Stephanie’s Christmas 2012 Children’s & Young Adult Book Round Up

So I thought it might be timely to talk briefly about some of the books I’ve enjoyed this year and some of the titles I’m planning to read over Christmas.

THE DINOSAUR THAT POOPED CHRISTMAS by Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter has been the number one bestselling picture book in the UK for the last three weeks and it is THE ultimate stocking filler. We’ve had a lot of fun working on this book and several serious meetings have dissolved into laughter and silliness – of course they have as it’s impossible to be too serious when the subject matter is pooping dinosaurs. Random House have done a fantastic job producing and promoting the book and they must win a prize for staging the earliest Christmas party ever. Tinsel and mince pies in October was a little surreal.

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A picture book series I’ve admired from afar (as I don’t represent the author/ illustrator), is HUGLESS DOUGLAS by David Melling. It’s another idea that sells itself with that title, and combines a gorgeous character with a simple but compelling idea. I also adore Fiona Roberton’s CUCKOO, a picture book I’m handling translation rights for about a baby cuckoo who feels different and goes off searching for someone who will understand him.  It’s simple and beautifully told with delicately drawn, touching illustrations. Hodder’s picture book list is an impressive one having had a sneak preview of what lies ahead I know they have some treats in store for 2013.

On the young fiction side it has been a pleasure to see Guy Bass’ STITCH HEAD go from strength to strength and Stripes have done a fantastic job with translation rights selling him in to nine territories. I’ve also been pleased to see Australian author, Anna Branford’s VIOLET MACKEREL series launch this year – a quirky, thoughtful and smart series aimed at young girls.  Walker paired her with illustrator Sam Wilson and the result is a dazzling and delightful package. Not my clients but ones to watch are Jamie Thompson, whose DARK LORD: THE TEENAGE YEARS won this year’s Roald Dahl Funny Prize and Joanna Nadin’s hilarious PENNY DREADFUL series. I think being called Joanna makes you more qualified to write funny young fiction as we have our own bonkers series launching next Spring from Joanna Simmons. Scholastic will publish the first title, PIP STREET: A WHISKERY MYSTERY in March and we can’t wait to see this on the shelves.

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This year saw the posthumous, and as a result rather bitter sweet, publication of Eva Ibbotson’s THE ABOMINABLES which has received wonderful reviews and was short-listed for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize.  For readers aged 8+ this is just a dream to read and Marion Lloyd and her team have worked wonders with this warm, witty and heartbreaking adventure about yetis and their search for somewhere they belong.

I was fortunate to teach with Tony Bradman on our Creative Writing for Children weekend and six week course and one of the most fascinating sessions was on editing which involved comparing two different openings for his new book, VIKING BOY, before and after he revised and edited it. The impact was remarkable and Tony is a true craftsman. You can feel this in VIKING BOY as he takes the reader on a journey with all sorts of twists and turns throughout which he is always in complete control. The story has real depth, some fantastic characters and although it may seem geared more towards boys I can see both genders enjoying it.

Usborne published the first in Chris Ould’s YA crime series, STREET DUTY: KNOCK DOWN in October and Chris’ experience writing for TV on The Bill and Casualty definitely gives a real authenticity to the setting. He asks the questions Lee Child insists you need to pose to create a truly compelling read. Someone has been knocked over but why did she run into the road and how come she’s not wearing any shoes? Another fantastic fast paced thriller with a twist is C.K Kelly Martin’s YESTERDAY which is part sci-fi, part romance and all absorbing.

NEVER FALL DOWN by Patricia McCormick is a startling, moving and ultimately uplifting story based on the true story of Arn Chorn-Pond one of the first Cambodian child soldiers to speak out against the Khmer Rouge.  This YA novel was selected as a National Book Award Finalist in the US and published by Random House UK this year. Another excellent YA novel I came across and which stood out for me this year was BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY by Ruta Sepetys.  This also sheds a light on a lesser known period of history and while it’s not an easy read it’s certainly a rewarding one.

Over the break I’m looking forward to getting into DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver and DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor – both sent through by Hodder and wrapped appealingly for Christmas. I’m desperate to dive into Philip Pullman’s GRIMM TALES and I’m also keen to start Maggie Stiefvater’s THE RAVEN BOYS but first I need to finish a couple of adult titles I have on the go. I also feel I should read Hot Key’s THE VINCENT BOYS by Abbi Glines since there’s been a lot of discussion about this and ‘new adult’ titles generally.

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Next year there’s a lot to look forward to with F.E. Higgins’ new series THE PHENOMENALS, Catherine Johnson’s SAWBONES, M.M Vaughan’s debut, THE ABILITY, Janey Louise Jones’ PRINCESS POPPY COOK BOOK, Gareth Edwards’ new picture book, THE DISGUSTING SANDWICH, Lucy Courtenay’s SPACE PENGUINS, Sam Hepburn’s YA thriller, CHASING THE DARK and Lauren Miller’s PARALLEL among many others.

I’ll also be looking for new authors for the Curtis Brown list and new books to add to next year’s round up so let me know if there’s anything I should be reading!

 

“I love me, no I love me” – Why authors shouldn’t self-review

Everyone’s talking today about crime writer RJ Ellory who has admitted to posting flattering reviews of his own books on Amazon under pseudonyms and criticising rival authors (h/t to @sheilacrowley ). Frankly, I’m flabbergasted (albeit a little delighted to be able to use the word ‘flabbergasted’ in relation to publishing’).  While this isn’t the first time an author has manipulated Amazon’s review system, the part I find so bizarre about the RJ Ellory fake review scandal is that he is far from an unknown, struggling author desperate for praise and recognition, fearful his publisher will drop him at any moment. He was Orion’s book in the goody bag at their party a couple of years ago for goodness sake – you can’t get a clearer expression of publisher pride than that. He has won awards, has been selected for the Richard & Judy’s book club and his books have sold more than a million copies – he’s hardly struggling to make it, driven to desperate means to gain attention as all else has failed.  At least that would be a little easier to understand.  Even harder to understand are his posts themselves – consider this one about A Quiet Belief in Angels:

“Whatever else it might do, it will touch your soul.”

I find this quite disturbing.  What else might it do? It sounds like there could be some dangerous side effects involved  –  don’t worry if the book explodes on page 324, if you experience dizzy spells or become strangely susceptible to Amazon reviews because it will also touch your soul so it will all be worth it.  Could there be a bolder claim? At least if you’re going to post fake reviews about how wonderful your work is then at least make them a) appealing and b) believable.  A lot has been written over the last month or so about book criticism, how Twitter is too nice and no one can post negative reviews anymore. But we shouldn’t forget that the onus should not only be on the critics to be reasonable and not insulting, and authors either to be thick-skinned or not to set up google alerts about their books, but also on readers to make smart decisions about which reviews to pay attention to. There are some friends whose recommendations we’ll greedily pounce upon and others we’ll politely shelve.  Shouldn’t we operate in the same way online too and treat reviews and recommendations with more than a pinch of salt?