Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

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2020 vision: Kids’ and YA title preview

New books from favourites including Melina Marchetta, Sally Morgan and Jessica Townsend are slated for 2020 publication, alongside debuts by Danielle Binks and Georgina Young that are already generating buzz. Kelsey Oldham reports.

Picture books

Australian publishers are presenting a bevy of beautiful picture books in 2020. Affirm commissioning editor Davina Bell is looking forward to Your Birthday was the Best! (Maggie Hutchings, illus by Felicita Sala), a hilarious tale about a cockroach who is having a great time at a birthday party—until the vacuum cleaner comes out. ‘This is the most stylish book about a cockroach you’ll ever see,’ says Bell. She’s also excited for By the Billabong (Maura Finn, illus by Cate James), a book that explores a billabong and all of the creatures that live there.

Allen & Unwin’s (A&U) picture book pick is Heidi McKinnon’s latest offering, No Such Thing (April). According to publisher Susannah Chambers, ‘McKinnon uses beautiful illustrations and clever design to tell a funny and satisfyingly surprising story that is highly relatable whether you are a scared bear or a sceptical teddy.’

Berbay Publishing’s locally authored highlights include Ernie’s Journey (David Woodland, September), a debut picture book ‘in the tradition of Big Fish’ by an illustrator ‘whose strong line work is reminiscent of Shaun Tan’s’, and The Artist by Alison Binks (April), ‘a life-affirming story that encourages children to explore, create and imagine’. Allira Tee’s Tiger and the Cat (May) follows two best friends, Tiger and Cat, whose friendship is put to the test when Tiger goes to Tiger Camp to earn his stripes, while Bunnygirl (Holly Jayne), a picture book told entirely in comic book panels, ‘will appeal to emerging readers and girls who aspire to be their own kind of superheroes’.

EK Books will release Turning Cartwheels (Amy Adeney & Amy Calautti) as well as Tabitha and the Raincloud (Devon Sillett & Melissa Johns), about a little girl who wakes up with a raincloud that proceeds to follow her all day. Another small publisher, Ford Street, will publish a tale about change and transformation (Morphing Murphy, Robert Favretto, illus by Tull Suwannakit) in February, in addition to the latest romp from Mark Carthew, The Dingle Dangle Jungle (illus by Dave Atze).

Over on the west coast, Fremantle Press has three new animal stories set for 2020. First up, Katy Stewart’s What Colour is the Sea? (March) sees a koala grappling with the idea of perception, followed by Backyard Birds (April) by Indigenous author and artist Helen Milroy (April), which publisher Cate Sutherland says ‘introduces littlies to all the Australian birds that might visit them in their garden at home’. Later in the year, Sutherland will also release At the Dog Park (Moira Court, November), a ‘funny rhyming, hand-illustrated picture book that celebrates our best friends in all their doggy glory’. Fremantle will also publish WA Premier’s Award–winner Kelly Canby’s Littlelight (August), a story about the triumph of creativity over politics and community over narrow-minded individuals.

Celebrated middle-grade and YA author Zana Fraillon makes her return to the picture book format in 2020 with The Curiosities (illus by Phil Lesnie, August). Hachette head of children’s publishing Jeanmarie Morosin says it’s ‘an inventive new picture book about being different’.

‘Compassion is always in fashion’, according to Hardie Grant Egmont (HGE), who will publish the third Claris the Mouse picture book, Bonjour Riviera (Megan Hess), in which the ever-stylish mouse saves a new friend in a daring seaside rescue. Little Hare commissioning editor Alyson O’Brien is also excited for rapper Briggs’ first picture book, Our Home, Our Heartbeat, an adaptation of his song ‘The Children Came Back’. ‘The book is a celebration of past and present Indigenous heroes, as well as emerging generations, and at its heart honours the oldest continuous culture on earth,’ says O’Brien.

Magabala has a selection of picture books slated for 2020 publication, starting with the board book Counting Our Country by Jill Daniels (February), a Ritharrnu and Madarrpa woman from the Northern Territory, and illustrated in a traditional painting style from the Ngukurr Community. Following that, in March they’ll publish Brother Moon (Maree Yoelu McCarthy, illus by Samantha Fry), ‘a truly extraordinary story about Great-grandfather Liman telling Hippy-boy a story about his brother’.

In March, MidnightSun has Anisa’s Alphabet (Mike Dumbleton, illus by Hannah Sommerville), a book for ‘children and adults alike’, in which a young refugee girl takes the reader through the letters of the alphabet. The publisher says, ‘For many refugees the alphabet represents the start of a new language and a new future. Anisa’s Alphabet is different.’ MidnightSun has more lessons covered in Esmerelda’s Nest (Robert Moore & Mandy Foot, September), a sweet story that introduces children to the days of the week and the ways that animals nest.

PRH Young Readers publishing director Laura Harris is looking forward to the ‘beautifully realised’ Finding François (Gus Gordon), a tale of ‘the power of excellent friends and found family’ to be published simultaneously in Australia and the US.

Following the success of Matt Cosgrove’s Macca the Alpaca books, in 2020 Scholastic will introduce a new camelid character from Cosgrove, Dharma the Llama, ‘a strong female lead who loves to read and learn’. Naturally, a new Aaron Blabey is in the works, Pig the Blob, while the publisher also has two new nonfiction picture books from author-illustrator Philip Bunting in store for next year, The Wonderful Wisdom of Ants (February) and Who Am I? (May), the follow-up to Bunting’s How Did I Get Here? According to Scholastic, Who Am I? is ‘another book that raises questions rather than provides answers but is full of food for thought with lots to chew on’.

‘2020 is going to be a huge year for Scribble,’ says publisher Miriam Rosenbloom, ‘with eight local titles that all continue our mission to combine the best of illustration and design with texts that engage with the joys and challenges of our modern world.’ These titles include the large-format Easter board book Beautiful Eggs (Alice Lindstrom, March), which celebrates traditions of egg decorating from around the world, complete with a stencil; Who’s Your Real Mum? (illus by Anna Zobel, April), by author Bernadette Green, inspired by her real-life experiences parenting in a two-mum family, and addressing a real question that her kids have fielded; and Market Day (June), a celebration of the joy of markets, cooking and fresh food by illustrator, designer and debut author Alice Oehr.

Younger readers

With the middle-grade boom in full swing, Australian publishers are preparing to release a large cohort of magical books for younger readers in 2020. A&U is launching a new series by Emily Rodda, illustrated by Lucinda Gifford: Monty’s Island (April) follows a band of friends who live on an island in a magical sea as they work together to keep their island safe and happy.

Meanwhile, Affirm commissioning editor Davina Bell says their middle-grade time slip story Hattie Maxwell and the Library of Lost Words (Julianne Negri) is ‘full of adventure, heart and friendship—and quite a bit of yarn-bombing’.

For those who like a dash of science along with their magic, Ford Street will launch the ‘Gamers’ series (Game On!, George Ivanoff)—set in a universe where dragons and mages exist alongside drones and lasers—in March. Also planned for 2020 is Ford Street’s ‘most ambitious project to date’: publishing Isobelle Carmody’s classic four-book ‘Legend of Little Fur’ series (February) in felt hardcovers with original colour art by Carmody.

‘Nevermoor’ fans will rejoice come February, when Hachette publishes the third instalment in Jessica Townsend’s beloved series. In Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow, Morrigan faces her most dangerous challenge yet. The publisher is also excited for Danielle Binks’ The Year the Maps Changed, a middle-grade coming-of-age story based on real events in Australia’s not-too-distant past.

HGE is celebrating the release of new instalments in well-loved series in 2020, including Jane Doe and the Key of All Souls, Jeremy Lachlan’s sequel to 2018’s Jane Doe and the Cradle of Lost Worlds. The publisher says the new book ‘manages to pull out even more hair-raising escapes, whip-smart dialogue and surprising twists’. Kids can also look forward to three new ‘heart-warming, modern and engaging’ Billie B Brown stories in 2020, as HGE celebrates 10 years of Sally Rippin’s beloved series.

HarperCollins Children’s Books publisher Lisa Berryman says Tania McCartney’s new ‘Evie and Pog’ series (February) is filled with ‘crazy adventures about adorable six-year-old Evie and her irresistible dog Pog, who is more human than your regular person!’ Berryman is also looking forward to the first book in Jackie French’s Butter O’Bryan series, The Ghost of Howler’s Beach (March), set in the Depression and ‘filled with mystery, intrigue and adventure’.

Also in March, Magabala will publish Who Says Girls Can’t Fly? by Sally Morgan and Ambelin Kwaymullina. The ‘strikingly designed’ book about girl power is ‘imparted by gentle affirmations and prose, for young girls, tweens and teen girls in general’.

Big-name PRH authors Melina Marchetta and Morris Gleitzman are also releasing new books—one starting and one finishing a series. What Zola Did will launch a new series ‘inspired by [Marchetta’s] wish to see a chapter-book series for emerging readers that depicts diversity as an everyday part of life’. The seven-book series will cover each day of a week in seven-year-old Zola’s life. Meanwhile, in Always, the last of Gleitzman’s Felix stories, which began over 14 years ago, Felix goes back to Poland and throws himself into a daring and dangerous journey with a new young friend.

Scholastic will publish a new junior fiction series from none other than Magda Szubanski next year, in addition to a new ‘Bad Guys’ book from perennial favourite Aaron Blabey. The publisher says Szubanksi’s Timmy the Ticked off Pony ‘will be huge for us!’

March 2020 heralds the release of Jessica Miller’s magical Russian-inspired fantasy The Republic of Birds, which follows Mira as she ventures into the Republic of Birds to rescue her kidnapped sister. According to Text, ‘Jessica Miller understands the magic of childhood and imagination. Her characters are fearless and strong and important role models for young readers.’

UQP’s 2020 list also includes a magical tale, as well as a retro realist drama. Publishing director Madonna Duffy is anticipating Footsteps on the Moon (August) from CBCA-shortlisted author Lorraine Marwood. Set during the 1969 moon landing, the novel centres on Sharnie as she struggles to come to terms with the seismic shifts in her own life. Duffy is also looking forward to Wonder Quinn (Kate Gordon, June), which follows the lonely eponymous protagonist as she lives alone in Direleafe Hall, with only a temperamental crow called Hollowbeak for company. Duffy says, ‘We’re excited to welcome Kate Gordon to UQP with this enchanting novel.’

Walker will publish Alison Croggon’s first foray into middle-grade writing, fantasy novel The Threads of Magic (March), as well as a number of new instalments in established series including Elizabella and the Haunting of Lizard Lake (Zoe Norton Lodge, illus by Georgia Norton Lodge) and book four in Andrew Hansen and Jessica Roberts’ Bab Sharkey series, The Prickly Battle.

Young adult

The OzYA class of 2020 looks to be a small but feisty one. Sarah Epstein’s follow-up to Small Spaces (Deep Water, A&U, April) is a psychological thriller about a missing boy and a group of teenagers, ‘one of whom definitely knows more than they are telling’, says publisher Anna McFarlane.

Fremantle Press will publish the debut book by Rebecca Higgie, who won the inaugural Fogarty Literary Award for a Western Australian author under 35. Publisher Cate Sutherland says Higgie’s The History of Mischief (September), in which a magical book filled with tales from the past helps two sisters rediscover happiness in the present, ‘deals with grief through the power of stories’.

‘I’m a sucker for heartfelt, awkward comedy,’ says HGE associate publisher Emma Schwarcz, ‘and Alex Dyson’s debut YA novel, When it Drops, is an absolute joy, with moments that make you want to crawl into a hole or punch the air like you’re in an ’80s teen movie.’

On the other end of the genre spectrum, MidnightSun will release dystopian speculative YA novel Mountain Arrow (April), the second book in Rachel Hennessy’s ‘The Burning Days’ series.

Ondine Sherman’s Star, the third instalment in her ‘Animal Allies’ series is Pantera’s YA pick for 2020 and sees protagonist Sky growing more passionate in her journey towards animal advocacy when she becomes involved with an animal activist group and encounters bullying on social media.

After the success of last year’s Text Prize–winner Nina Kenwood, the recipient of the 2019 award is sure to be highly anticipated. Loner (Georgina Young, August) follows the quirky Lona as she spends her days sneaking into the darkroom at her old art school and her nights DJing at a roller disco. According to the publisher, ‘Young’s exploration of new adulthood is another stellar winner.’ Also from Text is Please Don’t Hug Me (Kay Kerr, May), which depicts life on the cusp of adulthood—and on the autism spectrum—and explores the complexities of accepting who you are.

UQP will publish a new ‘much-anticipated’ second book from Kate O’Donnell, the author of 2017’s Untidy Towns. O’Donnell’s yet to be titled novel follows Sofie as her world is opened up both artistically and politically while on exchange in Paris.

Finally, Sandy Fussell’s Red Day will be published by Walker in March. Inspired by Cowra High School’s annual exchange program with Seikei High in Tokyo, Red Day centres on Charlie who, when she meets Japanese exchange student Kenichi, begins to experience flashbacks and voices in her head that pull her back to the town’s violent past.


Category: Features Junior