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Inside the Australian book industry

Southeast Asian storytelling inspires new picture book

Australian picture books continue to find publishers overseas, with several large (Scholastic) and smaller publishers (Scribe, Fremantle Press) recently selling the rights to their titles to the US and China (see Rights sales and acquisitions).

While some of these titles are distinctly ‘Australian’ (Koalas Eat Gum Leaves, Kookaburras Love to Laugh), a new Australian picture book takes inspiration from traditional Southeast Asian storytelling methods. NLA Publishing’s recently acquired Hiding Moon, written by Emma Allen and illustrated by Sher Rill Ng, features shadow play or ‘shadow puppetry’ practiced in countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Cambodia. Ng, who is also the creator of the forthcoming feminist picture book Our Little Inventor (Allen & Unwin), said she was drawn to the project because of its celebration of different cultures. ‘I love that diversity is becoming more prominent in all forms of storytelling, and this is no exception,’ she said.

Andrea Hanke
Think Australian

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Bunting books sold to China

Scholastic Australia has sold simplified Chinese rights to several quirky, humorous picture books by Australian husband-and-wife duo Laura and Philip Bunting. They include: Mopoke, Koalas Eat Gum Leaves and Kookaburras Love to Laugh.

Fremantle Press has sold simplified Chinese rights to Kelly Canby’s picture book The Hole Story—about a boy who discovers a hole and puts it in his pocket—to Shanghai Juvenile & Children’s Publishing House.

Scribe’s children’s imprint, Scribble, has sold North American rights to the picture book Under the Love Umbrella by Davina Bell and Allison Colpoys to Simply Read Books. Rights have previously been sold in France, Italy, Spain and Korea.

NLA Publishing has acquired world rights to the picture book Hiding Moon by Emma Allen and Sher Rill Ng, which was inspired by shadow puppets in the National Library of Australia’s collection. Hiding Moon features shadow play or ‘shadow puppetry’ and draws on traditional Southeast Asian storytelling methods. It will include a nonfiction section about the shadow puppet tradition.

Affirm Press has acquired ANZ rights to debut middle-grade novel Rosebud by bookseller Fiona Hardy. The novel follows 11-year-old Hayley Whelan as she tries to turn her idea for a horror movie into reality over the summer holidays.

Lothian has acquired ANZ/UK rights to two books in a fantasy series by Will Kostakis, who is best known for his contemporary YA fiction. The ‘Monuments’ series is about three teens who ‘inherit the powers of creator gods after stumbling across something unusual in a hidden tunnel beneath their school’.

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


Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards announced

The winners and honour books for this year’s Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book of the Year Awards, one of the most influential awards on the Australian children’s book scene, have been announced.

The winners include: the picture book A Walk in the Bush (Gwyn Perkins, Affirm Press); junior fiction titles Rodney Loses It (Michael Gerard Bauer, illus by Chrissie Krebs, Omnibus) and How to Bee (Bren MacDibble, Allen & Unwin); the YA novel Take Three Girls (Cath Crowley, Fiona Wood & Simmone Howell, Pan); and the junior nonfiction book Do Not Lick This Book (Idan Ben-Barak, illus by Julian Frost, Allen & Unwin). Rovina Cai won the debut illustrator award for her work on the picture book for older readers, Tintinnabula (Margo Lanagan, Hardie Grant Egmont).

Erin Gough’s Amelia Westlake (Hardie Grant Egmont), which tells the story of an unlikely friendship between two girls at an elite private school, has won the Readings Young Adult Book Prize.

Vikki Wakefield’s Ballad for a Mad Girl (Text) and Allison Rushby’s The Turnkey (Walker Books) have won the YA and children’s novel categories, respectively, at the Davitt Awards for the best crime books by Australian women.

Shortlists have also been announced for the Inky Awards for YA literature, which are chosen by a panel of teen judges, and the 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’.


Introducing Dirt Lane Press

Dirt Lane Press launched its first children’s book—a mash-up of several Norwegian folk tales—in 2017 and has since sold the rights to a UK publisher. Further books include a ‘fable about losing community’ and a ‘picture book for older readers that was inspired by the author grappling with her son’s ice addiction’. Publisher Margrete Lamond spoke to Think Australian.

What makes Dirt Lane Press’ list unique?

I think what may be most unique about Dirt Lane Press is that we are aiming to fill that part of the market that seems to be being slowly evacuated by mainstream publishing. That is, we unashamedly aim to publish so-called ‘literary’ picture books; books that fall outside the standard parameters and formats for younger readers; open-ended narratives; stories that are ‘quiet’ but with deeply resonant layers of meaning; ‘too-long’ picture-books; standalone hardback chapter-books; picture books for older readers; challenging themes and emotions; beautiful language and unusual illustration.

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

As a very new publisher, we are only just starting to build our list. As a not-for-profit publisher that started with one dollar in the bank, we are also doing that building slowly. We started with a single title in 2017, are publishing two in 2018, and have three titles at various stages of pre-production for 2019. Our ultimate aim is to publish 10 titles a year … from traditional picture books to graphic novels to illustrated fiction for readers of all ages, but primarily books for readers aged around 6 to 16.

Have you sold international rights to your books?

We were somewhat thrilled to have sold rights of our first title The Sorry Tale of Fox and Bear (Margrete Lamond, illus by Heather Vallance) to UK publisher Old Barn Books, which is a kind of kindred spirit in terms of the kinds of books they like to publish. Our international rights are handled by ALC, who have a great track record of placing books into all kinds of territories.

Have you acquired the rights to publish any international titles in Australia? Would you be interested in acquiring international titles in the future?

This isn’t something we have actively pursued so far, but it is something we are very keen to pursue in the future. There are some breathtakingly innovative and transformational books being produced around the world, generally by small independent publishers, and we would love to make some of these titles available to Australian readers.

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

I’m confident all our current titles will find their audiences internationally. Leaf Stone Beetle by Ursula Dubosarsky (August 2018) is an elegant and deceptively simple fable about losing community that has already created ripples through refugee and asylum-seeker sectors of the community, as well as evoking powerful personal resonances with young readers. It is the kind of narrative that works on the surface as a simple tale, and that stirs memory and emotions on deeper levels.

The Dream Peddler by Irena Kobald and Christopher Nielsen (October 2018) is a picture book for older readers that was inspired by the author grappling with her son’s ice addiction. Once again, it is a poetic fable that can be read on many levels, both in text and image.

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

We are excited about Have You Seen Tomorrow by Kyle Mewburn and Jonathan Bentley (July 2019), which is a picture book exploring mindfulness and living in the present but with a whimsical playfulness that means it reads as a delightful story as well as a quiet reminder to seize the day.


‘Whisper’ tops Australian YA bestsellers chart

Bestselling YA fantasy author Lynette Noni occupies the top five spots in the Australian YA bestsellers chart for July. At the top of the chart is Whisper, the first book in a new series about ‘Jane Doe’, who has been held in a secret facility for over two and a half years, where she is regularly experimented on. The other four titles are the first four books in Noni’s ‘Medoran Chronicles’ series.

One of the new entrants in the chart is Anna Snoekstra’s debut YA thriller Mercy Point. Snoekstra is the author of several popular adult thrillers.

Australian YA bestsellers: July

  1. Whisper (Lynette Noni, Pantera Press)
  2. Akarnae (Lynette Noni, Pantera Press)
  3. Graevale (Lynette Noni, Pantera Press)
  4. Raelia (Lynette Noni, Pantera Press)
  5. Draekora (Lynette Noni, Pantera Press)
  6. Tomorrow, When the War Began (John Marsden, Pan)
  7. Tom Appleby, Convict Boy (Jackie French, HarperCollins)
  8. Once and Then (Morris Gleitzman, Penguin)
  9. Mister Monday (Garth Nix, Allen & Unwin)
  10. Mercy Point (Anna Snoekstra, HarperCollins)

© Nielsen BookScan 2018
Period covered: 24 June to 21 July
Data supplied by Nielsen BookScan’s book sales monitoring system from 1000 retailers nationwide

 Leaf Stone Beetle cover  



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