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Publisher Profile: Little Island Books

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The CBC asks Kate McNamara, Digital & Marketing Manager of Little Island Books, questions about the publisher.


How did your publishing house start out?

We were founded in 2010 by Ireland’s first ever Laureate na nÓg (children’s laureate), Siobhán Parkinson. We remain proudly independent and committed to our founding ideals of publishing high-quality writing and illustration for young readers and having an outward-looking, international mindset. Our books have been translated into many languages and published around the world.


What is your publishing house most known for?

Little Island publishes the best new Irish writing for young readers. Our slogan is “Books create waves”. That means we believe in the power of books to make a sea-change in young minds. We believe in books with the power to reach out to the young reader and stir the sea within. And we want to publish books that make a splash! We have a strong reputation for quality, and have a long list of honours to our name, including being the smallest publisher ever to make the Carnegie Medal shortlist; this is perhaps the most prestigious children’s book award in the world.


Where in the country is your house based? What do you love about being based there?

We are based in Dublin, Ireland, and love being immersed in Dublin’s rich literary history.


What conventions and conferences does your publishing house usually attend?

We have not yet started attending US conferences ourselves (though you can find us at the Children’s Books Ireland Conference, Frankfurt Book Fair, and Bologna Children’s Book Fair), but we are represented in the US by Publishers Spotlight, and they regularly have a presence at the National Council for Teachers of English, National Council for the Social Studies, ALA Annual, Public Library Association, and American School Counselors Association.

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How many employees does your house have?

Currently, 2 full-time, but we are expanding.


How many books does your house aim to publish per season/year?

We publish 10 to 16 books annually in the US.


Which genres does your house prefer to publish?

We specialise in children’s literature, from books for babies and toddlers right up to Young Adults. We publish everything from historical fiction to fantasy to coming-of-age stories to non-fiction and more!


Which formats does your house prefer to publish?

We mostly publish fiction paperback chapter-books and novels, illustrated and non-illustrated, but sometimes do picture books and hardbacks, and have had success with a small number of non-fiction titles, including Black & Irish: Legends, Trailblazers & Everyday Heroes by Leon Diop and Briana Fitzsimons, illustrated by Jessica Louis and published in collaboration with Black & Irish.


What are some of your house’s publishing priorities over the next few years?

We began publishing in the US in 2022, with the help of the amazing Publishers Spotlight for marketing and publicity, and Consortium, for distribution. We have been delighted with the reception we have had there, and hope to continue to grow our US market and connect with readers there.

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Which title has your house recently rallied behind?

We published I Am the Wind: Irish Poems for Children Everywhere in our home market last October. It’s, a stunning illustrated hardback poetry anthology, featuring everything from traditional Irish songs, to well-known favourites such as Eavan Boland, Paula Meehan, Oscar Wilde and W.B. Yeats, as well as new poets from around the country. It’s edited by Lucinda Jacob and Sarah Webb, both important figures in the contemporary Irish literary scene, and illustrated by the amazing Ashwin Chacko. It publishes in the US in April 2024.


Which upcoming titles is your house buzzing about?

In the summer, we will publish a gripping dual-narrator YA novel by Shirley-Anne McMillan called Grapefruit Moon. This has already started receiving praise in the US media:

“McMillan depicts with clarity the aggressions, small and large, of the classism and patriarchy that wear down their spirits.” – Kirkus Reviews

“A delicate and candid depiction of two teens’ efforts to shape their uncertain futures while navigating weighty issues.” – Publishers Weekly

Wealthy, popular Charlotte and quiet, working-class Drew couldn’t be more different, but both face a common enemy at Cooke’s Academy in the form of the Stewards – an elite group of students feared by pupils and teachers alike. Drew, a newcomer, must navigate the strict codes of masculinity laid down by the Stewards in order to have a hope of going to university, while Charlotte dreams of speaking freely. Through drag art and poetry, the unlikely pair follow a dangerous trajectory which will lead them closer to one another and further from the paths laid out for them.

We can’t wait for it to find its readers in the US!

In October we’ll publish Chasing the Shy Town, written by Erika McGann and illustrated by Toni Galmés. Erika a very established author, whose previous books include Where Are You, Puffling?: An Irish Adventure and The Strange Tale of Barnabus Kwerk (O’Brien Press). This is a wonderful fantasy adventure chapter book for age six plus, with a reassuring message about the impossibility of perfection.


Which of your frontlist titles would be great for a school or public library?

We’ve just published a gorgeous picture book called The Slug and the Snail; it’s written by Oein DeBhairduin, illustrated by Olya Anima, and co-published with inclusive Irish indie publisher Skein Press. Drawn from the Irish Traveller storytelling tradition, DeBhairduin’s tale is a gentle allegory about identity, self-acceptance, and different ways of seeing the world.

Two slugs travel happily together until they meet a crow who asks them where their home is. The younger brother, embarrassed, makes himself a shell, and calls himself snail. The older brother carries on as he is. At first, the brothers grow apart. But in time, they learn to respect each other’s way of life.

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Which of your frontlist titles would be great for a classroom? Which grade?

Black & Irish: Legends, Trailblazers & Everyday Heroes would be perfect for high school grades 9-12; it is vibrantly illustrated and provides a digestible and engaging look at Black Irish public figures from the worlds of pop culture, politics, sport, business, and the arts. Includes Ruth Negga, Phil Lynott, Emma Dabiri, Rhasidat Adeleke and Dami Hope. We have received positive feedback from schools in Ireland whose students have read it, with one young reviewer saying “Personally I think this book will change the way people look at difference.”


Name a few of your favorite backlist titles that people should check out.

In 2022, we published Sam Thompson’s middle-grade chapter book, Wolfstongue, illustrated by Anna Tromop. It was selected as a 2023 USBBY Outstanding International Book, won a Spark! Book Award, and Literacy Association of Ireland Award, and was reviewed in The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. The Times (Uk) wrote that it had “all the makings of a modern classic.”

In June we published The Eternal Return of Clara Hart by Louise Finch, which was selected as a finalist for the Kirkus Prize. It was named one of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Young Adult Books of the Year for 2023, and appeared on Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best Books list for 2023.

In October we published Savage Her Reply, written by Deirdre Sullivan and illustrated by Karen Vaughan. It received a starred review from Kirkus, and was included in their Best Young Adult Books of 2023 list.


What else would you like to tell us about your house and the amazing work you all do?

In October 2023 we did our first US Author Tour, where we brought three authors, Sam Thompson, Deirdre Sullivan, and Ireland’s Children’s Literature Laureate (Laureate Na nÓg) Patricia Forde, to New York and Boston, where they gave talks at universities including Harvard and Stonehill, and visited many lovely booksellers in both cities. They were also hosted by the Boston Irish Consulate in a wonderful celebration of Irish children’s books.

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Thank you, Little Island Books!
 
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