Ann-Janine Murtagh, executive publisher at HarperCollins Children’s Books (HCCB), said her business is on track to expand its picture book publishing, including a new collaboration between renowned illustrators Sir Quentin Blake and Emma Chichester Clark, entitled Three Little Monkeys.
Murtagh told The Bookseller Daily: “The picture book business is growing and one of our crown jewels is the picture book backlist. We’re still working with Judith Kerr, we’ve got Oliver Jeffers—our rock-star picture book author—and, more recently, we’ve been working with David Walliams and Tony Ross.”
In 2015, HCCB sold £38.5m worth of books through Nielsen BookScan, making it the second-largest (after Penguin Random House) children’s publisher in the UK. Of that, £7.9m, or almost 21%, was generated by HCCB picture books.
Murtagh said she wanted to put “a strong spearhead in the market with Three Little Monkeys. I’m very passionate about this book.”
Blake and Chichester Clarke’s title is about a woman called Hilda Snibbs and three naughty monkeys who “turn her life upside down”.
Murtagh said Blake had written the text “some time ago” and wanted Chichester Clark to create the artwork—the illustrators have known each other for several years. However, the collaboration was “an unusually close evaluation of words and pictures”, Murtagh added. “Blake saw the illustrations at every stage, and said [Chichester Clark] made the text different—and better.” The book will be published in the UK in October. HCCB has world rights.
“This is one of our key titles for the fair and we launched just in time to take it to market,” said Murtagh. “The appeal of this book to international publishers is having such iconic illustrators working together. In the co-edition market people want something special and different if they’re going to buy in.”