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Inside the Australian book industry

Children’s book awards shine a spotlight on small presses

A number of Australian and international children’s book awards have been announced over the past month, and it’s interesting to see how many of the winning titles have been published by Australian small presses.

The highly regarded Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards—which judge books on their ‘appeal to children, interactive quality and ability to assist speech pathologists and parents in communication and literacy development’—is just one example. Four out of the five winning books were published by small presses. Let’s Go Strolling (Katrina Germein, illus by Danny Snell), a rhyming picture book that follows a family day out, was published by Little Book Press, the publishing arm of the nonprofit organisation Raising Literacy Australia. Tricky’s Bad Day by bestselling children’s author Alison Lester, which explores the freedom of outside adventure, was published by Affirm Press, winner of the Small Publisher of the Year Award at this year’s Australian Book Industry Awards. The Oo in Uluru (Judith Barker, illus by Janie Frith), an Australian-themed phoneme story, was published by children’s specialists Little Steps Publishing, and Dreaming Soldiers (Catherine Bauer, illus by Shane McGrath), the story of boyhood friends who grow up to fight alongside each other in WWI, was released by Big Sky Publishing, a small publisher with a strong adult nonfiction and children’s list.

Small presses Berbay Publishing, Ford Street Publishing and MidnightSun Publishing also have titles in this month’s awards round-up; Indigenous specialist Magabala Books has been selected as a candidate for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award; while Australia’s largest independent, Allen & Unwin, has an impressive four authors and illustrators nominated for the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medals.

Andrea Hanke
Think Australian

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‘All of the Factors of Why I Love Tractors’ sold to US, Canada   

Hardie Grant Egmont has sold US and Canadian rights to the picture book All of the Factors of Why I Love Tractors (Davina Bell, illus by Jenny Løvlie) to HarperCollins imprint Greenwillow. Told in rhyming text, the story centres on a boy who loves borrowing books about tractors from the library—to the exasperation of his mother who would like him to read about something else.

Ford Street Publishing has sold simplified Chinese-language rights to Phil Kettle’s ‘TooCool’ series for younger readers (illus by Tom Jellett) to Hunan Juvenile & Children’s Publishing House. The series of chapter books for emerging readers explores themes around friendship, sports and the outdoors.


Penguin Random House Australia has acquired ANZ rights to a new series from bestselling YA author Lynette Noni in an eight-way auction. ‘The Prison Healer’ series ‘will take readers on a rollercoaster of twists, turns and thrills, and sweep them up in a love story for the ages’, said the publisher. Auctions are currently underway for multiple territories, with North American and UK publishing deals ‘expected to be announced shortly’. Noni’s previous books include the ‘Medoran Chronicles’ fantasy series, which has sold more than 100,000 copies, and the dystopian thriller Whisper (both Pantera Press).

Screen adaptations

A film based on John Flanagan’s YA adventure series ‘Ranger’s Apprentice’ (Random House Children’s) has received funding and is expected to begin production in 2020 by Dick Cook Studios, an independent production company established by the former chairman of Walt Disney Studios. The 12-book ‘Ranger’s Apprentice’ series, as well as its two prequels and spinoff series, have sold more than 15 million copies worldwide.

For the latest Australian rights sales and acquisitions news, click here.


Anti-bullying picture book wins Children’s Peace Literature Award

Sue deGennaro’s picture book Missing Marvin (Scholastic) has won the Children’s Peace Literature Award, presented to a book that ‘encourages the peaceful resolution of conflict’ or ‘promotes peace at the global, local or interpersonal level’. Missing Marvin was described by the judges as a funny and gentle picture book showing how to address bullying and conflict in a peaceful way.

John Canty’s picture book Heads and Tails: Insects (Berbay) has won an award for Best International Picture Book at the Chen Bochui International Children’s Literature Awards (CICLA), which were announced as part of the 2019 China Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair.

The picture book Message in a Sock (Kaye Baillie, illus by Narelda Joy, MidnightSun) has won a Northern Lights Book Award for children’s books that ‘excel in aesthetic and literary qualities with an emphasis on permanency’. Awarded in the historical category, Message in a Sock is based on a true exchange between Lance Corporal A McDougall and a young girl who, with her mother, knits socks for soldiers during World War I.

Gabrielle Reid’s YA novel The Things We Can’t Undo (Ford Street) has won the Australian Association of Family Therapists’ Award for Children’s Literature. The novel follows the relationship between teen protagonists, exploring themes of consent, mental health and social pressures.

Steven Herrick’s YA novel By the River (Allen & Unwin)—which tells the story of a young boy growing up in a small country town—has won Germany’s Youth Literature Prize in the young adult division after German rights to the 2004 novel were sold in 2017.

The winners of the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year awards have been announced. The winning titles in each category are: birth to three years: Let’s Go Strolling (Katrina Germein, illus by Danny Snell, Little Book Press); three to five years: Tricky’s Bad Day (Alison Lester, Affirm Press); five to eight years: The Oo in Uluru (Judith Barker, illus by Janie Frith, Little Steps); eight to 10 years: The Dog with Seven Names (Dianne Wolfer, Random House Australia Children’s); and Indigenous children’s books: Dreaming Soldiers (Catherine Bauer, illus by Shane McGrath, Big Sky). The awards are judged on their ‘appeal to children, interactive quality and ability to assist speech pathologists and parents in communication and literacy development’.

A number of Australian authors and illustrators have been nominated for the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medals. Karen Foxlee (Lenny’s Book of Everything, Allen & Unwin), Paul Jennings (A Different Land, illus by Geoff Kelly, Allen & Unwin) and Bren MacDibble (The Dog Runner, Allen & Unwin) have been nominated for the Carnegie Medal for an outstanding book for children and young people; and Grahame Baker Smith (Wisp: A Story of Hope, written by Zana Fraillon, Lothian), Remy Lai (Pie in the Sky, Walker Books) and Shaun Tan (Tales from the Inner City, Allen & Unwin) are in the running for the Kate Greenaway Medal for distinguished illustration.

Twelve Australian authors, illustrators and organisations have been selected as candidates for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for children’s literature, and six Australian children’s books have been included in the White Ravens list for international children’s and youth literature.


‘The Baddest Day Ever’ tops Australian children’s fiction bestsellers chart

Last year, Allen & Unwin acquired ANZ rights to three new children’s series by Anh Do, author of the bestselling middle-grade series ‘WeirDo’, ‘Hotdog!’ and ‘Ninja Kid’ (all Scholastic). Two of those series, ‘Wolf Girl’ and ‘Rise of the Mythix’, have now been launched and as a result Do has an impressive six books from five different series in the Australian children’s fiction top 10. Leading the chart this month is a new title from another bestselling children’s book author, Aaron Blabey’s The Baddest Day Ever: The Bad Guys Episode 10, followed by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton’s The 117-Storey Treehouse.

Australian children’s fiction bestsellers: October

  1. The Baddest Day Ever: The Bad Guys Episode 10 (Aaron Blabey, Scholastic)
  2. The 117-Storey Treehouse (Andy Griffiths, illus by Terry Denton, Pan)
  3. Weirdomania! WeirDo Book 13 (Anh Do, Scholastic)
  4. Golden Unicorn: Rise of the Mythix Book One (Anh Do, Allen & Unwin)
  5. The 13-Storey Treehouse (Andy Griffiths, illus by Terry Denton, Pan)
  6. Into the Wild: Wolf Girl Book One (Anh Do, Allen & Unwin)
  7. Amazing Ninja! Ninja Kid Book Four (Anh Do, Scholastic)
  8. The Book Buddies: Billie B Brown and Hey Jack! (Australian Reading Hour edition) (Sally Rippin, Hardie Grant Egmont)
  9. Show Time! Hotdog Book Seven (Anh Do, Scholastic)
  10. From Nerd to Ninja! Ninja Kid Book One (Anh Do, Scholastic)

© Nielsen BookScan 2019
Period covered: 6 October to 2 November 2019
Data supplied by Nielsen BookScan’s book sales monitoring system from 1000 retailers nationwide




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