England International footballer and child poverty campaigner Marcus Rashford MBE is joining the Macmillan Children’s Books list, publishing a range of books across fiction and non-fiction for children aged five to 18 while also rolling out his own book club with the publisher.
On the heels of Rashford's free school meals campaign, his range of books is intended to promote reading and literacy among children from all socio-economic backgrounds. The partnership with MCB is based on “the shared vision of equipping children with all the resources required to succeed in life”, positioning “reading as a pleasure which can give them the tools for coping with challenges”, and there will be a particular focus on getting books into the hands of children from vulnerable and under-privileged backgrounds with charity partners.
A deal for world rights was secured in a three-way auction by Samantha Smith, publisher of fiction, non-fiction and picture books, and Cate Augustin, editor of non-fiction and fiction, at MCB from Kelly Hogarth at Roc Nation.
The first title, You Are a Champion: Unlock Your Potential, Find Your Voice and Be the BEST You Can Be, will publish in May 2021. It will be an illustrated non-fiction title aimed at young people aged 11–16, "to equip them with mental resilience and grit". Each chapter will begin with a story from Rashford’s own life and, according to MCB, it will cover topics such as: navigating adversity; timing and seizing opportunity; the value of education; positive mentality; understanding culture; and female role models. It will be co-created with Carl Anka, a journalist for sports media group The Athletic, and Katie Warriner, a leading performance psychologist and co-founder of the Prime Clinic.
Two fiction titles for readers aged 7+ will follow later in 2021 and 2022.
The partnership will also see the 2021 launch of the Marcus Rashford Book Club, a reader recommends programme publishing frontlist titles from MCB’s list, with the aim of championing the works of creatives from all backgrounds. All the titles affiliated with the Marcus Rashford Book Club will have a full cast of characters, so that all children can see themselves represented in the stories.
Rashford said: “I only started reading at 17, and it completely changed my outlook and mentality. I just wish I was offered the opportunity to really engage with reading more as a child, but books were never a thing we could budget for as a family when we needed to put food on the table. There were times where the escapism of reading could have really helped me. I want this escapism for all children. Not just those that can afford it. We know there are over 380,000 children across the UK today that have never owned a book, children that are in vulnerable environments. That has to change. My books are, and always will be, for every child, even if I have to deliver them myself. We will reach them.
“Acceptance and acknowledgement is a really key focus of the project. Let our children read that they are not alone and enable them to dream. Equip them for obstacles and adversities they might face. Allow them to relate to characters by making sure people of all race, religion and gender are depicted correctly and representative of modern society.
“No matter where you grow up, talent should be recognised and championed. Under the Marcus Rashford Book Club young writers, illustrators and creatives will be seen and they will be offered a platform to shine.
“The team at Macmillan Children’s Books very much share my vision and ambition, and I am really excited to be on this journey with them. It was really important to me that I always had a seat at the table for input and collaboration and that is exactly what Macmillan has offered me. There is a real family feel to this partnership and I'm really looking forward to seeing the difference we can make together."
Smith said: “Marcus Rashford MBE has emerged as not only one of the UK's leading sports people but as the conscience of the nation, encouraging us all to help out neighbours and our children during these challenging times. Hearing Marcus speak about what reading has done to change his life – and give him the strength to succeed in his personal and professional goals – has been inspiring and aligns so closely with our own values at Macmillan. We could not be more excited to help Marcus expand his national – and international – reach into children’s books.”
Belinda Ioni Rasmussen, publisher at MCB, said: “Words cannot describe how much it means to us to embark upon this collaboration. It is the wish of every children's publisher to reach those in our audience who do not have easy access to books — and to empower, inspire and delight them. Working closely with Marcus, we will do everything in our power to reach every child."
The launch of the partnership will be "a major global event in 2021", according to MCB, with the publisher promising an "innovative and extensive" marketing and PR campaign, "designed to empower all children". It will include a national and international PR campaign, serialisation in national media, charity partnerships, support through Rashford’s social channels and key events at national football stadiums.