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2019 Publishers Picks

By December 10, 2019No Comments


2019 has been a year of exceptional publishing in NZ and to celebrate we asked our members to pick the book they were most thrilled to publish. We also flipped the coin and asked which other publisher’s title they wished they’d commissioned.  There are a few commonalities with books embracing the diversity of New Zealand’s history among the favourites.

Don Long, Publisher, Lift Education E Tū

Lift Education was thrilled to publish Te Tiriti o Waitangi | The Treaty of Waitangi in 2019.

New Zealand’s first non-fiction reorua (dual-language) graphic novel about our founding treaty — a collaboration between Toby Morris (Pākekā), Ross Calman (Māori), Mark Derby (Pākehā), and Piripi Walker (Māori) that demonstrates just how far we’ve come as a society since Witi Ihimaera and I put together Into the World of Light: An Anthology of Māori Writing back in 1982. What a difference four decades can make. Now, it’s almost unthinkable that such an important part of our history could be tackled solely in English.

The Herald says Te Tiriti o Waitangi | The Treaty of Waitangi is destined to become a classic. Ako calls it “exceptional”. Magpies says it’s “equally subversive, engaging, and exciting.”  The Project and Booksellers New Zealand say, “It should be in every home.”

The book I would most like to see published in the future is a reorua edition of Mona Tracy’s historical novel Rifle and Tomahawk; a novel for young adults that was so far ahead of its time first published by Whitcombe and Tombs in 1927.

Mona Tracy was an extraordinary New Zealand writer and journalist. She and her brother went to Paeroa School and graduated fluent in te reo Māori. As a journalist, she wrote for newspapers such as the Auckland Weekly News, the Weekly Press, and the Sun. She was the secretary of a refugee committee in Christchurch that helped people who were escaping fascism.

In her novel, she takes us into the midst of a vicious guerrilla war being fought in the North Island — the war that featured Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Tūruki and the Pai Mārire forces fighting elements of Ngāti Porou and colonial troops. Her teenage protagonists are both Pākehā and Māori. We aren’t always sure which side we’re on. Right and wrong quickly become blurred.

As we move into an era of finally teaching our history honestly to every child in our schools, we are going to need many more bilingual writers such as Mona Tracy — and will they need to be equally brave when they tell our stories. But will they brave enough to be ahead of their time, too?

Mophead cover imageSam Elworthy, Director, Auckland University Press

The book most thrilled to publish, Mophead: How Your Difference Makes A Difference by Selina Tusitala Marsh. One of those great voyages of discovery for author and publisher as Selina found her hand, her line, her voice to tell her own story in words and pictures.

What would most like to have published: Chris McDowell, We Are Here. I love maps and Chris is a wild genius, so I love this book’s inventive approach to understanding Aotearoa visually.

Jenny Hellen, Publishing Director, Allen & Unwin NZ

It’s so hard to choose just one book – it’s been a year of riches for us: Magnolia Kitchen, The Book of Knowing, A Note Through the Wire, Someone’s Wife, Jacinda Ardern and many others. But the book that most has my heart this year is The Adventures of Tupaia – it’s a crucial yet overlooked story for Aotearoa. Mat Tait’s artwork is phenomenal, Courtney Sina Meredith’s text sings, and our collaboration with Auckland Museum was terrific – we all feel so proud of this book, which was created with much aroha and care.

The book I’d have liked to have published is Selina Tusitala Marsh’s Mophead. What a cool approach to a memoir and that is my favourite cover of the year.

Peter Dowling, Publisher, Oratia Books

Possibly because it’s the last of our 2019 books, and certainly for sentimental reasons, I was thrilled to publish Shipwrecked: New Zealand maritime disasters this year. We were working on the project with Gavin McLean when he passed away in April, and it was truly a labour of love by Ky Gentry to pick up the reins and complete a book that we know that old bibliophile Gavin would have been proud to have in hand. Including superb colour prints by the now 96-year-old artist Eric Heath adds to my feeling that this is the final word on wrecks and sinkings around our coasts.

And it’s definitely because I’m an atlas nut that among a fine field this year, the book I’d really like to have published is We Are Here: An Atlas of Aotearoa by Chris McDowall and Tim Denee (Massey University Press). So great to see that printed maps and imaginative renderings of data are still possible in this digitally mapped-out age, and it’s done beautifully!

Lynette Evans, Publisher, Scholastic NZ

Scholastic is delighted to extend the legacy of New Zealand’s all-time favourite digger by reinvigorating the much-loved and bestselling Little Yellow Digger series by Betty and Alan Gilderdale, first published in 1993. Now, for the next generation of readers, a new fleet of Little Yellow Digger adventures has begun with Betty and Alan’s son Peter having taken up the storytelling baton with a brand-new picture book in the series.

The Little Yellow Digger ABC is written with the same, perfectly attuned rhyme and rhythm of his mother’s classics. Working with a selection of his father’s original art, Peter has cleverly composed a playful Little Yellow Digger alphabet adventure, enhanced by his own hand-drawn
calligraphy alphabet that children can lift the flaps to find. Scholastic couldn’t be prouder to publish this handsome and sturdy new addition to the iconic LYD range.

Regarding what we wish we’d published, let’s be honest and say anything written by David Walliams or Jeff Kinney! Haha.

Alison Shucksmith, Publishing Manager, Hachette NZ

The book we are most thrilled to have published this year is the Edmonds My First Cookbook. With over 600 illustrations, it has been a labour of love for the entire team. The feedback from kids and grown-ups has made all that work well worth it.

As for the book we wished we had published, that is so hard. There are so many wonderful books out there that we can’t pick.

Craig Gamble, Publishing Manager, Victoria University Press

Our favourite book this year from VUP was The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox, and our favourite non VUP book was We Are Here: An Atlas of Aotearoa by Massey University Press.

Alex Hedley, New Zealand Publisher, HarperCollins Publishers NZ

I am so pleased to have published Perform Under Pressure by Ceri Evans this year. We all deal with pressure in our own way, but Ceri’s method is a proven formula for success for those crunchy ‘make-or-break’ moments we all have from time to time. And if it’s good enough for Richie McCaw, it’s good enough for me!

What do I envy… the first book that comes to mind when I think about other publishing this year is All of This is For You by Ruby Jones (Penguin Random House). It’s a gorgeous package and feels like the perfect response to a year that has, at times, been very distressing.

David Brash, Country Manager, New Holland Publisher (NZ)

Although we had quite a number of strong titles this year, Trevor Bentley’s “Pakeha Slaves, Maori Masters” garnered discussions not generally discussed in open forums.  Contentious. Encouraged debate and lively discussion (and was a huge seller for us).  Fourteen publishers initially rejected the manuscript (so Trevor advises).

Adrian Kinnaird, Senior Editor, Bateman

It was really hard to narrow this down to just one title, but in terms of ‘thrill’ factor, it would be Monty Souter’s Whitiki! Whiti! Whiti! E!: Maori In the First World War. It’s a colossal achievement that was years in the making for Monty and the dedicated team of editors and designers that assembled it. It’s an important chapter in our national history told on a grand scale – almost 600 pages, highlighted by rare war photography that has been colourised by Peter Jackson’s Wingnut Films. A true taonga for any bookshelf.

The book we would have most liked to have published? Bill Bryson’s The Body. Our publisher recently picked this up to read on a long-haul flight to the US, and the rest of the editorial team is keen to read it over the summer break. History, science, domestic life, Shakespeare, and now the human body – is there any subject this author can’t make a must-read?

Christine Dale, OneTree House

The book we were most thrilled to have published this year:

Hindsight: Pivotal Moments in New Zealand’s History – Mandy Hager

Because it contributes to New Zealand’s history and because the first printing sold out in under 60 days.

We would liked to have published: Mophead by Selina Tusitala Marsh.

We are wishing for: more female lead characters at ANY level but especially Junior Fiction.