commissioning Editor, Bloomsbury Children’s Books
From bestselling author Katherine Rundell comes The Zebra’s Great Escape, a timeless picture book about a girl called Mink and a zebra called Gabriel, as they set out to rescue a whole menagerie of animals from an evil collector. Written with generous helpings of warmth and humour, this unmissable story of friendship and courage is packed with glorious, funny, irresistible illustrations by the award-winning Sara Ogilvie, illustrator of The Detective Dog.
Ellen Holgate, Commissioning Editor, 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.
Lara Hancock, Head of Illustrated Publishing, Bloomsbury Children’s Books
The book that I am most excited about publishing in 2022 is Big Ideas from History. A sequel to Big Ideas for Curious Minds, it is an alternative romp through history, illustrated by the wonderful Anna Doherty. The book encourages children to think about how and why they experience the world as they do, within the context of our history and evolution. It also looks to the future and importantly asks them to imagine a world that they would like to live in. An extremely useful tool for engaging with children on history, their thoughts and feelings.
Phoebe Adler, Associate Publisher, The School of Life
Translated from the French by Alyson Waters, Our Fort by Marie Dorléans is the perfect book to welcome in spring! Our Fort (May 2022) is about three friends on an outing to their secret fort when a big storm takes them by surprise. From sweeping green vistas to dark-blue rain-pelting skies, Dorléans’ verdant and luminous illustrations capture the drama of the elements and the joy of friendship. Her previous book The Night Walk made this year’s New York Times/New York Public Library best illustrated book list, and I can easily imagine Our Fort making it next year.
Susan Barba, New York Review Books
I’m so excited that Campbell is publishing its 50th Busy Book this year, the celebratory Busy Party. Forming part of a wider series relaunch with a brand-new look, it retains all the hallmarks of a classic Busy Book with appealing scenes to explore, a delightful rhyme to share, and fun push, pull and slide mechanisms to help develop toddler motor skills. With its special-edition shimmery gold foil cover, this book has become my new instant favourite and I’m hoping that little ones will find it as irresistible as I do.
Deborah Kespert, Editorial Director, Campbell Books
Author-illustrator Dapo Adeola has swiftly become known as a change-maker within the world of children’s books, and we at Two Hoots are so excited to be publishing the new anthology that he has curated, Joyful, Joyful: Stories Celebrating Black Voices. This ambitious collection showcases 40 of the most talented Black writers and artists from across the world, including bestsellers like Malorie Blackman and rising stars like Denzell Dankwah, with new stories, poems, essays and even recipes, alongside a rich array of colour illustrations. I feel very lucky to be publishing this ground-breaking celebration of Black talent and Black joy.
Helen Weir, Senior Editor, Two Hoots
In June, we are publishing the eighth title in the Tales from Acorn Wood series, Badger’s Band. Axel Scheffler’s illustrations bring alive the humorous characters who join Badger’s musical ensemble: Pig with his personalised drum kit, Sheep, the harpist, and Bear the concert pianist amongst others. Julia Donaldson’s rhyming text is a joy to read and this book is brimming with fun for pre-schoolers who will enjoy lifting the flaps to discover the musical instruments underneath. We have been delighted by the reception to 2021 bestsellers Cat’s Cookbook and Squirrel’s Snowman and hope that Badger’s Band will be as beloved.
Nicole Pearson, Publishing Director, Brands and Media, Macmillan Children’s Books
I’m thrilled to be publishing The Macmillan Collection of Myths and Legends, our second book based on material from the Macmillan archive, following our Fairy Tales collection. This time we’ve gathered tales from familiar mythologies such as Norse and Greek, and also from other cultures around the world, including North and South America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. With a foreword by Michael Morpurgo, and illustrations throughout by artists such as Walter Crane and Arthur Rackham, plus additional images by Peter Bailey, this book is a wonderful way to introduce these fabulous and timeless stories to a new generation of readers.
Penny Morris, Associate Publisher, Macmillan Children’s Books
I am so excited for children to discover Where Has All the Cake Gone?, written and illustrated by brilliant newcomers Andrew Sanders and Aysha Awwad. It’s the story of a missing cake, a hoard of hungry penguins and a crumb-covered little boy who swears he’s telling the truth: he did NOT eat the cake! Surely his tall tale can’t be true … Can it? It’s an action-packed, fabulously funny book that’s full of witty moments, with a wonderfully warm relationship between a boy and his dad at its heart. A story to delight young readers, it will have them laughing from start to finish.
Hannah Ray, Publishing Director, Macmillan Children’s Books
The book I am most excited to be publishing in the first half of 2022 is Like A Charm by award-winning author Elle McNicoll. From the very first draft, I was absolutely floored by the world Elle has created; an Edinburgh of hidden magic and lost witches. It’s Elle’s first foray into contemporary fantasy middle-grade, and her first duology too. Ramya is an irrepressible heroine who I hope many young readers will see themselves reflected in – it’s an added joy that readers can stay with her for more than one book!
Eishar Brar, Editorial Director, Knights Of
There’s one bad trickster kicking off 2022 at Walker Books: Louie Stowell’s Loki: A Bad God’s Guide to Being Good storms onto the scene in February, bringing mischief and mayhem. After one prank too many, Norse god Loki is banished to Earth to live as a weedy eleven-year-old schoolboy for ‘moral improvement’. Loki charts his progress in a magical diary in which he’s forced to write the truth. To make it worse, he has to put up with Thor tagging along and making him look bad. Action-packed and full of hilarious illustrations by the author, this is the start of a brilliant new series for 8+ readers.
Jane Winterbotham, Walker Books Publishing Director
TAILs: The Animal Investigators of London (March 2022) was inspired by the shocking series of cat attacks carried out in the ‘real world’ by a twisted individual who terrified Croydon in 2015. Sadly, he was never caught, and I thought it would be good if at least he could get his just deserts in a book. So, I enlisted the help of crime author, Martin Penny, who in turn enlisted the help of the neighbourhood’s animals to apprehend the killer. I’m very pleased to say that they were both highly successful!
Todd Swift, Publisher, Black Spring Press Group
We are thrilled to be publishing two new novelty finger-tab books by Jo Lodge in June. Snap! Snap! I’m a Crocodile and Crunch! Crunch! I’m a Shark. These follow on from the hugely successful Roar! Roar! I’m a Dinosaur which has sold over 150,000 copies! Jo Lodge is the master of simple, interactive, fun, novelty books with great child appeal. Bright colours, actions to copy, simple extra value information and plenty of onomatopoeia, all Jo Lodge Boxer titles are great for sharing and reading time and time again.
Leilani Sparrow, Boxer Books
It’s so hard to choose from such a diverse list, but our book of 2022, would be The Gifts That Grow by Monika Singh Gangotra and Michaela Dias-Hayes. This second book in our Sunflower Sisters series is an inspiring true story of the author’s grandmother carrying a Jamun tree seedling in her lap, all the way from India to Australia, to plant in celebration on the birth of her granddaughter. Jamun trees take several generations to bear fruit, so the person that plants it rarely lives to see or taste the fruit but provides a gift for future generations.
Sam Langley-Swain, Owlet Press
The legendary Anne Fine will publish Aftershocks with Old Barn Books (February). Aftershocks is a sensitive exploration of the subject of grief, a topic Fine has never previously tackled in such depth, couched in a heart-stopping adventure. The novel unflinchingly confronts the brutality of sudden bereavement and shows the many different ways in which individuals and wider communities attempt to cope with such events. Teenager Louie’s emotional journey from anger to empowerment is beautifully drawn and will resonate with many. Dystopian adventure, coming-of-age story, ghostly tale, modern family fable – Aftershocks is hard to categorise, empathetic, and gripping.
Ruth Huddleston, Old Barn Books
I am very excited about I Am Nefertiti (June), the debut picture book by Annemarie Anang and rising-star illustration talent Natelle Quek, an empowering and uplifting celebration of every child’s uniqueness. When Nefertiti plays the drums, the band plays as one. But when the new music teacher shortens her name to ‘Nef’, Nefertiti begins to shrink . . . Undeterred, she stands up tall until everyone chants her beautiful name and once again she is queen of the beat. Packed inside this joyous, rhythmical read-aloud is a heart-warming message about the importance of being you.
Natascha Biebow, editor, Five Quills
From the outset, we were sure that this middle-grade novel about David, a Kindertransport child, and his wartime adventure with his new friend, Robert, an evacuee from London, was something really special. Featuring murderous Nazis, enigma codebooks and wild sea adventures, The Hunt for David Berman (May) is a thrilling page-turner set in the wilds of Scotland.
Rebecca O’Connor, editor and founder at The Moth (comprising literary magazines The Moth and The Caterpillar).
Epic Adventures is the first solo outing by award-winning Sam Sedgman. Sam invites all of us to join him on twelve iconic train journeys and adventure across the globe to experience the sights, sounds and smells of amazing places the trains visit. Evocatively illustrated by Sam Brewster, Sam’s exciting and enticing text explores cultures, natural wonders, engineering feats and scrumptious treats to eat, as well as fascinating facts about the trains themselves. A gorgeous book for train fans… and anyone who loves animals, history, travel, adventures and anything else you can imagine. A journey across Europe on the Orient Express anyone?
Lizzie Yeates, Senior Editor, Kingfisher
In autumn 2022 Little Island will publish a sequel to our acclaimed 2021 middle-grade fantasy Wolfstongue by Sam Thompson. Wolfstongue received rave reviews, with Anthony McGowan calling it ‘one of the most extraordinary children’s books I’ve ever read’ and The Times saying ‘Wolfstongue has all the makings of a modern classic … not since Watership Down have animal dynamics felt so true’. The Fox’s Tower takes place 30 years after the events of Wolfstongue. Willow must enter the Forest and rescue Silas, her father, from his fox captors. It is a stunning achievement of fantasy worldbuilding, at once thrilling and thought-provoking. Like Wolfstongue the book will be enriched with illustrations by Anna Tromop.
Matthew Parkinson, Little Island
When you’re a dyed-in-the-wool dog lover in an office full of dog lovers and a book like Bork lands on your desk…well, you pretty much have to publish it! Written and illustrated by Rhys Kitson (May), this deceptively simple, limited-colour-palette, not-quite-wordless picture book brings a smile to our faces every time we look at it. The premise: do dogs from different countries bark differently, and if so, how do they communicate with each other? The takeaway: children learn the onomatopoeia for barking in different languages, and more importantly, that there’s more that unites us than pulls us apart.
Susie Brooke, Associate Publisher, Sunbird Books
We are delighted to welcome in the New Year with author/illustrator Sam Sharland’s debut picture book, Valentine’s Guest House. With a policy of everyone is welcome, Elsie and her mother soon discover that the arrival of each new guest leads to some small and not quite so small changes to accommodate their specific requirements. Considerate, funny and inventive, this story shows how we can all open our minds and our lives as we try to be more inclusive.
Sue Baker, Child’s Play (International) Ltd
Of all the engaging titles miraculously brought to fruition by authors, illustrators and designers, this year one book stands out for me for personal reasons. It is a book about a friendship between a small girl and an elderly neighbour who has Altzheimer’s. Phyllis and Grace, written by Nigel Gray, is a moving – never maudlin – tale of rapport between two people of vastly differing age, but who delight in each other’s company. Written without sentimentality, exquisitely illustrated by Bethan Welby and brilliantly art directed and designed, I think it a book to treasure for all ages – children and adults alike.
Janice Thomson, Scallywag Press
2022 sees our first anniversary as Farshore and we have some incredible publishing that showcases all the strengths and values that we are proud to stand for. Laura Ellen Anderson’s Rainbow Grey is sure to hit the top spot after its top 20 debut last year and Amari and the Great Game is a massive moment in the children’s publishing calendar as the sequel to B.B. Alston’s bestselling debut Amari and the Night Brothers, as is, of course, Holly Jackson’s as yet to be revealed brand new YA thriller! But one to watch is the new middle grade chiller from Crater Lake star, Jennifer Killick, Dreadwood. It’ll send shivers down your spine in all the best ways!
Lindsey Heaven, Farshore’s Fiction Publishing Director
I’m thrilled to be publishing Ellie Pillai Is Brown by Christine Pillainayagam, a stunningly talented UKYA debut author. We all fell in love with Ellie, the girl next door, who feels utterly invisible but also dares to dream. This book is what everyone needs, to make you fall in love, laugh, (cry a bit), get nostalgic and cheer for the most gorgeous, quirky, captivating heroine you’ll meet in years. Christine, a singer/songwriter, is also releasing an album of songs composed by Ellie alongside publication – so if you’re a fan of Daisy Jones and the Six and winning romantic fiction then do hunt it down! You won’t be disappointed.
Leah Thaxton, Publisher, Faber Children’s Books
Patrice Lawrence’s The Elemental Detectives is the first book in a major new fantasy adventure series for middle grade: page-turning, empowering, future classic storytelling, starring Black kids solving magical mysteries.
Lauren Fortune, Fiction Publisher, Scholastic
It’s a real thrill to publish Benjamin Zephaniah’s We Sang Across the Sea: The Empire Windrush and Me in which he expresses the courage and dreams of the Windrush generation beautifully in this vivid rhyme about the real-life experiences of Trinidadian musician, Mona Baptiste, with stunning illustrations from Onyinye Iwu.
Elizabeth Scoggins, Publisher Non-Fiction, Brands and Licensing, Scholastic
We are so excited to publish I Definitely Don’t Like Winter (October). Written by Fiona Barker and illustrated by Christine Pym, this story has friendship and empathy at its heart, all wrapped up in a lot of humour and fun. It’s absolutely beautiful! Children will love it, and so will parents, teachers and librarians. It’s a classic in the making.
Fiz Osborne, Editorial Director Illustrated Books Scholastic
You’d never guess that I’m Not Scary is Raahat Kaduji’s début picture book. It’s just the most perfect, reassuring, snuggle-up bedtime story, full of warmth and fabulous, glowing illustrations. Lonely little Bat loves to bake, but the other animals are scared of him, and think he’s a monster. How can Bat show them that he just wants to share some cake? I love the world that Raahat creates, with its atmospheric landscapes, and endearing animals. Mix in some lovely themes of friendship, courage and not judging by appearances, and I defy anyone not to fall in love with this gorgeous, gentle book!
Alison Green, publisher, Alison Green Books
Marv and the Mega Robot is the first in a thrilling new series about young superhero Marvin who discovers his grandfather’s superhero suit, which only works when powered by kindness and imagination. Not only is it an exciting adventure story but one with a powerful message. Author Alex Falase-Koya decided to write Marv after struggling to find any superheroes in fiction who looked like him. And so, by writing about Marv, Alex aims to create a character to which all children can relate – a superhero who discovers that his real strengths are kindness and self-belief.
Gillian Sore, Editor, Oxford University Press
We are delighted to be publishing Joe Todd-Stanton’s exquisite and heartfelt new picture book, The Comet this March. Touching on the bewildering experience of moving house, this beautiful story explores how this can affect a child’s sense of belonging, but also how it can open them up to new and wonderful experiences. Inspired by life changes as a result of the pandemic, this story carries themes of creativity and communication through art and the coming together of community and will resonate with many children (and their parents) and features some of the most stunning illustrations we think we’ve ever seen!
Harriet Birkinshaw, Nobrow
This year marks our first foray into fiction for older readers and we’re thrilled to kick off our middle grade list with Starlet Rivals, book one of the Bollywood Academy series, by talented debut author Puneet Bhandal. A former Bollywood journalist who rubbed shoulders with some of the biggest actors and film producers, Puneet has channelled her love of all things Bollywood into an incredibly charming school story that follows shy newcomer Bela as she wins a scholarship to the Bollywood Academy, a stage school for stars-in-the-making. Not to be missed! Out July 2022.
Alice Curry, Publisher, Lantana
Our 2022 list is set to be our biggest and boldest yet. I’m especially excited to be publishing a new MG novel from Carnegie Medal winning author Anthony McGowan, illustrated by Keith Robinson. As soon as I read Dogs of the Deadlands, I could see it being an instant classic – a book to capture the imagination of children in much the same way as Watership Down and The Call of the Wild. Inspired by true events, this is the thrilling story of the dogs left behind following the Chernobyl disaster and their struggle to survive in this new wilderness.
Katie Jennings, Senior Commissioning Editor, Rock the Boat
If I have to pick one Guppy highlight, it is YA novel The Cats We Meet Along the Way by Nadia Mikail. When the pandemic hit in 2020, we ran our first (now annual) online competition for unpublished writers and Nadia’s debut set in Malaysia was the extraordinary winner. The juxtaposition of a cruelly inevitable world event against a moving portrait of the tangles of family life is so sensitively rendered – as Patrice Lawrence said: ‘It’s beautiful – original, emotionally truthful and infused with love and hope.’ I can’t wait for everyone to read it!
Bella Pearson, Guppy Books
I’m really proud to be publishing Natasha Devon’s fiction debut in June this year. Toxic is an important book, but not one just for the YA market. I certainly learnt a thing or two whilst reading and I really wish this book had been about when I was navigating those relationships that didn’t seem quite right… When Natasha’s manuscript landed in my inbox I was beyond excited. I can’t think of a better book more suited to our developing list, especially as our own students will be involved. A book that speaks directly to them.
Hazel Holmes, Uclan