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Inside the Australian book industry

Not your average children’s book awards

Australia has a rich and varied book awards scene. In children’s books this includes the Australian Psychological Society’s Children’s Peace Literature Award and the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards. Both recently announced their winners—a selection of engaging and entertaining children’s books that also happen to feature important themes and assist in literacy development. Click through to the Award-winners section of the newsletter to read more.

The Most Underrated Book Award is another one to watch. Celebrating ‘hidden gems’ from Australia’s small publishers, this year’s shortlist includes the quirky and educational graphic novel The Invisible War, which introduces readers to the microbiology of the gut and life on the Western Front during World War I. You can read more about the book and its publisher Scale Free Network in this month’s profile.

Andrea Hanke
Think Australian

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Two Shaun Tan books coming in 2018

Award-winning author and illustrator Shaun Tan has two books coming out in 2018. Hachette Australia will publish Tan’s new picture book Cicada—about ‘a bug working in an office and all the people who don’t love him’—in June. Hachette Australia co-managing director Justin Ractliffe described the book as ‘a mythic fairytale of magic, menace and wonder’. Allen & Unwin will also publish Tales from the Inner City, a companion to Tan’s 2008 book Tales from Outer Suburbia, in October. It features 25 illustrated short stories, each exploring ‘unique relationships between humans and animals living together in urban environments’.

Walker Books has acquired world rights to debut author Sarah Epstein’s YA psychological thriller Small Spaces, to be published in April 2018. Small Spaces is the story of 17-year-old Tash, who is haunted by memories of her childhood and the day her ‘gruesome’ imaginary friend Sparrow lured a young Mallory away from a local carnival.

Australian comedian and broadcaster Nelly Thomas has crowdfunded over A$20,000 for her early childhood picture book Some Girls, and will self-publish the book in November despite receiving several offers from publishers. Some Girls aims to challenge gender and other stereotypes, and features a diverse cast of girls displaying a range of emotions, likes, dislikes and interests. A companion book, Some Boys, is planned for August 2018, as Thomas notes ‘there’s no point challenging gender stereotypes and only working with girls’.

Film and TV

The Oscar-nominated US screenwriter, director and producer Drew Goddard has signed on to write and produce the film adaptation of Jessica Townsend’s children’s fantasy book Nevermoor (Hachette Australia) after Twentieth Century Fox optioned the film rights last year. Nevermoor was recently published in Australia, the UK and the US, and has been sold into over 25 territories.

Robyn Kershaw Productions (RKP) has optioned the TV rights to Ailsa Wild’s ‘Squishy Taylor’ children’s book series (illus by Ben Wood, Hardie Grant Egmont). Eight titles have been published so far in the series, which follows 11-year-old Sita ‘Squishy’ Taylor as she solves mysteries around her apartment building.

Other recent rights sales of Australian books include:

Picture books

  • Allen & Unwin has sold North American rights to The Sloth Who Came to Stay (Margaret Wild, illus by Vivienne To)—about a fast family who are taught to slow down—to Abrams.
  • Berbay Publishing has sold world Spanish rights to the picture book What’s Your Story? (Rose Giannone, illus by Bern Emmerichs)—set against the backdrop of the First Settlement of Australia—to Ekaré Europa S.L.
  • HarperCollins has sold UK rights to the ‘Ruby Red Shoes’ series (Kate Knapp) to Macmillan Children’s Books. The books follow an ‘aware hare’ who ‘cares about the environment and the world of plants and creatures’.

Younger readers

  • Hardie Grant Egmont has sold Brazilian rights to the first three books in the spooky series for middle-grade readers ‘The Witching Hours’ (Jack Henseleit).
  • Scholastic Australia has sold Persian-translation rights to the first five books in Aaron Blabey’s ‘The Bad Guys’ series, which follows the adventures of four traditionally ‘bad’ animals as they try to reform their image.
  • Text has sold Spanish rights to the Text Prize-winning middle grade novel The Extremely Weird Thing that Happened in Huggabie Falls (Adam Cece)—‘about three friends and the extremely weird thing that happened in the weirdest town in the world’—to Duomo.

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


‘Boy’ wins Children’s Peace Literature Award

Phil Cummings and Shane Devries’ picture book Boy (Scholastic) has won the Australian Psychological Society’s Children’s Peace Literature Award. It tells the story of a young deaf boy who brings peace to his village by getting adults to think about conflict in a different way.

The Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards have been announced. The winners are: Noisy Nature (Mandy A Kuhne, illus by Alex Kuhne, Mandy Pandy Books), Me and You (Deborah Kelly, illus by Karen Blair, Viking), Somewhere Else (Gus Gordon, Viking), Mad Magpie (Gregg Dreise, Magabala) and Artie and the Grime Wave (Richard Roxburgh, A&U). The books are judged on their appeal to children, interactive quality and ability to assist in literacy development.

Young readers from across Australia have voted for their favourite books of the year in a series of state-based ‘children’s choice’ awards. Among the multiple winners are: Do Not Open This Book (Andy Lee, illus by Heath McKenzie, Lake Press), Mega Weird! Weirdo Book Seven (Anh Do, illus by Jules Faber, Scholastic), The Bad Guys Episode 2: Mission Unpluckable (Aaron Blabey, Scholastic), The 78-Storey Treehouse (Andy Griffiths, illus by Terry Denton, Pan), Risk (Fleur Ferris, Random House) and Pennies for Hitler (Jackie French, HarperCollins).

Several Australian authors and illustrators have been nominated for the 2018 Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medals. Zana Fraillon’s The Ones That Disappeared (Lothian) and Garth Nix’s Goldenhand and Frogkisser! (both A&U) are nominated for the Carnegie Medal for writing; and Philip Bunting’s Mopoke (Omnibus), Bob Graham’s Home in the Rain (Walker Books), Pea Pod Lullaby (Glenda Millard, illus by Stephen Michael King, A&U) and Storm Whale (Sarah Brennan, illus by Jane Tanner, A&U), have been nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal for illustration.


Introducing Scale Free Network

Melbourne-based ‘art-science collaborative’ Scale Free Network publishes unique picture books and graphic novels ‘inspired by the microscopic world’. Co-founder Gregory Crocetti spoke to Think Australian:

Describe your company in under 50 words.

Scale Free Network (SFN) is an art-science collaborative and micro-publisher founded in 2007 by conceptual artist Briony Barr and microbial ecologist Dr Gregory Crocetti. Based in Melbourne, SFN creates interdisciplinary workshops, installations, artworks, picture books, graphic novels and educational resources, inspired by the microscopic world.

What makes your press unique?

Publishing stories with microbes as the central characters makes us pretty darned niche! Even though plants and animals only make up one percent of the biodiversity on the planet, not many other people seem to be creating stories about the other 99%.

We also co-create each of the books we publish, working alongside writer Ailsa Wild and artists Aviva Reed and Ben Hutchings, in consultation with many different scientists. One of the main inspirations for our stories is microbial symbiosis (partnerships between microbes, like bacteria, and larger forms of life) and we like to think of our collaborative process as being very symbiotic, between the different members of the team and between the disciplines of art and science. Also, all three of our publications would not have been completed without the support of crowdfunding campaigns—another example of the power of collaboration!

What books have you published?

At this stage, we’re releasing about one title each year. We have published two titles in our ‘Small Friends Books’ series—The Squid, the Vibrio and the Moon and Zobi and the Zoox in 2014 and 2015, respectively—with the first of our graphic novels, The Invisible War, released in mid-2016.

What have been your biggest successes in Australia?

Our first picture book The Squid, the Vibrio and the Moon has sold the most copies of our titles to date, which at nearly 4000 we’re quite proud of, considering we don’t have a marketing budget.

Our graphic novel has received much wider acclaim—and is fast catching up with sales. Accolades for The Invisible War include being nominated by the Children’s Book Council of Australia as a ‘Notable Book of 2017’, winning two Australian Educational Publishing Awards, winning the Best Designed Educational Primary/Secondary Book 2017 (Australian Book Design Awards) and being shortlisted for a 2017 Most Underrated Book Award and a 2017 Ledger Award for excellence in Australian comics.

Have you sold international rights to your books?

Not yet.

Which of your titles do you think would be best suited to overseas readers?

Well, microbes are everywhere … so we believe all of our titles can potentially target readers in every country! We would love to see our ‘Small Friends Books’ series published overseas, and given the emerging trend towards narrative nonfiction children’s books, we’re confident that these picture books have strong international appeal.

While our graphic novel includes a few specific Australian WWI history themes, the rich science throughout the book is universal to all human microbiomes. As such, The Invisible War is a resource suited to high-school science classrooms everywhere. As testament to this claim, the Australian Educational Publishing Award judges recently described The Invisible War as ‘a revolutionary approach to cross-curricular learning’.

What will you publish next?

We are currently deep into the research and development of two new stories in the ‘Small Friends Books’ series—both set in the soil. We have also been working on a plan to co-publish the series with a larger Australian partner. A second graphic novel is also on the cards and—like The Invisible War—will involve a part of the human body as setting, and a historic as well as scientific theme.

Pictured: Gregory Crocetti and Ailsa Wild


‘The 91-Storey Treehouse’ tops children’s fiction bestsellers chart

The latest instalments in several bestselling Australian junior-fiction series have made it into the Australian children’s fiction bestsellers chart for October, including Andy Griffith and Terry Denton’s The 91-Storey Treehouse, Aaron Blabey’s Alien vs Bad Guys: The Bad Guys Episode Six and Anh Do’s Spooky Weird! WeirDo Book Nine. Jessica Townsend’s debut children’s fantasy novel Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow is in third place on the chart. Nevermoor was published in Australia on 10 October and in its first week of release became the biggest debut children’s book in the Australian market since records began.

Australian children’s fiction bestsellers: October

  1. The 91-Storey Treehouse (Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton, Pan)
  2. Alien vs Bad Guys: The Bad Guys Episode Six (Aaron Blabey, Scholastic)
  3. Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow (Jessica Townsend, Hachette)
  4. Spooky Weird! WeirDo Book Nine (Anh Do, Scholastic)
  5. Funny Kid for President (Matt Stanton, ABC Books)
  6. The 13-Storey Treehouse (Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton, Pan)
  7. Really Weird! WeirDo Book Eight (Anh Do, Scholastic)
  8. The 78-Storey Treehouse (Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton, Pan)
  9. The 26-Storey Treehouse (Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton, Pan)
  10. The 39-Storey Treehouse (Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton, Pan)

© Nielsen BookScan 2017
Period covered: 1 to 28 October 2017
Data supplied by Nielsen BookScan’s book sales monitoring system from 1000 retailers nationwide

 the invisible war  



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