2021: reasons to be cheerful

Whatever 2021 holds in store, there are lots of excellent books in the pipeline. As we do at this time of year, we asked leading editors to tell us about the book (one only) they are most excited to be publishing in the year ahead.


Combining the talents of Newbery Honor winner Shannon Hale and Caldecott Honor winner LeUyen Pham, Itty-Bitty Kitty-Corn invites the very youngest of readers to celebrate the magic of friendship, of being exactly who you want to be and of seeing one another for who we truly are. Kitty and Unicorn are wonderful role models for confidence and kindness, and a magical duo that is impossible to resist. Bursting with adorable illustrations, humour, charm, emotional depth and a childlike spirit, this is a book that instantly captured our hearts—and we know it will capture yours from the very first page! – Emma Ledbetter, Editorial Director of Picture Books

Alanna Max

This year we are thrilled to publish Zeki Loves Daddy, from Anna McQuinn’s inclusive Zeki Books series. It is perfect for very young ones to enjoy with their grown-ups. Zeki and Daddy fill their days with tickles, pancakes, dancing, playing and reading – it’s always nice to see caring dads in picture books. This sweet companion to Zeki Loves Mummy is a perfect celebration of daddy love for every day, as well as for special days like Father’s Day. Ken Wilson-Max, Publisher

Allen and Unwin Iceberg (October) is a stunning, lyrical story for our times, from renowned picture book creators Claire Saxby and Jess Racklyeft. In this sumptuous narrative nonfiction book, we follow the life cycle of an iceberg as it is born into spring and travels through the seasons before dying in a new spring. Saxby’s poetic and evocative prose is balanced by Racklyeft’s lushly detailed watercolours in an expert merging of knowledge with grace. This is a hopeful tale of renewal, wonder and appreciation of Antarctica – an environment worth fighting for in a time of climate emergency. Nicola Santilli, Editor

Amulet Books

A moving YA debut novel from non-binary author Ray Stoeve, Between Perfect and Real (April) follows a trans boy finding his voice – and himself. As a former high school theatre nerd, I was hooked by Ray’s book, which captures that awkward, exciting, sometimes painful time so perfectly. There are so many ways to be queer and trans, and I want publish books that speak to all different types of experiences. You’ll fall in love with Dean, just as I did, as he explores how we find and become our fullest selves. – Maggie Lehrman, Editorial Director of Fiction

Andersen Press Dreams for Our Daughters by Ruth Doyle, illustrated by Ashling Lindsay (February) is the book I’ve always wanted to give my daughter. It speaks of the world as we want it, where girls can be fearless, be who they want to be, where they are leaders and fulfil their potential. As I read Ruth’s exquisitely-chosen inspirational words for the first time they had the most profound, powerful effect on me which has never diminished. Paired with Ashling’s illustrations it is one of the most outstandingly beautiful books I’ve ever worked on. Forget fairy tale endings, this book is about making hopes and dreams reality. A timeless, keepsake book that every daughter should have. Sue Buswell Editorial Director Picture Books

I have an unusual and beautiful book to rave about: We were Wolves, written and illustrated by Jason Cockcroft. Jason is an award-winning illustrator but it turns out he’s also an incredible storyteller. And the story he has to tell is about a boy living in a caravan, alone in the woods, waiting for his father to be released from prison. It’s about children who try to save their parents, it’s about parents who can’t save their children; it’s about the wildness out there, of nature red in tooth and claw. And it is stunning. Charlie Sheppard, Editorial Director Fiction

4 Books for Keeps No.246 January 2021

Barrington Stoke

Onjali Q. Raúf is one of the most exciting authors at work in children’s publishing today, able to address pressing social issues in a way that makes them accessible to younger readers and encourages discussion. We are therefore thrilled to be publishing The Great (Food) Bank Heist (July), in which she gives a heart- rending child’s-eye view of the growing problem of food poverty. As with all Onjali’s stories, she provides relief through her unique ability to combine empathy with humour in this madcap adventure that sees a group of enterprising friends using their ingenuity to expose a shameful heist targeting their local foodbank. Ailsa Bathgate, Editorial Director

Big Picture Press (Bonnier) My pick for 2021 is the impassioned Art of Protest by De Nichols and featuring art from multiple artists including illustrations from Diana Dagadita and Olivia Twist (September). Part educational, part narrative non-fiction, this book takes a look at some of the most memorable and striking protest artwork from across the world and throughout history. Author De Nichols was inspired to become an ‘artivist’ after an unarmed teenager was shot by police in her hometown, sparking the 2014 Ferguson Uprising. She tells her own story through the text, alongside a collective of five international illustrators. We hope this book will guide readers through this important time in our history and can be used to spark positive change. Joanna McInerney, Publishing Head

Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Written by Melissa Cummings-Quarry and Natalie A. Carter, best friends and co-founders of the Black Girls’ Book Club, and illustrated by Dorcas Magbadelo, GROWN: The Black Girls’ Guide to Growing Up and Showing Out (September) is the ultimate guide to navigating the beautiful and complex reality of Black British girlhood. It’s packed with stories, wisdom and practical advice relevant to all the intersecting parts of female identity, from how to lay the perfect edges or dealing with microaggressions to consent, financial literacy and career ambitions. It’s also peppered with contributions from inspirational Black women, including some very special guest writers. Aspirational, life-affirming and full of Black Girl Magic, GROWN will ensure young Black women everywhere feel seen. Commissioning Editor Non-Fiction Isobel Doster

Ben Bailey Smith’s Something I Said (June) is my standout novel for 2021. Car Taylor is a kid who always sees the funny side of life – which makes him popular with his fellow students, less so with his teachers and parents. When his impromptu stand-up routine at the school talent show goes viral, a once in a lifetime opportunity to find fame and fortune beckons. But if you alienate everyone who loves you, who can you rely on when life gets less funny? Car is a magnetic personality – brilliantly drawn and instantly relatable. I roared with laughter on his journey of self-discovery, but ultimately this exceptional middle grade debut is all about the love. Commissioning Editor Fiction Ellen Holgate

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