Think Australian newsletter
Image. Advertisement:
Inside the Australian book industry

So much to share

Ahead of this year’s Bologna Children’s Book Fair, running 21–24 March, we are thrilled to share the latest children’s and YA titles from Australian publishers in this issue of Think Australian, which is being distributed by Publishers Weekly and BookBrunch.

After two years away from in-person fairs, Australian rights managers are keen to meet up with international colleagues face to face, but with the latest wave of the pandemic spreading through the country in early 2022 many publishers report that a trip to London Book Fair is a maybe, while most are hoping Frankfurt will be the stage for their long-awaited return to in-person rights meetings.

In the meantime, the Australian Publishers Association will host books from 15 Australian publishers on its stand at Bologna, with Rome-based Australian bookseller, publisher and translator Kabita Dhara on hand to talk to visitors. The Books From Australia website will offer more information online, while ALC Agency, Scribe and EK Books will all have representatives on the ground at the fair.

That Australia’s writers, publishers and agents have worked on creatively despite (or in response to) the pandemic is evidenced by the wealth of new series, diverse YA offerings, innovative illustrated titles and star middle-grade acquisitions highlighted in this Bologna issue of Think Australian. We profile three of these publishers below: Affirm Press, EK Books and Magabala Bookseach shortlisted in the Oceania category of the 2022 Bologna Prize.

You’ll also find a round-up of recent Australian award-winning titles and a look at the country’s bestselling picture books, children’s fiction, children’s nonfiction and YA fiction books so far this year.

Look out for future issues of Think Australian ahead of the London, Beijing and Frankfurt book fairs, and for more information on the newsletter or to sign up directly, click here.

—the Books+Publishing team

Think Australian is produced by Books+Publishing with support from the Australian Publishers Association and the Australia Council for the Arts.

Image. Advertisement:

In Bologna? Pop by the Australian stand

If you’re on the ground in Bologna for this year’s fair, pop by the Australian stand, Hall 25, Stand B78.

The Australian Publishers Association stand will be managed by Rome-based Australian freelance editor, English-language consultant and former bookseller and publisher Kabita Dhara, and will this year feature 15 Australian publishers.

Books from Bologna Prize nominee Affirm Press, Allen & Unwin, Big Sky Publishing, Educate2Empower, Five Mile, Little Pink Dog Books, MidnightSun, Pantera Press, Text Publishing, UQP, Wakefield Press and Wilkinson Publishing will be featured on the APA stand. Representatives from ALC Agency, Scribe children’s imprint Scribble and Exisle Publishing’s children’s arm EK Books, which is also in the running for the Bologna Prize, will attend the fair in person.

Alongside Australian publishers Affirm Press, EK Books and Magabala Books, Aotearoa New Zealand presses Beatnik Publishing and Huia Publishers are also nominated in the Oceania category for the 2022 Bologna Prize, to be announced at the fair.

Pictured: Kabita Dhara.


Introducing Gabrielle Wang, Australia’s new Children’s Laureate

Australian children’s author Gabrielle Wang is the new Australian Children’s Laureate for 2022–23.

Wang is the award-winning author and illustrator of over 20 books, including The Lion Drummer (illus by Andrew McLean), A Ghost in My Suitcase and The Wishbird (all Puffin), which each received the Notable Book commendation in Australia’s prestigeous Children’s Book Council of Australia awards in 2009, 2010 and 2014 respectively. Wang’s work is influenced by her Chinese heritage and experiences growing up, often including elements of Chinese culture, philosophy and mythology.

The theme of Wang’s two-year term will be ‘Imagine a Story’, through which she aims to explore issues of imagination, cultural diversity, visual literacy, audiobooks and reading aloud. ‘Through story we can be inside the head of someone else, even someone with a different culture or way of life to our own,’ said Wang. ‘By reading books about diverse characters by diverse authors, young people can not only gain knowledge but also learn tolerance and empathy.’

The Australian Children’s Laureate initiative was established in 2008 to ‘promote the transformational power of reading, creativity and story in the lives of young Australians’. Wang succeeds 2020–2021 laureate Ursula Dubosarsky and previous laureates Morris Gleitzman (2018–19), Leigh Hobbs (2016–17), Jackie French (2014–15) and Alison Lester and Boori Monty Pryor (both 2013–14).


Picture this

From a nonfiction book about how trees talk to a slam poetry adaptation, Australian publishers are pitching some picture books with a difference at Bologna this year.

Jordan Collins’ debut picture book Where?, illustrated by Phil Lesnie, started as a slam poem Collins wrote and performed when they were 14. ‘It challenges racism, is both a cry of pain and a demonstration of inner strength, and takes us on an intergalactic journey to remind us not of our differences but of our shared humanity,’ says publisher Allen & Unwin.

Also from Allen & Unwin, Idan Ben-Barak and Philip Bunting are back ‘with a very silly book that will seriously get kids thinking’. Featuring seemingly simple questions and illustrations, such as Can you sit in an empty room? The Very Hard Book ‘engages kids in abstract questions and open-ended thinking’.

Tree Beings by Raymond Huber and Sandra Severgnini, from Bologna Prize-nominated EK Books, is a Wilderness Society Environment Award for Children’s Literature winner featuring a foreword by world-renowned anthropologist Jane Goodall. This illustrated nonfiction title is an adventure through the secret world of trees, sharing discoveries about how trees ‘talk’ ‘and why they are our best allies in the fight to slow down climate change’.

From Hachette, look out for What to Say When You Don’t Know What to Say by the author of All the Ways to Be Smart Davina Bell and illustrated by Hilary Jean Tapper. The publisher says it’s ‘a warm and whimsical guide to negotiating new experiences and big emotions with empathy, kindness and words from the heart’.

Hachette will also publish 11 Words for Love, written by Randa Abdel-Fattah and illustrated by Maxine Beneba Clarke—each award winners in their own right. ‘There are eleven words for love, and my family knows them all,’ says the child narrator as their family flees their homeland to find safety in another country. US rights have sold to Candlewick Press, and the book will be published in Australia by Hachette in August 2022.


Aus middle-grade golden age continues

Australia’s ‘golden age’ of middle-grade fiction doesn’t look it’s ending any time soon, with several high-profile fiction acquisitions in the age bracket.

Fans of Amelia Mellor around the world will be excited to hear Affirm Press has acquired world rights to The Bookseller’s Apprentice, the prequel to The Grandest Bookshop in the World. The Grandest Bookshop in the World has won multiple high-profile Australian awards, sold more than 50,000 copies to date and has been translated into Arabic, Hungarian, Russian, South Korean, Italian and Turkish. The Bookseller’s Apprentice, due to be published in Australia in October 2022, is set in 1871, and follows 12-year-old Billy Pyke, the new apprentice bookseller at Cole’s Cheap Books in Paddy’s Market. When a sinister magician who calls himself the Obscurosmith tricks the market vendors into making terrible deals, Billy is determined to stop him. ‘Amelia has delivered another race-against-time adventure loaded with tricks, riddles, magic and mayhem,’ says Affirm senior editor Meg Whelan. ‘It’s both a wonderfully satisfying follow-up to The Grandest Bookshop in the World and the perfect introduction for readers new to Amelia’s magical Melbourne.’

Independent children’s publisher Christmas Press has acquired world rights to Wanderer, a new novel by Victor Kelleher for upper middle-grade readers—the first middle-grade novel from the award winning author of Taronga, The Red King, The Green Piper, Brother Night and Master of the Grove in over 15 years. Wanderer is a speculative fiction story set in an ‘unusual’ post-catastrophe world where ‘a secretly salvaged book is a source of comfort for a young boatman and where ravaging warriors hunt down any hint of old knowledge’, according to the publisher. Wanderer will be published in Australia in August 2022.

Penguin Random House Australia is excited about a new title from Nat Amoore, whose previous middle-grade titles have sold into the UK, North America, Italy, China, Estonia and Russia. A graphic novel hybrid with illustrations by Mike Barry, We Run Tomorrow is the story of four friends, comic book fans and superheroes Sticks, Maki, Jed and Tommy.

Allen & Unwin (A&U) has acquired ANZ rights to A Girl Called Corpse: An Elston-Fright Tale, the debut middle-grade novel by Reece Carter, author of adult nonfiction titles The Garden Apothecary and The Happy Gut (both HarperCollins). The novel was acquired by A&U children’s and YA publisher Anna McFarlane, via Gemma Cooper of the Bent Agency, in what was described as a ‘heated’ and ‘competitive’ auction between multiple publishing houses. A Girl Called Corpse is ‘a hopeful adventure story about friendship, belonging and bravery’. It follows a lonely kid ghost who has no memory of who she was and goes searching for answers about her past in a forgotten coastal town when she is told a treasure exists that can reunite her with her family. ‘Equal parts funny and scary, thrilling and cosy, bone-tingling and heart-warming, A Girl Called Corpse is inventive, original, and truly memorable,’ says McFarlane. ‘[The novel] is an outstanding debut from an important new voice in children’s fiction.’ A Girl Called Corpse is set to be published in Australia in October 2022.

Finally, A&U has also signed standalone middle-grade novel A Little Spark, a ‘warm, upbeat, intriguing and funny’ novel full of twists and turns that celebrates creativity, by the bestselling multi-award-winning author of My Life as an Alphabet and A Song Only I Can Hear Barry Jonsberg.

Pictured: Amelia Mellor. Credit: Matt Grant.


Serious about series

Australian publishers will be pitching several new series at Bologna—from some well established names, as well as emerging authors.

In middle-grade, Penguin Random House Australia has a ‘charming’ new series from Jacqueline Harvey, whose previous series have sold widely: ‘Kensy and Max’ to North America; the Clementine Rose series to the UK, Brazil and Sri Lanka; and Alice-Miranda, which has been made into two telemovies, to North America, the UK, Germany, Turkey, Russia, Indonesia, Hungary, Portugal. Harvey’s new series, ‘Willa and Woof’, starts with book one, Mimi is Missing.

Allen & Unwin (A&U) is promoting a middle-grade duology by H M Waugh, whose previous middle-grade and YA offerings have been nominated for prestigious local awards. The publisher says Waugh’s latest, Mars Awakens, is a ‘timely, thrilling and compelling space adventure’. ‘Dee and Holt, raised in rival Martian colonies long ago abandoned by Earth, must come together to fight for survival when a mysterious object crash lands on a farflung Martian plain.’

Pantera Press is excited about The Deadly Daylight, the first in a middle-grade series starring a neurodiverse girl detective and pitched for fans of ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ and Enola Holmes. Alice England ‘is an undertaker’s daughter, who can feel “resonance” from objects that belonged to dead people she encounters in her father’s funeral home’ says the publisher. ‘Through these, she learns details of their lives, and sometimes learns of unusual circumstances surrounding their deaths. She is serious, curious, and honest to a fault—and not quite able to master the subtle art of tact!’

Also on offer in middle-grade fiction will be Wednesday Weeks and the Dungeon of Fire by Denis Knight and Cristy Burne (Hachette), the final instalment in  ‘the mind-bogglingly fun series that asks the question: in a world of magic, can science save the day?’ And from Walker books comes the second title in Lucinda Gifford ‘delightfully quirky’ middle-grade fiction series ‘The Wolves of Greycoat Hall’. ‘Boris in Switzerland  is a romp of a read, with mysteries to solve and illustrations to make you howl with laughter,’ says the publisher.

For younger readers, A&U has a delightful new illustrated fantasy-adventure series by the award-winning author of Lenny’s Book of Everything and Dragon Skin, Karen Foxlee. The titular character in ‘Miss Mary-Kate Martin’s Guide to Monsters’ might be anxious, but she’s not scared of monsters. Travelling the globe with her famous archaeologist mother, Mary-Kate helps solve giant-sized problems. In book one, The Wrath of the Woolington Wyrm (illus by Freda Chiu), ‘Mary-Kate, along with the help of local girl Arabella Woolington and her stubborn pony Pickles, is determined to get to the bottom of the town’s mythic mystery, strange noises, earth tremors and slime!’

In junior fiction, Affirm Press has acquired world rights to ‘Itty Bitty Kitty’, a four-book junior fiction series by Hilary Rogers and Meredith Badger, who have collaborated on junior fiction for over a decade under the pen name Maddy Mara. The new series for early readers in prep to grade two, is ‘a warm, funny and accessible series about … a tiny and very brave kitten making her way in the big wide world’. Each book will have a gender-neutral package and will contain three stories in one. The books will be illustrated by Canada-based creative Noémie Gionet Landry. Affirm has also signed a new junior fiction series by Lana Spasevski. The first two books A Sprinkle of Sadie and A Spoonful of Sadie will be published in Australia in April and August 2022 respectively.

Finally, Affirm has also signed a nonfiction picture book series by Jess Saunders, a social worker and the author of children’s books including Love Your Body and Be Your Own Man (both Five Mile), aimed at under-10s. The ‘Life Lessons for Little Ones’ series will cover ‘a diverse range of important life lessons that every young person, and their grown-ups, deserves to hear’ according to the publisher. The first book in the series, Life Lessons for Little Ones: You Are Enough is illustrated by Ocean Hughes and will be published in Australia in August 2022. Affirm holds world rights.


Aus YA shows its range

From horror to fantasy with some wit and mystery along the way, Australian YA shows its range in several recent deals.

Two recent acquisitions by Australian publishers present a similar premise: What We All Saw (Mike Lucas, Penguin) is ‘an upmarket horror tale between four friends, four truths and one nightmare which brings them all together’, while Walk in the Dark (Jane Godwin, Lothian) is ‘a  gripping and suspenseful rite-of-passage novel about five teenagers and one night that will change them all’ from the author of When Rain Turns to Snow, shortlisted for the 2021 CBCA Book of the Year for Older Readers as well as the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards.

In contrast, Libby Lawrence is Good at Pretending (Jodi McAlister, Wakefield Press) is a ‘sparkling, archly witty’ campus novel that explores themes of authenticity, friendship, sex and romance, following the titular heroine as she finds herself at the heart of an amateur theatre production of Much Ado About Nothing.

And possibly landing somewhere in between is Where You Left Us (UQP), ‘a YA mystery-coming-of-age-romance that was initially inspired by my living back by the sea in 2020 and thinking about what it means to belong to a place where you grew up’ according to author Rhiannon Wilde, whose YA debut Henry Hamlet’s Heart recently sold to Charlesbridge in the US. Wilde says her new novel is ‘about sisters, mental health, love and hate, history, and ghosts; think Wuthering Heights meets Sherlock Holmes, if Kristen Stewart played Heathcliff and Holmes and Watson were teenagers with social anxiety—all set on the beach’.

Another recent sale to the US is YA fantasy novel Liar’s Test (2023) by Ambelin Kwaymullina, which went to Knopf Books for Young Readers via Kate Detweiler at Jill Grinberg Literary Management. The story of a teen girl who, after being held captive since childhood by the ruling sun priests of the Risen has now been selected as a candidate for the Queen’s Test, giving her one chance to win the crown, topple the kingdom and free her people; it is ‘drawn from and inspired by the history of Aboriginal women and their resistance to settler-colonialism’, reports Publishers Marketplace. Kwaymullina is the author of ‘The Tribe’ series of novels, including The Foretelling of Georgie Spider, The Disappearance of Ember Crow and The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf. The Things She’s Seen (published as Catching Teller Crow in Australia), Kwaymullina’s first joint young adult novel with her brother Ezekiel, won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Prize for Young Adult Fiction and the Aurealis Award for Best Young Adult Novel, among other awards.

Another fantasy YA novel The Upwelling, by debut author Lystra Rose (Hachette), winner of the black&write! prize for First Nations writers, is about a young surfer mysteriously called into an alternate world. When Kirra, an Aboriginal high school student and avid surfer from the Gold Coast, catches a wave on the same break that killed her brother years earlier, she somehow time-slips into a land without European influence. Here, she meets Narn, a young Aboriginal man with a remarkable gift, and Tarni, daughter of renowned warrior Minjerra, learning that the three have an important role to play in this community, as do their newly discovered magic powers.

Image. Advertisement:

Zadie Ma and the Dog Who Chased the Moon

By the new Australian Children’s Laureate, Gabrielle Wang. 

Meet Zadie Ma, a girl who writes magical stories that sometimes come true. Zadie’s dearest wish is to have a dog of her own and so she starts to write the story of a poor unwanted dog called Jupiter, who’s just waiting to be rescued by a loving girl like Zadie.

One morning Zadie sets off to look for Jupiter and she finds a real dog, whose name is Jupiter. Once Zadie has rescued him, she realises she can’t just take Jupiter home because her mother won’t let her keep a dog. Luckily her bold new friend Sparrow lets Zadie keep Jupiter at her house till Zadie can work things out.

But a series of unlucky events means that Zadie can’t write the happy ending she dreams of for her story, and now she may lose her beloved Jupiter forever.

Zadie Ma and the Dog Who Chased the Moon (a unique book with a combination of narrative, allegory, and graphic novel elements).
Author: Gabrielle Wang, Australian Children’s Laureate 2022 & 2023
Publisher: Penguin Random House Australia
Rights held for book: World ex-ANZ & Oceania
Email for rights contact:
Catalogue URL: here
Please email to make a time for a virtual meeting.


Alex and the Alpacas Ride Again

After saving the world from Kiala, the ancient spirit of destruction, Alex longs for more adventure—and the chance to feel special again. Compared to riding through the Tasmanian wilderness on a talking alpaca, home seems pretty dull. So, when Kiala’s prison crumbles, Alex is secretly thrilled. Enter Ivette, a mysterious, talented and very competitive American girl, who thinks it’s HER job to save the world, ALONE, just like Alex. But when Alex accidentally releases Kiala’s twin sister, Resila, the world is going to need twice the number of heroes to face a threat that is doubly dangerous.

Lefroy’s first book Alex and the Alpacas Save the World was shortlisted for the WA Premier’s Book Award and praised by reviewers as ‘a fast-paced book with plenty of action, suspense and scary moments’, ‘highly entertaining’, ‘endearing’, ‘witty’, ‘fresh’ and ‘compelling’.

Alex and the Alpacas Ride Again
Author: Kathryn Lefroy
Publication date: June 2022
Rights available: World
Contact: Jane Fraser


Zombie Diaries #1: Apocalypse Cow!

The first book in a fast-paced comedy-adventure series set in a town called Buttburgher where all the adults start turning into zombie cows! Jimmy, Daisy and Hooey will have to deal with cola explosions, bullies, runaway trains, really bad farts—and of course lots of drooling zombie cows!—to save the world.

Highly illustrated with commercial, animation-style artwork, and written in a fun first-person diary format, the books are very accessible to emerging and reluctant readers. With laugh-out-loud humour and oodles of action on every page, and with a fun zombie-comedy story that is unique to the market, this three-book series is perfect for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and The Last Kids on Earth.

Zombie Diaries #1: Apocalypse Cow!
Author: Guy Edmonds & Matt Zeremes
Illustrator: Jake A Minton
Publisher: Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing
Rights held for book: World, ex Spain
Email for rights contact:
Catalogue URL: here
Please contact us to arrange a virtual meeting.

Image. Advertisement:

Two Walker titles jointly win Prime Minister’s children’s literature prize

Two titles published by Walker Books Australia jointly won the children’s book category of the prestigious and valuable Prime Minister’s Literary Awards in 2021: middle-grade graphic novel Fly on the Wall (Remy Lai) and picture book How to Make a Bird (Meg McKinlay, illus by Matt Ottley). Metal Fish, Falling Snow (Cath Moore, Text) took out the A$80,000 YA prize.

Also in young adult fiction, Felicity Castagna’s Girls in Boys’ Cars (Pan) won the $25,000 YA category in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, and The Gaps (Leanne Hall, Text) won the A$15,000 YA category in the recent Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature.

Historical middle-grade novel We Are Wolves (Katrina Nannestad, HarperCollins) won the $15,000 children’s literature award in the recent 2022 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature, while the following picture books are winners in various age categories of the 2021 Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year awards, which aim to ‘promote quality Australian books that help children get the best, most literate start in life’: Look, Baby! (Janeen Brian, illus by Renée Treml, Little Book Press), Boo Loves Books (Kaye Baillie, illus by Tracie Grimwood, New Frontier), The Thing That Goes Ping! (Mark Carthew, illus by Shane McG, Ford Street), and Is This Your Egg? (Ella Kris, illus by Emma Cracknell, State Library of Queensland).

Middle-grade verse novel Bindi (Kirli Saunders, illus by Dub Leffler, Magabala) took home the 2021 Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year award in the eight to 10 years category, and was also shortlisted for the biennial Ena Noël Award for a young emerging writer or illustrator alongside The Republic of Birds (Jessica Miller, Text). Also shortlisted for the Ena Noël Award are picture books A Trip to the Hospital (Freda Chiu, A&U) and What do you call a baby…? (Kamsani Bin Salleh, Magabala) and YA novels Please Don’t Hug Me (Kay Kerr, Text) and The Boy from the Mish (Gary Lonesborough, A&U).

A middle-grade novel, How to Write the Soundtrack to Your Life by Fiona Hardy (Affirm), was recently named the winner of the 2021 Children’s Peace Literature Award, chosen by a judging panel of psychologists and children’s literature experts from a shortlist of seven that included a mix of picture books, middle-grade and YA novels: The Friendly Games (Kaye Baillie, illus by Fiona Burrows, MidnightSun), Twelve Days of Kindness (Cori Brooke, illus by Fiona Burrows, New Frontier), Littlelight (Kelly Canby, Freemantle Press), Sunflower (Ingrid Laguna, Text), Metal Fish, Falling Snow (Cath Moore, Text), and Scary Bird (Michel Streich, Scholastic).

The following books are all in the running for the children’s category of the 2022 Indie Book Awards, chosen by Australian independent booksellers: Dragon Skin (Karen Foxlee, A&U), Somebody’s Land: Welcome to our Country (Adam Goodes & Ellie Laing, illus by David Hardy, A&U), Rabbit, Soldier, Angel, Thief (Katrina Nannestad, ABC Books), and Wandi (Favel Parrett, Lothian). Four novels are also contending for the awards’ YA category: The Monster of Her Age (Danielle Binks, Lothian), The Boy from the Mish (Gary Lonesborough, A&U), The Prison Healer (Lynette Noni, Penguin), and If Not Us (Mark Smith, Text).

Finally, Swiss-born long-time Australian resident Armin Greder has made the longlist for the 2022 Kate Greenaway Medal for outstanding achievement in children’s illustration for his picture book Diamonds (A&U), which was among several Australian books nominated for the Kate Greenaway and Carnegie medals.

Image. Advertisement:

Bologna Prize shortlist: Affirm Press

Children’s publisher Tash Besliev intoduces Melbourne independent Affirm Press.

How and why did the Affirm Press children’s division begin its life?

After successfully publishing across many other categories, Affirm Press began publishing books for children in 2017 as a way of continuing to grow the business and its list of books that ‘influence by delight’ for readers of all ages.

How do you know something is an Affirm Press children’s book?

We really do try to make sure every book we publish can ‘influence by delight’, meaning that our readers will come away feeling or knowing something new, all while being entertained. We are also dedicated to publishing new writers and illustrators. One of the first books we ever published was A Walk in the Bush by debut author-illustrator Gwyn Perkins—a book that went on to win the CBCA [Children’s Book Council of Australia] Picture Book of the Year in 2018. We are proud to continue this tradition of finding emerging creatives and nurturing their talent.

How many children’s/YA books do you publish each year? Are these all local, or do you acquire internationally and, if so, what are some recent international acquisitions that you’re excited about?

Our children’s business has been growing and in 2021 we published 51 titles and aim to publish the same in 2022. We’ve been steadily growing our capacity in-house to publish as many local titles as possible and the split in 2022 will be 42 locally acquired titles and eight international acquisitions. We do love to acquire from international publishers and agents. In February 2022 we published My Love For You Is Everywhere, a picture book written by Racha Mourtada and illustrated by Sasha Haddad which we acquired from the boutique Lebanese publisher Luqoom. We’ve also acquired a middle-grade graphic novel from Italian publisher Editoriale Scienza called Amber and Blue and the Search for DNA by Claudia Fandoli, a graphic artist, author and biologist, which we have slated for 2023.

What books from your list have proved popular with publishers internationally?

We’ve been really pleased to see our growing fiction list really well received internationally. Despite not being physically present at a fair since 2019, we’ve seen five translations for The Grandest Bookshop in the World and have found homes for our books by Maggie Hutchings from Korea right across to North America. Jess Racklyeft’s ‘There’s Only One…’ series has also been really popular in Italy and Korea!

What are the top five books you are pitching at Bologna?

We’re really excited about all our new books, but we have had early interest in both of our new junior fiction series already, which is a good indication pre-fair. Lana Spasevski and Joanie Stone’s ‘Sadie’ series has been requested multiple times already, as has the ‘Itty Bitty Kitty’ series by Maddy Mara and Noémie Geonet-Landry. We’re hearing there is demand for quality junior fiction that prepares readers for longer novels.

We’re also excited to be sharing Jessica Sanders’s first book in her ‘Life Lessons For Little Ones’ series. Jess has had significant international success with her previous books Love Your Body and Be Your Own Man, so we anticipate many of her foreign publishers will be thrilled to see Jess writing for a younger picture book audience. And Jess Racklyeft’s ‘Big World, Tiny World‘ series is also one we expect to do well in foreign markets, with Jess’s stunning artwork and gentle environmental message hitting the right tone for young readers.

I also have high hopes for Koalas Stole My Underwear by Kylie Howarth being very successful at Bologna. Kylie’s colour palette is stunning and this is a hilarious and extremely relatable book.

What trends are you excited by in children’s/YA publishing right now?

I’m really excited to see new and engaging approaches to nonfiction topics. I think there’s some brilliant publishing happening locally and overseas in this space. I’m also really pleased to see contemporary fiction in middle-grade and YA seems to be coming around again, this time with more realistic characters and dialogue that readers can really connect with. I don’t want to jinx it, but might we be about to witness a new era in Australian ‘teen’ fiction reminiscent of the glory years of the 90s?


Bologna Prize shortlist: EK Books

Publisher Anouska Jones introduces health and wellbeing press Exisle Publishing’s children’s imprint EK Books.

How and why did Exisle’s children’s imprint EK begin its life?

Exisle Publishing began 30 years ago as an independently owned nonfiction publishing company. Over the years, we’ve developed a very strong self-help/health and wellbeing list, and in 2013 we launched EK Books as the next stage of the company’s growth. We publish children’s picture books primarily for children aged four to eight and have kept the same focus on health and wellbeing as the Exisle list. Many of our authors and illustrators are psychologists, counsellors or art therapists, but our goal is always to wrap up the underlying message of each book in a really entertaining story and wonderful illustrations so that kids above all enjoy it and come back to it again and again.

How do you know something is a EK children’s book?

Our motto is ‘Books with heart on issues that matter’, so I’d like to think that each EK book combines great storytelling with engaging illustration so that kids are entertained but also come away with a valuable skill or message that they can apply to their everyday life.

How many children’s/YA books do you publish each year? Are these all local, or do you acquire internationally and, if so, what are some recent international acquisitions that you’re excited about?

We publish about 12 a year, and these are generally locally produced.

What books from your list have proved popular with publishers internationally?

We have a number of success stories on our list that have been sold across the world and translated into numerous languages, but Grandma Forgets (now available in seven languages and as a bilingual edition) and Saying Goodbye to Barkley (sold in five languages) have been particularly popular.

What are the top 5 books you are pitching at Bologna?

  • Tree Beings (Raymond Huber, illus by Sandra Severgnini): A unique combination of fact and feeling that will inspire kids to fall in love with trees and act to protect them. Winner of the Wilderness Society’s Environment Award for Children’s Literature.
  • Go Away, Worry Monster (Brooke Graham, illus by Robin Tatlow-Lord): Archie has to use all the anxiety-reducing techniques his mother has shown him when Worry Monster climbs into bed with him the night before he starts school. Shortlisted for the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Award for New Illustrator of the Year.
  • Grandma Forgets (Paul Russell, illus by Nicky Johnston): A warm, uplifting picture book about a family bound by love as they cope with their grandmother’s dementia. A CBCA Notable book and sold into numerous territories around the world.
  • Where the Heart Is (Irma Gold, illus by Susannah Crispe): Based on an incredible true story, this is a moving, heartfelt and often funny tale of a penguin’s unlikely friendship with the man who rescued him from an oil spill.
  • Toy Mountain (Stef Gemmill, illus by Katharine Hall): A playful, whimsically illustrated story that empowers children to take sustainability into their own hands.

What trends are you excited by in children’s/YA publishing right now?

I think Covid-19 has shone a spotlight on the importance of mental health, as so many children have had to deal with lockdowns, home-schooling, and the overall uncertainty of day-to-day life. This has led to an increase in the need for books that discuss life skills such as developing resilience, coping with anxiety, building and maintaining strong friendships, etc. And these are all areas that EK has always focused on, so we’re particularly well equipped to provide books that can really help kids with the challenges they face right now, as well as show them skills they can continue to use as adults. Books that give children hope and empower them to feel they can take action on the climate crisis and other environmental issues are also trending, which is great to see. It’s an area of our list that we’ve been developing over the past couple of years and we’ll continue to do so.

EK Books foreign rights manager Lucyna Wawrzyniak, who is based in Europe, will be attending Bologna, as will EK Books’ UK business development manager Bronwyn Eley.


Bologna Prize shortlist: Magabala Books

Publisher Rachel Bin Salleh introduces Australia’s leading First Nations press Magabala Books.

How and why did Magabala’s children’s division begin its life?

Magabala has been publishing children’s pictures books since our beginnings in the 80s. Our children’s poetry book Do Not Go Around the Edges by Daisy Utemorrah was first published in 1991 and is still popular and in print.

How many children’s/YA books do you publish each year? Are these all local, or do you acquire internationally and, if so, what are some recent international acquisitions that you’re excited about?

We publish on average up to 10 children’s picture books a year. They’re an important part of who we are.

What books from your list have proved popular with publishers internationally?

We have a great rights agent Natasha Solomun from the Rights Hive. We’ve been lucky enough to have Sally Morgan and Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr’s Little Bird’s Day picked up by Blue Dot Books in the US, and a number of other titles like Once There was a Boy by Dub Leffler and Benevolence by Julie Janson have also been sold successfully.

What are the top five books you are pitching at Bologna that you think would be of interest to overseas publishers?

Natasha Solomun will include Magabala’s titles in the Rights Hive catalogue. We’re excited to be pitching Tracks of the Missing, our new YA by Carl Merrison and Hakea Hustler; The Sweetest Egg of All by Helen Milroy; Kunyi by Kunyi June an McInerney; Sharing by Aunty Fay Muir and Sue Lawson, illustrated by Leanne Mulgo Watson; Sea Country by Aunty Patsy Cameron, illustrated by Lisa Kennedy; and The River by Sally Morgan and Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr.

What trends are you excited by in children’s/YA publishing right now?

The rise in popularity of First Nations authors and illustrators in all genres in the publishing industry. The talent, skill and storytelling kudos has always been there. It is now great to see these voices and creators given their dues.

Image. Advertisement:

Australian children’s and YA bestsellers for 2022 YTD

After a bumper year of sales in 2020, in which the children’s category was up 9.6% on 2019, the Australian children’s book market fell ever so slightly in 2021 (-0.2%), according to Nielsen Bookscan. Nonetheless, sales of children’s books in Australia in 2021 were still well above pre-pandemic levels.

And children’s book authors dominated bestseller lists in Australia, with J K Rowling the bestselling author in 2021 off of $11.7 million sold across 417,000 units, and Ahn Do holding onto the number one spot on the local authors list with $9.9 million from 955,000 units sold.

Such is the dominance of the children’s picture book charts by beloved cartoon blue heeler pup Bluey that if Bluey titles had been included in the picture book chart below, they would have taken up five places, including the top two spots. Altogether the top five Bluey titles represented 40,000 volume sales between them for the year so far.

Top 10 Australian picture books, YTD*

  1. Somebody’s Land: Welcome to Our Country (Adam Goodes & Ellie Laing, A&U)
  2. Where is The Green Sheep? (Mem Fox, Puffin)
  3. Ten Little Fingers & Ten Little Toes (Mem Fox, illus by Helen Oxenbury, Puffin)
  4. First Day (Andrew Daddo, ABC Books)
  5. Do Not Open This Book or Else (Andy Lee, Lake Press)
  6. Llamas in Pyjamas (Matt Cosgrove, Koala Books)
  7. Kissed by the Moon (Alison Lester, Random House Australia)
  8. Wombat Stew (35th Anniversary Edition) (Marcia Vaughan, illus by Pamela Lofts, Scholastic)
  9. Welcome, Baby, to This World! (Jess Racklyeft, Affirm Press)
  10. Possum Magic (35th Anniversary Edition) (Mem Fox, Scholastic)

*Excluding Bluey titles.

Top 10 Australian children’s fiction, YTD

  1. Animal Train: Wolf Girl 6 (Anh Do, A&U)
  2. The 143-Storey Treehouse (Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton, Pan)
  3. They’re Bee-Hind You! The Bad Guys Episode 14 (Aaron Blabey, Scholastic)
  4. The Wild Guide to Starting School (Laura Bunting, Omnibus Books)
  5. Across the Sea: Wolf Girl 5 (Anh Do, A&U)
  6. Into the Wild: Wolf Girl 1 (Anh Do, A&U)
  7. Let the Games Begin: Pow Pow Pig 2 (Anh Do, A&U)
  8. Tool Time! Hot Dog! #11 (Anh Do, Scholastic)
  9. The Great Escape: Wolf Girl 2 (Anh Do, A&U)
  10. Cut to the Chase: The Bad Guys Episode 13 (Aaron Blabey, Scholastic)

Top 10 Australian YA fiction, YTD

  1. Only a Monster (Vanessa Len, A&U)
  2. The Gilded Cage: The Prison Healer Book 2 (Lynette Noni, Penguin)
  3. The Prison Healer (Lynette Noni, Penguin)
  4. Beyond the End of the World: The Other Side of the Sky 2 (Amie Kaufman &  Meagan Spooner, A&U)
  5. Dark Rise: Dark Rise 1 (C S Pacat, A&U)
  6. If This Gets Out (Sophie Gonzales & Cale Dietrich, Hodder)
  7. Aurora’s End: The Aurora Cycle 3 (Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff, A&U)
  8. House of Hollow (Krystal Sutherland, Penguin)
  9. Anything But Fine (Tobias Madden, Penguin)
  10. Akarnae: Medoran Chronicles Book 1 (Lynette Noni, Pantera Press)

Top 10 Australian children’s nonfiction, YTD

  1. Girl Stuff 8-12 (Kaz Cooke, Viking)
  2. All New Official Minecraft Combat Handbook (Far Shore)
  3. Finding Our Heart (Thomas Mayor, Explore Australia)
  4. Everything Under the Sun (Molly Oldfield, Ladybird)
  5. Bushlife (Pete Cromer, Five Mile)
  6. The Treehouse Joke Book (Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton, Pan)
  7. Loki: Where Mischief Lies (Scholastic)
  8. The First Scientists (Corey Tutt, Explore Australia)
  9. Bug Atlas (Lonely Planet)
  10. All New Official Minecraft Creative Handbook (Far Shore)

Period covered for picture books, children’s books and YA fiction: 2 January 2022 to 26 February 2022 © Nielsen Book. Period covered for children’s nonfiction: 2 January 2022 to 15 March 2022.

Image. Advertisement:



Contact us


Kelsey Oldham

Digital editor
Brad Jefferies

Acting editor, Daily
Matthia Dempsey

Editorial assistant
Anthea Yang

Classifieds, jobs and notices

Display advertising

Select newsletters

Select which newsletters you’d like to receive here.
Unsubscribe from individual newsletters here.
Or unsubscribe from all newsletters here.

View articles

Purchase a subscription to Books+Publishing to view all articles on the website.

If you need help with your subscription, please email the Subscriptions team.