Accessible children's publisher Barrington Stoke will publish a YA novella by the late Mal Peet.
World rights to The Family Tree, with illustrations by Emma Shoard, were acquired by Barrington Stoke editor Emma Hargrave from Elspeth Graham, Peet’s wife and executor of his estate.
The “tender-hearted story” explores “fatherhood, memory and guilt” and will be published in May 2018 and featuring full colour artwork by Shoard, a “rising illustration star”. Next year marks Barrington Stoke’s 20th anniversary and The Family Tree will be a key title for this birthday year and is the first time it has published a title by Peet.
A spokesperson described the book as “an utterly compelling and powerful exploration of families and fathers, in which the unnamed narrator returns to his childhood home and recalls with adult eyes the breakdown of his parents’ marriage and his father retreating to live in the garden treehouse”.
Hargrave said: “We are tremendously honoured to publish the much-loved Mal Peet for the first time, and thank Elspeth Graham for making this possible.
“The Family Tree is a thought-provoking and tender-hearted story, which illuminates its themes of fatherhood, memory and guilt with all the clarity and depth of feeling for which Mal is so admired."
She added: "In sparse, beautiful prose, The Family Tree tells of how the long-ago unravelling of his childhood still impacts on a young man, as he returns to the derelict treehouse where his father once lived.”
Hargrave also praised Shoard’s “sensitive, impressionistic artwork” and said that it “enhances further the emotional resonance of this rare treat of a story”.
Shoard described the experience as a “real treat for an illustrator”.
She said: “There is so much depth and reality to the relationship between his characters; I hope to illustrate something of those spacious places he has created in between the lines.”
Graham revealed that Peet was inspired by some decaying treehouses that he had noticed on a walk.
She said: “The idea came from an old orchard we found when out walking near Tipton St John – there were several treehouses in various states of decay built into the taller trees. They really interested Mal; he was completely fascinated by them.”
Peet was a multi award-winning novelist best known for his young adult fiction. In 2017 novel Beck (Walker Books) – completed after his death by his friend Meg Rosoff – was nominated for the Carnegie Medal. He died in March 2015.