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Inside the Australian book industry

Landmark Aboriginal Australian history gets a young readers edition

First published in 2014, Bruce Pascoe’s landmark history of Aboriginal Australians pre-European colonisation, Dark Emu, will now reach a younger readership with the release of a young readers edition, Young Dark Emu: A Truer History (both Magabala Books). Pascoe recently told the Australian newspaper he had a feeling his book would resonate with a wider audience. ‘It just goes to show that Australia is changing its mind about its own history,’ he said. ‘There’s a conversation going on, and people are using the book to open that conversation. There’s still a few dinosaurs about, but the kids in particular are all over it.’

Among the rights sales reported in this month’s newsletter are two exciting book-to-screen deals. Film and TV rights have been sold to Garth Nix’s much-loved YA fantasy series ‘The Keys to the Kingdom’ (Allen & Unwin), which was first published over 15 years ago, while Aaron Blabey’s picture book Thelma the Unicorn (Scholastic) is set to become an animated musical film for Netflix.

Andrea Hanke
Think Australian

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YA debut ‘What I Like About Me’ sold to US and France

US and Canadian rights and French-language rights have been sold to Jenna Guillaume’s YA debut What I Like About Me (Pan) to Peachtree Publishing and Pocket Jeunesse, respectively. What I Like About Me is the first book from Guillaume, former editor-at-large for BuzzFeed Australia, and is written as the diary of a 16-year-old girl over the course of her summer holidays.

Allen & Unwin has sold North American rights to Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Mystery by Renee Treml—a ‘funny, action-packed mystery’ for younger readers—in a two-book deal to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers.

Berbay Publishing has sold North American rights to John Canty’s Heads and Tails: Underwater to Candlewick Press. This is the third picture book in Canty’s ‘Heads and Tails’ series, with the first two books—Heads and Tails and Heads and Tails: Insectsalready sold to Candlewick in the US and Dook in China, as well as other territories.

Rights to books four to six in Jessica Townsend’s ‘Nevermoor’ series have been jointly acquired by Hachette Australia, Hachette Children’s Group UK, and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in the US. The first book in the series, Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow (Lothian), broke the record for the fastest selling children’s debut in Australian history. Rights have been sold in 38 languages and optioned by 20th Century Fox.

Screen rights to Garth Nix’s ‘The Keys to the Kingdom’ series sold

Herschend Entertainment Studios has acquired film and TV rights to Garth Nix’s seven-book YA fantasy series ‘The Keys to the Kingdom’ (Allen & Unwin). Published between 2003 and 2010, the series follows the adventures of a 12-year-old boy who is chosen to become the heir to the house at the centre of the universe. Nix’s middle-grade novel Frogkisser! (Allen & Unwin) is currently being adapted into a live-action/animated musical film by US-based Fox Animation and Blue Sky Studios.

Aaron Blabey’s picture book Thelma the Unicorn (Scholastic) will be adapted into an animated musical film for Netflix by husband-and-wife filmmakers Jared and Jerusha Hess (Napoleon DynamiteNacho Libre), who said ‘the lovable misfits in [Blabey’s] books feel right at home for us’. Thelma the Unicorn has sold over 1.6 million copies since it was first published in 2015, and has been distributed in 14 countries. Last year, DreamWorks Animation began development on a feature animated film based on Blabey’s illustrated chapter book series ‘The Bad Guys’ (Scholastic).

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


YA books shortlisted for Readings Prize

The shortlist has been announced for the Readings Young Adult Prize, presented by the Australian independent bookseller for debut or second YA books. The shortlisted titles are: Highway Bodies (Alison Evans, Echo), What I Like About Me (Jenna Guillaume, Pan), Stone Girl (Eleni Hale, Penguin), Making Friends with Alice Dyson (Poppy Nwosu, Wakefield), Unmasked (YA edition) (Turia Pitt, Random House) and The Learning Curves of Vanessa Partridge (Clare Strahan, Allen & Unwin).

Holden Sheppard’s forthcoming YA novel Invisible Boys (Fremantle Press)—which won last year’s T A G Hungerford Award for an unpublished manuscript—has been awarded the Kathleen Mitchell Award for authors aged 30 or younger.

At the End of Holyrood Lane by Dimity Powell and Nicky Johnston (EK Books), a picture book that explores domestic violence and its effect on young people, has won the Australian and New Zealand division of this year’s Crystal Kite Member Choice Awards, presented by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

The Patchwork Bike by award-winning author Maxine Beneba Clarke and street artist Van T Rudd (Lothian) has won the Boston GlobeHorn Book Award in the picture book category.

Popular children’s author Paul Jennings has received the Children’s Book Council of Australia Lifetime Achievement award. Jennings is the author of more than 100 books and has sold more than 8 million copies worldwide.


‘Alpacas with Maracas’ tops Australian picture book bestsellers chart

Over one million children in schools, libraries and bookshops across Australia participated in this year’s National Simultaneous Storytime on 22 May, so it was no surprise to see the chosen title, Matt Cosgrove’s Alpacas with Maracas, at the top of the Australian picture book bestsellers chart in May. Among the new entries in the chart are Davina Bell and Allison Colpoys’ 2018 picture book All the Ways to Be Smart, which continues to win fans in Australia and abroad (it will be distributed in the US in September); and Claris: Fashion Show Fiasco by fashion illustrator Megan Hess, the follow-up to last year’s bestseller Claris: The Chicest Mouse in Paris, about a mouse who dreams of moving to Paris to follow her fashion dreams.

Australian picture book bestsellers: May

  1. Alpacas with Maracas (Matt Cosgrove, Koala Books)
  2. A Stack of Alpacas (Matt Cosgrove, Omnibus Books)
  3. Macca the Alpaca (Matt Cosgrove, Koala Books)
  4. Where Is the Green Sheep? (Mem Fox & Judy Horacek, Puffin)
  5. Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes (Mem Fox & Helen Oxenbury, Puffin)
  6. All the Ways to be Smart (Davina Bell & Allison Colpoys, Scribe Publications)
  7. Pig the Grub (Aaron Blabey, Scholastic)
  8. Claris: Fashion Show Fiasco (Megan Hess, Hardie Grant Egmont)
  9. Thanks, Mum! (Matt Cosgrove, Scholastic)
  10. Thelma the Unicorn (with Unicorn Horn) (Aaron Blabey, Koala Books)

© Nielsen BookScan 2019
Period covered: 5 May to 1 June 2019
Data supplied by Nielsen BookScan’s book sales monitoring system from 1000 retailers nationwide




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