By Katherine Woodfine | 22 December, 2018
We’ve shared with you our favourite books of the year on our Christmas Special, but what caught the eye of others in the book world this year?
We asked a host of top children’s books editors, literary agents and publicists which books - other than their own - had really grabbed their attention in 2018. Here are the books they told us they most admired:
Molly Ker Hawn, The Bent Agency
I can’t think of a more arresting picture book than Shaun Tan’s Cicada (Hachette). I read it in a bookshop and cried. I bought it, brought it to the office and showed it to my colleague Amelia and she cried. I brought it home and showed it to my children; one of them cried and the other clearly felt a sort of vengeful delight at the end, which made me proud and also unnerved. I bought several more copies for friends, clients, anyone with a heart, really. The art is exquisite and the text is strange and funny and sad. It ought to win every prize it’s eligible for.
Paul Black, Andersen Press
The Way Past Winter, by Kiran Millwood Hargrave. Not only is this a brilliant page-turner - a rip-roaring car chase of a book, set in the Scandinavian deep north, with magic and mystery – but the package of it is simply gorgeous - and no doubt will be a treat under Christmas trees around the country. It seems that every detail was carefully thought through - the design, the printing and then the campaign around the book - sumptuous! I can’t wait to see what they do on paperback!
Jodie Hodges, United Agents
I think How Winston Delivered Christmas is genius. I’m so glad to see publishing really embracing Christmas books again, despite the short shelf life. I just adore the clever advent idea here – it’s something that’s ready-made to become part of a family’s Christmas traditions. Of course, Alex’s work is as gorgeous as ever, but I also think it’s a beautiful package and something Macmillan will be able to promote to new readers every year. And if I’m allowed two, I think Scholastic’s swift and nimble publishing of The Wonky Donkey is worth mentioning – it was very impressive.
Lucy Pearse, Macmillan
The book I wish I'd published this year is Laura Wood's A Sky Painted Gold, published by Scholastic. It has a stunning cover, drawing you instantly into that art deco, Gatsby world, and what a world Laura created. It is a homage to so many of my favourite books - I Capture the Castle, A Little Love Song, A Song for Summer and Elizabeth Jane Howard's Cazalets, but has a freshness to the characters and their love story that feels entirely individual. I read it in one sitting and the gorgeous parties, beautiful Cornish setting and hopelessly romantic ending were like catnip. The presence on the BAMB beautiful books shortlist was fully deserved and the campaign appealed so strongly to book lovers that it was instantly clear who this was for - and I will be including it in lots of people's stockings this Christmas!
James Catchpole, The Catchpole Agency
Sally Nicholls’ Things A Bright Girl Can Do springs to mind. Charlie Sheppard at Andersen was very canny to think of her for a suffragette book, and goodness was Sally ever the right author for it! It’s a beautifully written, beautifully published story that caught a wave and deserves its success.
Chloe Sackur, Andersen Press
A book I admired was The Night of the Party by Tracey Mathias. To me it’s the YA novel that’s most relevant to the ongoing political situation in the UK: a romance set against the backdrop of a post-Brexit Britain in which anyone who isn’t ‘British Born’ is being forcibly deported. Over the last ten years we’ve seen a tonne of dystopian fiction, but this stood out to me as a novel that’s engaging with current UK politics and issues (for example, there’s a stunningly realistic depiction of a Yarl’s Wood-style detention centre where the main character is placed.) Scholastic gave it a striking cover with a strapline that plays on the idea that the personal is political, and published in May during the local elections. They even did press releases to look like voting slips.
Anna Barnes Robinson, Penguin Random House
Along with, I suspect, most of the publishing industry, I’ve been looking on with wonder and more than a little jealousy at the Nosy Crow and National Trust collaboration, I Am The Seed That Grew The Tree. It’s a bold statement of a book – a large-format gift poetry collection compiled by Fiona Waters and stunningly, breathtakingly, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon – that has quite clearly been a labour of love for everyone involved. It’s a commercial and clever piece of publishing and I suspect it will be found under a fair
few trees on Christmas morning.
Eishar Brar, Scholastic
The book I was most struck by in 2018 is For Every One by Jason Reynolds, published by Knights Of. Knights Of have done astonishing work this year: from publishing their first middle-grade, acquiring another middle-grade featuring the UK’s first young black detective duo, opening an inclusive pop-up bookshop in Brixton, bringing Jason Reynolds to the UK for an inspiring tour, and now crowd-funding for more diversely stocked bookshops across the UK. And all in their first year!
A lot of the industry was horrified by the stats released earlier this year, revealing the dearth of diverse children’s book characters in the UK market. For Every One is an inspiring book that encapsulates hope and the potential for change, and Knights Of, with their accessible, refreshing and commercial publishing, are equally as inspirational.
Bea Cross, Bloomsbury
Is it a coincidence that the Spice Girls announced that they were reforming for a global tour mere months after Lauren Ace and Jenny Lovlie’s glorious picture book The Girls published? The Spice Girls may bring the original Girl Power™ but 2018 was all about Lottie (Adventurous Spice), Sasha (Practical Spice), Leela (Clever Spice) and Alice (Funny Spice) and their beautiful blossoming friendship. It was a joy to hear little girls at events and festivals talking earnestly about which Girl they would be and why (I’m a Lottie but also a little Sasha) and, in what has been quite frankly a tricky ol’ year for the girls, it has been a joy to celebrate The Girls message of sisterhood, solidarity and supporting each other through it all.
Lizz Skelly, Hachette
Julian is a Mermaid was a book that I fell totally in love with and shared with so many friends and family. The colours, textures and patterns of the book are so gorgeous and the message so simple but full of hope, light and positivity. I think all of publishing collectively lost their minds when they saw Julian get the stamp of approval from Ru Paul himself. There was such a natural buzz that grew around this title which really reminded me just how powerful word of mouth recommendations are – everywhere I went people were talking about Julian. And rightly so!
Fiona Kennedy, Zephyr
Children of Castle Rock by Natasha Farrant for me - the great content aside, I love the look of this book. It speaks of adventure and also has a wonderful classic feel - picking up on the Lauren St John (White Giraffe and Laura Marlin) vibe and everything that is 'modern day ' Blyton. It's pure entertainment. Timely publishing in the spring gave it the advantage of the whole year and it
was effectively publicised - I saw it popping up everywhere!
Claire Wilson, RCW
The book that I can’t stop talking about is How Winston Delivered Christmas by Alex T. Smith. I get a physical pang of longing to buy it every time I see it, even though I already own it. It’s a completely stunning package, with an incredibly endearing hero, a brilliant format, and the most appealing illustrations. The doll’s house cut-away is irresistible; my inner child (and indeed my actual child) fell head over heels in love with on first sight. Beautifully designed, perfectly Christmassy, with a stunning use of colour – and a very intriguing story, although I am of course not yet up to chapter 24 and a half…
By Katherine Woodfine | 11 October, 2018
Exciting news! We’re so delighted that Down the Rabbit Hole has been shortlisted for the Podcast of the Year 2018 Award at the FutureBook Awards.
The Awards are designed to surface and celebrate the very best innovation from all corners of the publishing industry. The Podcast of the Year award is a brand new category for 2018: Down the Rabbit Hole, which The Bookseller described as a 'four year-strong pioneer' is joined on the shortlist by a fantastic selection of literary podcasts: the Penguin Podcast, Simplify, Mostly Lit, Not Another Book Podcast, and The Bestseller Experiment, as well as another children’s podcast - Story Shed, an original fiction show from primary school teacher Jake Harris.
The winners of the Awards will be announced at the FutureBook Live conference on 30th November: find out more about the Awards and read more about the shortlist announcement.
By Katherine Woodfine | 26 September, 2018
September always brings a bumper crop of new children's books - here are a few of our favourites from this month's delights.
Oi Duck-Billed Platypus by Kes Gray & Jim Field
The Bear, the Piano, the Dog and the Fiddle by David Litchfield
Me and My Fear by Francesca Sanna
Angry Cookie by Laura Dockrill & Maria Karipidou
Storm by Sam Usher
First Prize for the Worst Witch by Jill Murphy
The Murderer's Ape by Jakob Wegelius, translated by Peter Graves
Pages & Co: Tilly and the Bookwanderers by Anna James
The Legend of Kevin by Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre
The Wizards of Once: Twice Magic by Cressida Cowell
City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab
The Lost Magician by Piers Torday
The Skylark's War by Hilary McKay
The Restless Girls by Jessie Burton, illustrated by Angela Barrett
Into the Jungle by Katherine Rundell, illustrated by Kristjana S Williams
Power to the Princess: 15 Favourite Fairytales Retold with Girl Power by Vita Murrow & Julia Bereciartu
Non-fiction and Poetry
Poems to Live Your Life By, chosen and illustrated by Chris Riddell
She is Fierce: Brave, Bold and Beautiful Poems by Women, edited by Ana Sampson
I Am the Seed That Grew the Tree, edited by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon
A History of Pictures for Children by David Hockney and Martin Gayford
Teen and YA
La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
And the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness, illustrated by Rovina Cai
By Katherine Woodfine | 27 June, 2018
We didn't have time to share our usual round-up on this month's show - but here's a few of our favourite new children's books to be looking out for in shops this month!
Billy And The Beast - Nadia Shireen
Grandad Mandela - Zindzi Mandela and Sean Qualls: Mandela's great-grandchildren ask 15 questions about his life to mark the centenary of his birth
If All The World Were - Joseph Coelho and Allison Colpoys
The Day War Came - Nicola Davies and Rebecca Cobb
Picking Pickle - Polly Faber and Clara Vuillamy
Between Tick And Tock - Louise Greig and Ashling Lindsay
Baby's First Bank Heist - Jim Whalley and Stephen Collins
Hansel & Gretel - Bethan Woollvin
Suffragette: The Battle for Equality - David Roberts
Wizarding For Beginners - Elys Dolan
Pony On The Twelfth Floor - Polly Faber and Sarah Jennings
Bad Mermaids: On the Rocks - Sibeal Pounder and Jason Cockcroft
Flying Fergus: The Big Biscuit Bike-Off - Chris Hoy and Clare Elsom
Sam Wu is NOT afraid of Sharks! - Katie & Kevin Tsang, illustrated by Nathan Reed
Midnight - Derek Landy (the eleventh book in the Skulduggery Pleasant series)
My Arch-Enemy Is A Brain In A Jar - David Solomons
Natboff! One Million Years of Stupidity - Andy Stanton and David Tazzyman
Girls Can Vlog: Festival Frenzy - Emma Moss
Teen and young adult
In Paris With You - Clementine Beauvais, translated by Sam Taylor
Bookshop Girl - Chloe Coles
All Of This Is True - Lygia Day Penaflor
Little Liar - Julia Gray
Run Riot - Nikesh Shukla
By Katherine Woodfine | 28 February, 2018
Just in time for World Book Day, check out our list of new children's books to look out for in bookshops this month!
Picture Books and Novelty Books
Moo Cow Moo Cow Please Eat Nicely by Jo Lodge
Are You There Little Bunny? by Sam Taplin and Emily Dove
That's Not My Chick by Fiona Watt and Rachel Wells
The Squirrels Who Squabbled by Rachel Bright and Jim Field
Spyder by Matt Carr
The Pirates of Scurvy Sands by Johnny Duddle
Simon Sock by Sue Hendra, Paul Linnet and Nick East
The Mouse Who Wasn't Scared by Petr Horacek
Do Not Open This Book by Andy Lee and Heath Mackenzie
The Unicorn Quest by Kamilla Benko
The Phantom Lollipop Man by Pamela Butchart and Thomas Flintham
Make More Noise by various authors
Twister by Juliette Forest
Tin by Padraig Kenny
Begone the Raggedy Witches by Celine Kiernan
Battle of the Beetles by MG Leonard
Hari and His Electric Feet by Alexander McCall Smith and Sam Usher
Teacup House: Meet the Twitches by Hayley Scott and Pippa Curnick
Barry Loser: Worse School Trip Ever by Jim Smith
A Spoonful of Murder by Robin Stevens
Unicorn Academy: Sophia and Rainbow by Julie Sykes and
Sam Wu is NOT Afraid of Ghosts by Katie Tsang, Kevin Tsang and Nathan Reed
Amazing Women: 101 Lives to Inspire You by Lucy Beevor and Sarah Green
Politics for Beginners by Alex Frith, Rosie Hore, Louie Stowell and Kellan Stover
Fantastically Great Women Who Made History by Kate
Dear Katie by Katie Thistleton
Young Gifted and Black by Jamia Wilson and Andrea Pippins
Teen and Young Adult
The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
Hero at the Fall by Alwyn Hamilton
Scythe by Neal Shusterman
The Wren Hunt by Mary Watson
Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson
By Katherine Woodfine | 24 January, 2018
Check out our selection of some of the best new children's and young adult books that have been published this month.
Neon Leon by Jane Clarke and Britta Teckentrup
If I Had a Dinosaur by Gabby Dawnay
The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac by Christopher Corr
Life Doesn’t Frighten Me (25th anniversary edition) by Maya Angelou, Jean-MIchelBasquiat and Sara Jane Boyers
All at Sea: There’s a New Baby in the Family by Faye Hanson
and Gerry Byrne
The Chinese Emperor’s New Clothes by Ying Compestine and David Roberts
We are Family by Patricia Hegarty and Ryan Wheatcroft
Chalk Eagle by Nazil Tahvili
Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone
Sky Chasers by Emma Carroll
The Ice Garden by Guy Jones
The 1,000 Year Old Boy by Ross Welford
Trouble in New York: The Travels of Ermine by Jennifer Grey and Elisa Paganelli
Wed Wabbit by Lissa Evans
My Sweet Orange Tree by Jose Mauro De Vasconcelos, translated by Alison Entrekin
Teen and young adult
I Am Thunder by Muhammad Khan
The Truth and Lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr
The Sacrifice Box by Martin Stewart
The Fandom by Anna Day
Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
Second Best Friend by Non Pratt
Naondel by Maria Turtschaninoff, translated by Annie Prime
Rebel Voices: The Rise of Votes for Women by Louise K Stewart and Eve Lloyd Knight
Women in Sport: Fifty Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win by Rachel Ignotofsky
02 January, 2018
We asked a host of top children’s books editors, literary agents and publicists which books - published by a publishing house other than their own - had really grabbed their attention in 2017. Here are the books they told us they most admired:
Linas Alsenas, Scholastic:
The book that sent me over the moon (ha!) last year is Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover by Markus Motum (Walker Studio). To me, this is non-fiction at its very best, wearing its complexity lightly and making the most of its picture-book format to spark awe in readers. Walker was very smart, I think, to set up a dedicated imprint for books that have extra appeal for crossover, design-oriented book buyers, and each of the titles on that list is just phenomenal; in time I can totally see them building a dedicated following just of that list. I’m excited to see what’s in store for next year!
Chloe Seager, Diane Banks Associates:
Noah Can't Even by Simon James Green (Scholastic) - this book is fun & funny, whilst talking about some important stuff at the same time. I also love the way it's published - the cover is pitch perfect and who could miss the giant blow-up bananas at YALC? The possibilities for banana merch are endless!
Wed Wabbit by Lissa Evans (David Fickling) this was one of the most unique books I read all year - I loved the blend of humour and emotion. It's a perfect cover, too.
Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky - Wren & Rook have published some amazing books this year but I particularly loved this one. It's beautiful, fascinating, inspiring and emphasises to young girls that STEM subjects are not just for boys.
Rachel Leyshon, Chicken House:
A number of books have caught my eye this year: Usborne’s Kick by Mitch Johnson, which was much enjoyed in my house
of boys; The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Walker), a justifiably global phenomenon; and Laura Ellen Anderson’s fabulous Amelia Fang (Egmont). But I remain really impressed by Lisa Thompson’s Goldfish Boy (Scholastic), edited by Lauren Fortune – immaculately well done in every aspect, inside and out, and published (seemingly!) with lots of time to spare, including early proofs and a successful build to publication and then beyond. It’s great news for us all when quality fiction like this sells so well throughout the year. And more recently I think Faber has done a lovely job on The Polar Bear Explorer's Club by Alex Bell, making it look so magical and Christmassy – irresistible!
Clare Whitston, Oxford University Press:
I would select Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo (Penguin) because it is a really clever piece of publishing, responding swiftly to a specific gap in the market, but with an authentic feel as its heart. I loved the high production values and the colour insides: the project feels like a labour of love – the illustrations from sixty female artists are beautiful and the length of each story perfect for bedtime reading. The book seemed to hit at exactly the right time and is absolutely everywhere which is no mean feat for a book without an established author or illustrator behind it. It is indicative of a trend in Children’s Publishing for books celebrating the lives of women and in a
world where the word feminism is still treated with some suspicion and confusion I think this book is a particular cause for celebration. So hooray for rebel girls (and also bookish, slightly nerdy, law abiding ones too of course…)
Rosi Crawley, Walker Books:
It will probably be in every list but I can’t help but be hugely jealous of The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris – not only is it absolutely stunning, but it’s had astonishing coverage – I was green with envy at a big double page spread in The Guardian on publication – a very
publicist way of admiring a book! I think Walker has a pretty fabulous line in gorgeous books but it’s always a pleasant surprise when something truly beautiful, but potentially quite niche captures the imagination of the book buying public. Who could have said a giant £20 hardback non-fiction about words would take off to such a degree? Much like our beautiful edition of Norse Myths by Kevin Crossley Holland with illustrations from Jeffrey Alan Love, I think it shows how much people want to invest in a level of dramatic production when they’re shelling out for a physical book. These are things to keep on the shelf for years and show off to your friends when they come to visit. Although in the case of The Lost Words I’m not sure what shelf we’re ever going to fit it on, because it’s flippin massive.
Tom Bonnick, Nosy Crow:
My children’s book of the year for 2017 would be a toss-up between The Explorer by Katherine Rundell (Bloomsbury) and The Murderer’s Ape by Jakob Wegelius (Pushkin Press).
I think that The Explorer is Katherine’s best book yet: beautiful writing, wonderful, hugely evocative atmosphere, and a really exciting, gripping story. Comparisons to Journey to The River Sea are as obvious as they are overdone, but for me it really is a worthy successor - in fact I enjoyed it more. And I admired Bloomsbury’s publishing of the book: stunning cover artwork, hugely impressive press coverage, and lots of clever pieces of pre-release marketing (I thought the trailer was a very good example of simple but effective video content). I’d put money on the book winning the Costa.
I absolutely loved The Murderer’s Ape - I’m not sure if any of Wegelius’ other books have been translated yet, but this
was the most exciting new discovery of the year for me. And I take my hat off to Pushkin Press for having the courage of their convictions and publishing a 600 page middle grade novel in translation by a relatively unknown author in hardback.
Nina Douglas, Nina Douglas PR:
The book I wish I’d had a hand in publishing/ promoting in 2017 was Things A Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nicholls (Andersen). I’ve long been an admirer of Sally’s writing, and I think in this story of love of many different kinds power, struggle and sacrifice, she truly excels. A stunning PR campaign has seen reviews across the board, and with the centenary of the first British women to get the vote coming up in 2018, and calls for deeper equality (including movements such as #metoo) ongoing and highly placed in the media, it takes an important scene setting part in the conversation; it feels like just the start of a journey. I sit this alongside the equally excellent contemporary novel, Moxie by Jen Mathieu (Hachette) in my favourite feminist takes in YA this year.
And if I’m allowed an honourable mention for a second, I’m also going to pick the entirely magical and imaginative
Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend (Hachette) - there is just so
much fun to be had with a creative campaign for the wundrous
world she has imagined (I’m envious of that publicist); I can’t wait for book two.
Lauren Ace, Little Tiger:
I have been a fan of Sally Nicholls’ writing since reading a proof of her first book, Ways to Live Forever, when I was a bookseller. It would go on to win the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and secure Sally’s position as an exciting new talent. As an industry we are a little obsessed with debuts and bright young things, which is why I am so delighted to see the wonderful reaction Sally has had to her sixth novel, Things A Bright Girl Can Do. The book itself is a masterclass in historical fiction which feels relevant to our modern times, with brilliantly realised characters and genuine heart.
And how clever of Andersen to publish in hardback in September to hit the Christmas gifting period and scoop up all those marvellous Books of the Year accolades, boldly positioning themselves to publish the paperback just five months later to coincide with the centenary of the Representation of the People Act. I’m sure this won’t be the last you hear of this book.
Felicity Johnson, Bonnier:
It’s been a brilliant year for middle grade. One middle-grade debut I’ve particularly admired is A Girl Called Owl, by Amy Wilson (Macmillan). I loved the design of the book proof and also thought the finished package was stunning – really
striking and atmospheric. (And the cover for Amy’s next book
looks pretty gorgeous too.)
Stevie Hopwood, Usborne:
Oliver Jeffers, Here We Are – Notes for Living on Planet Earth (HarperCollins). Everything about this book is beyond beautiful. For me it sums up exactly what a children’s book can do so well (and often better than an adult book!) and that is to make you curious about the world. The artwork speaks for itself – I’ve spent hours just staring at one spread (the underwater one is a personal favourite) – so it was lovely to see this lead the campaign alongside the climate change angle seen through a father’s eyes. It felt personal, and that made the book and the message mean even more to me as a reader. I was gutted to miss the Brian Cox talk – that must have been fascinating!
Campaign-wise I have to mention the proof of The Rosewood Chronicles Undercover Princess by Connie Glynn (Penguin)! Oh my, the most magical of proofs – I HAD TO HAVE IT. I also had to have one of the house badges, and notebooks... I’m a sucker for merch.
Emma Bradshaw, Bloomsbury Children's Books:
Letters From the Lighthouse by Emma Carroll (Faber). I adore Emma’s books. They are exactly what I wanted to read as a ten year old and still thoroughly enjoy now. This is a brilliant adventure story, full of mystery and surprises, with the added bonus of a Devon setting. The main characters share my surname, which I rather enjoyed too. It’s also a book to make you think – about war and immigration and how we treat our local community. I think Emma is a wonderful writer and I’m keen to get my hands on her next book, Sky Chasers, which has just published.
Thanks to all our contributors for telling us about the books that most impressed them in 2017! Take a look at The Book I Wish I'd Published from 2016.
Find out about the DTRH team's Books of the Year 2017
Subscribe to Down the Rabbit Hole on Apple Podcasts so you never miss an episode