There’s no hiding the fact that, these days, ACHUKA takes a back seat to my portrait and fashion photography, but this evening’s PenguinRandomHouse 2019 preview reminded me why I shall always keep up my advocacy for children’s and YA publishing in the UK.
For me, the highlights of the event held at the Soho Hotel last night were the revamping of Ladybird, under the brilliant leadership of Shannon Cullen, and the appearance of Malorie Blackman, launching her return to the world of Noughts & Crosses.
Notable too were the onstage interview with Sabina Radeva, the creator of a picture book about Darwin’s Origin of the Species, which had its own origins in a crowdfunding campaign; and the climactic performance by a vocal ensemble from the West End cast of Dear Evan Hansen, a novelisation of which Penguin will publish this summer.
Not especially remarked upon during the presentation (unless I was snoozing) though surely a highlight of the year, will be the 50th anniversary Collectors’ Edition of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. To be fair, there were miniature celebratory cupcakes.
After a very brief keynote from MD Francesca Dow (“Stories for every child, everywhere”), Tania Vian-Smith, deputy Publicity Director, was the main compere for the evening and her opening words were in memory of John Burningham. A brand-new, posthumous Mr Gumpy adventure is scheduled for August. Mr Gumpy’s Rhino was finished and in production at the time of Burningham’s death.
A stunning highlight of Ladybird’s relaunch is the oversize Sensational Butterflies, a lavishly illustrated showcase from Ben Rothery, just out. A follow-up to this book, Hidden Planet, from the same illustrator, is due in the autumn.
I’ll also look out for The Big Book Of The UK by prodigious reviewer Imogen Russell Williams, illustrated by Louise Lockhart, coming from Ladybird in August.
PRH continue to call their middle-grade publishing category ‘Primary’, presumably to give it a UK rather than a US tagline. It remains to be seen whether John Boyne’s My Brother’s Name Is Jessica, in which the protagonists are teenagers, is truly for a Primary audience.
Last month saw the launch of Extraordinary Lives, a new biography series for 7+, with titles on Stephen Hawking, Michelle Obama and Malala Yousafzai. Six new subjects follow in the summer.
I really liked the enthusiasm with which US author Karen M. McManus talked about Two Can keep A Secret. a lead YA title (already published) from the author of One of Us Is Lying.
Crossfire, the new addition to Malorie Blackman’s Noughts & Crosses sequence publishes in July, picking up the story several years after the end of Double Cross, the fourth book in the series. The whole sequence is being rejacketed in keeping with the new title.
Two other YA titles of note are The Night Country, Melissa Albert’s sequel to The Hazel Wood [September] and Full Disclosure, described as ‘smart, funny, sex-positive YA’, from New Yorker Camryn Garrett [October].
Some more photos from the evening: