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Ruth Huddleston, Publisher, Old Barn Books Boy, Everywhere by A.M. Dassu (August) chronicles the harrowing journey taken from Syria to the UK by Sami and his family. From privilege to poverty, across countries and continents, from a smuggler’s den in Turkey to a prison in Manchester. It is a story of survival, of family, of bravery.... and how thin the line is between ‘us’ and ‘them’. A.M. Dassu writes with skill and empathy and an immediacy that communicates directly with her audience. I love her passion for the craft of writing and her joy in sharing that with readers.


Anna McQuinn, Editor-at-Large, Alanna Max This year we are thrilled to publish Ken Wilson-Max’s first title with AlannaMax. Lenny and Wilbur is perfect for very young readers. Lenny and his dog Wilbur who are best friends. They do everything together and on Wilbur’s wash day, there is even more fun to be had. This book is full of joy – there are treats and tickles, suds and giggles, songs and snuggles. The special relationship between a little boy and his dog shines through the illustrations and will warm the heart of any reader. Totally endearing!


Sam Hutchinson, Publisher, b small publishing Following our Blue Peter Book Award-winning Real-life Mysteries was always going to be a challenge. Luckily author Susan Martineau and illustrator Vicky Barker have created a perilously good read in Real-life Disasters (May). From sinking ships to killer lakes and deadly diseases, we invite children to test their critical literacy skills and investigate what really happened. Maybe what they learn will help them avoid major peril. Our advice: listen to the experts!


David Bennett, Boxer Books The 2020 title I’m most excited about is Who is in the Egg? by Alexandra Milton. It is a simple concept illustrated with truly extraordinary artwork. The author and artist refers to her work as ‘ripped and torn paper’ which totally undervalues the detailed and intricate nature of the life-like illustrations. The book is a fascinating and surprising collection of animals and their eggs and their young. It’s a natural history guessing game!


Lindsey Heaven, Editorial Director, Egmont The sequel to out-of-the-blocks hit A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, 2019’s no.1 bestselling children’s/YA debut, is as twisty, page-turning and surprising as its predecessor. In Good Girl, Bad Blood, Holly Jackson takes us back to Pip (now the star of her own true-crime podcast) and Ravi as they investigate a new crime – it’s just as close to home, but this time everyone is listening. Holly’s star is firmly in the ascendency and her YA and adult fans are clamouring for this. I’m right there with them.


Melissa Fairley, Publishing Director, Egmont Michael Morpurgo has adapted his hugely popular novel War Horse for a picture book audience, with stunning illustrations by Tom Clohosy Cole. The enduring story of friendship between a horse and his boy takes centre stage in this sensitive re-telling that will help younger readers begin to understand the history and deadly chaos of the First World War. This is an important book for generations to come as we continue to strive for peace across the world.


Chloe Sackur, Commissioning Editor fiction, Andersen Press Alex Wheatle’s Cane Warriors is a short, sharp shock of a novel. Moa, an adolescent boy who was born into slavery, joins an uprising led by the indomitable Tacky against the British plantation owners. Together, the warriors seek to free everyone with the rallying cry ‘De blood remembers’. Alex doesn’t shy away from the brutal reality of 18th-century Jamaica, but also fills the pages with heartening scenes of courage and


brotherhood, nerve-shredding tension, and a striking sense of place. No wonder: this true tale comes from the very region Alex’s mother grew up in. We’re thrilled to be publishing it.


Georgia Amson-Bradshaw, Publisher, Wide Eyed Editions I Am Not a Label busts the myths around disability by celebrating the stories of 30 real-life activists, thinkers, artists and athletes. The extraordinary lives of these ordinary people – from Stevie Wonder to Stephen Hawking, Frida Kahlo to Stella Young – show that, far from obstacles to be overcome, mental and physical disabilities are normal parts of life. In her fun and honest biographies, author Cerrie Burnell sets out to give young readers new icons from throughout history and the world, while showing that disabled people are sporty, musical, geeky, talented, happy, sad, outgoing or shy – just like non-disabled people.


Sarah Lambert, Fiction Editorial Director Hodder Children’s Books Jamie McFlair vs the Boyband Generator by Luke Franks & Sean Thorne: four best friends, two boybands, and an evil uncle with a monstrous secret – what could possibly go wrong? September sees a huge launch for us with this brilliant author duo and their hilarious new series for 8+ readers. Luke is a presenter on CITV’s Scrambled while Sean is a presenter on the Fun Kids Radio Show and runs a successful YouTube gaming channel. Together they are comedy gold and we can’t wait for kids to fall over themselves for more ridiculous adventures with Jamie McFlair.


Leah Willey, Children’s Development and Commissioning Editor, Laurence King We’re extremely excited to be publishing Mythopedia: An Encyclopedia of Mythical Beasts and their Magical Tales. From the cute but troublesome Tanuki, a racoon-like creature of Japanese folklore, to Ahuizotle, the scary water dog with a taste for eyeballs, this fantastic guide takes readers on a mythological tour of the world. Featuring maps and in-depth stories, we meet magical beasts from a huge variety of cultures, including Ancient Egyptian legend, Norse mythology and Aztec folklore. Fully illustrated with stunning, hand-painted artwork from the Good Wives and Warriors team, this beautiful book is sure to have both children and adults captivated!


Emma Matthewson, Executive Publisher, Bonnier Children’s Books The Last Paper Crane by Kerry Drewery is a mix of narrative and verse, set in modern day Japan and Hiroshima where a Japanese teenager, Mizuki, is worried about her grandfather. We move to 1945 and Mizuki’s grandfather as a teenage boy at home with his friend Hiro. Moments later the horrific nuclear bomb is dropped on Hiroshima and a searing account of the devastation follows. The two boys search for Keiko, Hiro’s five-year-old sister, leaving origami paper cranes everywhere a survivor could be, but cannot find her. Despite the harrowing subject matter, this powerful novel has hope at its heart. Kerry has done extensive research to authenticate this unforgettable story, which includes stunning illustrations by Japanese artist Natsko Seki.


Helen Diamond, Editorial Director, Education, Bloomsbury There are many books I’m excited about publishing in 2020 but if I have to choose just one, then It’s OK to Cry by Molly Potter, illustrated by Sarah Jennings, has to be it. Boy’s mental health is a huge issue in this country backed up by the shocking statistic that suicide is the single biggest cause of death for men under the age of 45 in the UK. This charming picture book helps children (especially boys) identify their feelings and find the words to describe them. And it’s not a book just for boys – girls will enjoy reading it too!


Books for Keeps No.240 January 2020 5


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