Macmillan Children’s Books has swooped for Guardian Angels, a new picture book series by bestselling author Lucinda Riley and her son Harry Whittaker, with illustrations from Jane Ray.
The four-book series marks the first time Riley has worked with her son, a comedian and radio presenter, and is also her debut for young children. The first title, Grace and the Christmas Angel, will publish in October 2021 in a hardback gift format with a ribbon marker in the shape of an angel.
Its synopsis explains: “Grace and the Christmas Angel tells the story of Grace who is waiting for her father, a fisherman, to return home in time to watch her sing in a Christmas show. But when a storm at sea blows up, Grace finds he is not in the audience and, by bedtime, he still hasn’t returned. Grace is very worried he won’t make if back in time for Christmas morning. But luckily, somewhere, an angel is listening ...
A new title in the series will publish every six months on MCB’s picture book list. Each story will have a classic feel and will address a different anxiety or worry a child may have.
Hannah Ray, publishing director of the MCB picture books list bought world rights, excluding Norway, Italy, the Netherlands and Germany, in the text from Stephen Riley at Lucinda Riley Ltd and world rights in the illustrations from Hilary Delamere at The Agency.
Publication will be accompanied by “a major consumer and trade marketing campaign” including third-party partnerships, print and digital advertising.
Ray said: “I am thrilled that we will be publishing these very special stories, and introducing Lucinda Riley and Harry Whittaker’s writing to a brand new, young audience. Jane Ray is the perfect person to bring their words to life with her stunning artwork, and I am sure the Guardian Angels books will become firm favourites.”
Riley's books have been translated into 37 languages and sold 30 million copies worldwide, according to the publisher. Through Nielsen BookScan, she has sold 1.4 million print copies in the UK for £8.4m. The seventh title in her Seven Sisters series, The Missing Sister, will publish on 27th May 2021.
Riley and Whittaker said “Working together as mother and son has been such a joy. We hope that the books convey the warmth and positivity that writing them brought us.”
Belinda Ioni Rassmussen, publisher of Macmillan Children’s Books, added: “We are absolutely delighted to be welcoming Lucinda and Harry to the MCB list. The team has long admired her adult fiction with its sweeping family focused storytelling. Now younger readers will be able to enjoy her and Harry’s magical and empathic story worlds too, enriched by Jane Ray’s stunning artwork. Without doubt, these will be books for all families to collect and treasure.”