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Inside the Australian book industry

Gleitzman to be ambassador for Australian children’s lit

The position of Australian Children’s Laureate was created to ‘promote the importance and transformational power of reading, creativity and story in the lives of young Australians’, and this week Morris Gleitzman was announced as the laureate for 2018-19.  Gleitzman is the author of nearly 40 books for young people, including Two Weeks with the Queen (Pan Macmillan), Boy OverboardBumface and the ‘Felix’ series (all Penguin). He succeeds 2016-17 laureate Leigh Hobbs, and previous laureates Jackie French (2014-15)Alison Lester and Boori Monty Pryor (both 2013-14).

The theme of Gleitzman’s two-year term will be ‘Stories make us—stories create our future’. ‘I think our individual and collective futures are largely the result of our capacity to imagine the best possibilities in our lives, to look bravely at the worst possibilities, and to use all our creativity and empathy and hope and inspiration and grit and honesty and intelligence and curiosity and cheekiness and insight to make a difference,’ he told Think Australian.

Gleitzman will certainly be busy. As well as his role as ambassador, he is planning to write the seventh and final book in the ‘Felix’ series next year. The combined edition of the first and second books in the ‘family’ of books (Once and Then) sits in third place on the Young Adult bestsellers chart this month (see bestsellers).

Also in Australian children’s book news, the inaugural Scribblers Festival will run in Western Australia from 9-13 May this year. Among the guests already announced is Australian author Nicki Greenberg, whose The Cursed First Term of Zelda Stitch. Bad Teacher. Worse Witch will soon be followed by Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch, with publisher Allen & Unwin announcing it has acquired world rights to the sequel. For more rights deals, read on.

Matthia Dempsey
Think Australian

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Debut picture book builds international buzz

Scribble, has sold rights to two forthcoming children’s books: world rights (ex ANZ) to Antonia Pesenti’s board book Rhyme Cordial were sold to Phaidon ahead of its Australian release date in May, and Daniel Gray-Barnett’s picture book Grandma Z has been sold into three territories, with French rights sold to Seuil Jeunesse, Spanish rights to Ediciones Siruela and North American rights to Kids Can Press. Scribble said it is ‘thrilled that [Gray-Barnett’s] book is creating such a buzz internationally, months before it hits bookstore shelves in Australia [in March]’. All deals were negotiated by Veronique Kirchhoff of the VeroK Agency.

Text Publishing has acquired world rights to debut author Kay Kerr’s (pictured) YA novel, Please Don’t Hug Me, via Danielle Binks at Jacinta di Mase Management. Kerr’s novel is about ‘a neuro-diverse and socially awkward [high-school] student, who is dealing with tragedy by writing letters, ditching her sham friends, and discovering true companionship in the most unlikely of places—a mature-age women’s clothing shop’. Publication is expected in late 2018 or early 2019.

Walker Books Australia has acquired middle-grade fiction title Elizabella Meets Her Match by Australian television presenter and comedian Zoe Norton Lodge and her sister Georgia, a graphic designer and illustrator. Norton Lodge described Elizabella as ‘smart and ambitious, brave and cheeky, and a pretty fabulous writer’, who ‘doesn’t always make the right choices.’

A number of Australian junior-fiction titles with a scientific bent have secured recent rights deals. Black Inc. has sold North American rights to How to Win a Nobel Prize (Barry Marshall & Lorna Hendry) to Kane Miller, ahead of the book’s Australian release in April. Marshall, who won a Nobel Prize for his medical research, has collaborated with children’s author Hendry on this ‘time-travel adventure aimed at budding young scientists’. The book has also sold into Hungary to Könyvmolyképző Kiadó. Fremantle Press has sold Korean rights to James Foley’s STEM-centric junior graphic novels Brobot and Dungzilla to Booknbean Publishing. The books follow Sally, ‘the foremost inventor under the age of twelve’, and the accidents and mishaps that seem to follow all of her inventions.

Film and television 

Penguin Random House Australia has sold the film option to middle-grade novel The Shark Caller (Dianne Wolfer) to Brown Sugar Apple Grunt Productions. Wolfer’s novel centres on a 14-year-old girl, Izzy, and blends magic inspired by Papua New Guinean legends and traditions with contemporary issues such as environmental conservation in the Pacific.

Other recent rights sales of Australian books include:

Picture books

  • Allen & Unwin has sold Korean and French rights to I Just Ate My Friend (Heidi McKinnon), a twisted tale about a seemingly remorseful monster’s search for a new friend after it ate its previous companion.
  • Penguin Random House Australia has licensed North American rights to Go Go and the Silver Shoes (Jane Godwin & Anna Walker) to Candlewick.
  • Scholastic has sold simplified Chinese-language rights to two titles: Boy (Phil Cummings & Shane Devries), about a deaf boy who resolves problems by seeing the world a bit differently; and Bruce Whatley’s wordless, 120-page picture book Ruben, about a young street child who scavenges in the ruins of abandoned buildings.

Younger readers

Young adult

  • Black Inc. has sold US and French rights to Girlish: An Empowering Journal for the Twenty-first Century Girl (Alana Wulff) to Kensington Books and Hachette Roman, respectively. The publisher describes it as a ‘fun-filled self-led discovery course in feminism for teenage girls’.
  • Penguin Random House Australia has sold Canadian rights to Will Kostakis’ The Sidekicks—about three teens grieving their mutual friend—to Harlequin Teen.

See the latest Australian rights sales and acquisitions news here.


Middle-grade historical epic wins Prime Minister’s Literary Award

Wendy Orr’s Minoan-era historical epic, Dragonfly Song (Allen & Unwin), was the joint winner of the Prime Minister’s Literary Award (PMLA) for children’s fiction, and has also been shortlisted for the biennial Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature. The other winner in the category was Bob Graham’s picture book Home in the Rain (Walker Books), which focuses on a ‘seemingly ordinary moment of family life’ that is set against a backdrop of rain.

Cath Crowley’s Words in Deep Blue (Pan Macmillan) also won at the PMLAs in the young adult (YA) fiction category. Crowley’s 2017 YA collaboration with Fiona Wood and Simmone Howell, Take Three Girls, also received a shortlisting from the Indie Book Awards (see below) and is one of last month’s bestselling YA titles (see bestsellers).

Living on Hope Street (Demet Divaroren, Allen & Unwin) won the YA category of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, and Alison Evans’ YA novel Ida (Echo) was voted the People’s Choice Award-winner. Divaroren was the co-editor of the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA)-shortlisted Coming of Age: Growing up Muslim in Australia (Allen & Unwin). Being shortlisted for a CBCA award is akin to actually winning any other kind of children’s book award in Australia, so it’s a good list to pay attention to. The CBCA Notables announcementwhich acts as the longlistwill be revealed at the end of this month.

Two other lists worth noting are the YA and children’s shortlists for the Indie Book Awards. These awards are decided by members of the Leading Edge Books buying group, which is to say, most of Australia’s independent booksellers. The shortlisted titles are:




Introducing Scribble

Scribe Publications’ picture book imprint, Scribble, is ‘a vibrant, eclectic list of illustrated books for children’ that combines ‘editorial expertise with innovative design and production’. Publisher Miriam Rosenbloom spoke to Think Australian.

What makes Scribble unique?

We combine our editorial expertise with innovative design and production. I came to children’s publishing by way of design. I spent 15 years designing book covers for the adult market in Melbourne and London, including a stint at Faber where I commissioned and art-directed a lot of illustration. I am passionate about showcasing Australian talent, both locally and internationally. I published two picture books under Scribe’s general imprint before launching Scribble in April 2016 after the birth of my daughter.

How many books does Scribble publish each year—and what kinds of books?

We publish six to eight books a year, and at this stage we’re just working on picture books.

Have you sold international rights to your books?

We have had a great run with our international sales. We’ve sold a number of rights overseas, including the rights for debut author/illustrators such as Daniel Gray-Barnett’s Grandma Z, which caused quite a stir at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair last year and has since sold into North America, France and Spain.

Which titles have been most successful overseas?

Davina Bell and Allison Colpoys’ debut, The Underwater Fancy-Dress Paradehas won numerous awards in Australia and has sold into many territories overseas: China, Bulgaria, Spain, France and Italy, and will be published by Abrams in North America this March with the title Captain Starfish. This duo keep getting better and better, and we’re extremely excited to be presenting their latest book, All the Ways to Be Smart, this year at Bologna. We are also excited about selling world rights (ex ANZ) to Phaidon for Antonia Pesenti’s debut, Rhyme Cordial (to be published as Rhyme Flies by Phaidon)—an oversize board book with an innovative lift-the-flap design and hilarious wordplay.

Which title or author on your list do you believe deserves bigger recognition overseas?

Kat Patrick and Lauren Marriott’s ‘Doodle Cat’ series has such a vibrant and hilariously modern main character that it is surprising it hasn’t been snapped up in more territories. We’re publishing the third installment in 2019—Doodle Cat Wears a Cape.

Have you acquired the rights to publish any international titles in Australia? What have been the most successful?

We have published Riikka Jäntti’s fabulous ‘Little Mouse’ series from Tammi in Finland. ‘Little Mouse’ is a deceptively traditional-looking picture book series that tells the story of a working single-mum mouse and her cheeky son. Exquisitely familiar for parents and kids, the titles from the series have twice been chosen as the Times’ children’s book of the week.

What will you publish next (that may appeal to international publishers)?

As previously mentioned, Bell and Colpoys’ third collaboration, All the Ways to be Smart, which we publish in October this year, should arouse interest.

We also have a fantastic project using photography rather than illustration. I have long been interested in the narrative possibilities of photography with picture books—there was a lot of publishing in this area in the 1960s and 1970s, but in later decades photography has largely been relegated to nonfiction reference use. We have an amazing collaboration between author Jane Godwin, artist Beci Orpin and photographer Hilary Walker, Watch This!, which follows a group of kids using their bodies to make shapes. ‘Sesame Street meets Bauhaus’ was our initial elevator pitch!

As well, we have another debut picture book, Wrenfrom author Katrina Lehman and illustrator Sophie Beer. Wren tells the story of a small and quiet boy who finds himself in the middle of a very noisy family. Beer’s illustrations are fabulous and should have a broad appeal.


‘Akarnae’ tops young adult bestsellers chart

Lynette Noni takes top spot in the young adult (YA) bestseller chart for January with Akarnae, the first in Noni’s fantasy series, the ‘Medoran Chronicles’. The third book in the series, Draekora, is fifth on the chart, and publisher Pantera Press recently announced a reprint of the fourth and latest book, Graevale, which was released this month. It’s the start of a big year for Noni, whose forthcoming dystopian thriller, Whisper (May), has already attracted praise from Sarah J Maas and Maria V Snyder.

Take Three Girls, a novel ‘about friendship, written by friends’ was released in July last year but sits at second place on the Young Adult bestsellers chart. ‘Female friendship is a theme that has long been sidelined in favour of the trendier romance narrative, and it is a relief to see it growing in popularity, particularly in YA fiction,’ said reviewer Bec Kavanagh of the book. Morris Gleitzman, recently announced as Australian Children’s Laureate, also features in third place with his novel-plus-sequel Once and Then.

Australian YA bestsellers: January

  1. Akarnae (Lynette Noni, Pantera Press)
  2. Take Three Girls (Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell & Fiona Wood, Pan Macmillan)
  3. Once and Then (Morris Gleitzman, Penguin)
  4. The Silent Invasion (James Bradley, Pan Macmillan)
  5. Draekora (Lynette Noni, Pantera Press)
  6. Tomorrow, When the War Began (John Marsden, Pan Macmillan)
  7. The Road to Winter (Mark Smith, Text Publishing)
  8. Nexus: Zeroes 3 (Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan & Deborah Biancotti, Allen & Unwin)
  9. In the Dark Spaces (Cally Black, Hardie Grant Egmont)
  10. Hitler’s Daughter (Jackie French, HarperCollins)

© Nielsen BookScan 2018
Period covered: 31 December 2017 to 27 January 2018.
Data supplied by Nielsen BookScan’s book sales monitoring system from 1000 retailers nationwide




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