Leah Thaxton is the Children’s Publisher at Faber, in charge of a list that reaches from picture books to Young Adult titles. She is also a published author under the pen name Katie Blackburn, including the bestselling Where the Wild Mums Are and Dozy Bear and the Secret of Sleep. As we head into the fifth year of the prize, Leah has taken some time to reflect on the achievements of our esteemed alumni and to celebrate some exciting new releases.
Publishing is such a great industry to be in because whatever the day, the month, the weather, the news, there is always an exciting book to look forward to, a new publishing moment bubbling under the surface. Every year I feel the Faber programme is phenomenal, this year – it takes some beating.
But this morning I write having just heard the news that not one but two FAB alumni are on the highly select Waterstones Children’s Book Prize shortlist – many congratulations indeed Allen Fatimaharan and Kereen Getten. The year just got better!
There are three forthcoming beauties that I want to flag today.
First up – I can’t stop talking about this book: Jeffrey Boakye’s Musical Truth: A Musical History of Modern Black Britain in 28 Songs. It comes out 3rd June and if ever there was a book to change the national curriculum then this is it. It is a playlist of 28 songs that represent 28 defining moments in Modern British history – it is refreshing, startling, powerful, intelligent, accessible, intensely moving and inspiring and it provides a gorgeous jumping off point into our musical heritage. For me personally, there were so many songs that brought back good memories, or that had resonated at the time in a way that I hadn’t understood why. It’s a book to get people talking (and dancing!) Jeffrey is a phenomenal talent, and we feel very lucky to publish him. Illustrator Ngadi Smart (who was our First Prize FAB winner last year!) has painted portraits of all the contributors. Her electric colour palette and extraordinary, dynamic line-work is the perfect match for this retelling of British history. We are dazzled by her talent – what next, Ngadi?
On Thursday 5th August, we continue to wend our way through the year with a musical theme! Beloved duo Hannah Lee and Allen Fatimaharan give us an eye-popping picture book called The Rapping Princess – full of feel-good rhythm and pop princesses, with a very satisfying moral flourish to end. It has had us tapping our toes at every round of proof checking, and is a book that I will be gifting to all my parent pals. Do lookout for the real pop princesses inside!
Then last but no means least, there’s Akhran Girmay’s illustrated edition of Jason Reynold’s and Brendan Kieley’s All American Boys… Akhran was also a FAB winner (second prize, last year!) We immediately signed him to illustrate this astonishing and powerful novel, but the fact is, his roughs were so beautiful and arresting that we decided to commission a second, extended version! …. A deluxe edition with even more artwork, and printed endpapers. So look out for it, please, 7th October. It just goes to show how quickly a competition winner can become a publishing superstar – I predict clamouring at Akhran’s door…
Many congratulations to all our talented FAB alumni – those with book deals, those with books out already, those with prizes – and all those of you still working hard on your portfolios and manuscripts… Keep the faith. And do enter our prize, be a part of this FAB network – there’s still time!