Independent children's publisher Lantana Press is launching a fiction list, kicking off with the acquisition of two middle-grade novels by debut authors.
Known for publishing picture books that champion under-represented voices, Lantana's move to fiction begins with the publication of Starlet Rivals by Puneet Bhandal (pictured top) and Mwikali and the Forbidden Mask by Shiko Nguru (pictured left). Both titles are set to be released in summer 2022.
Starlet Rivals is part one of a Bollywood-inspired school series The Bollywood Academy, and follows 12-year-old Bela and a host of colourful characters who help, or hinder her as she strives to achieve her dreams: to win the national Dance Starz competition and bag a place at the most prestigious stage school in Mumbai.
Bhandal, former Bollywood film journalist and owner of an Indian clothes boutique, said: “I am thrilled at partnering with Lantana Publishing for the Bollywood Academy series. I couldn't have wished for a better team: Lantana visualised the concept perfectly and shares my excitement at bringing this glamorous world to life.”
Starlet Rivals is edited by Lucy Rogers, former commissioning editor for Scholastic and Simon & Schuster UK, closely shadowed by aspiring publisher Natasha Arora. Alice Curry, Lantana's founder and c.e.o., acquired world rights for this series from author Bhandal.
Mwikali and the Forbidden Mask was acquired from Lisa Edwards of Redwood Tree Publishing in a three-book deal. It is being edited by Christofere Fila, former publishing co-ordinator of Amnesty International, closely shadowed by award-winning spoken-word poet Oluwaseun Matiluko.
The book is part one of The Intasimi Warriors, a Kenyan fantasy series inspired by East African mythology. It follows the adventures of 12-year-old Mwikali, whose life is changed forever when she discovers she is descended from an ancient bloodline of legendary East African warriors: the Intasimi Warriors. Author Nguru is best known for her motherhood and parenting lifestyle content on Instagram and YouTube. Commenting on the acquistion, she said: “I am beyond thrilled to have found a publishing partner that values diverse voices and is just as excited as I am to share the richness and beauty of East African mythology with the world.”
Curry said of the new fiction list: “We’re thrilled to expand our catalogue to include fiction for ages six-plus. Our readers are often asking us what to read next when their children have grown out of picture book, so now we have an answer for them.”
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