David Fickling, a venerated editor and publisher of children’s literature, has opened a new chapter in his publishing life. In May, Fickling, who is based in Oxford, England, will release the first books under a new publishing partnership with Scholastic. Spanning a range of age levels and genres, David Fickling Books will be released in both the U.K. and the U.S., and his line of books will, Fickling pledged, live up to its moniker, “the Home of the Story.”
The editor said he has been searching out stories since 1978, when he joined Oxford University Press as, in his words, “a very, very junior editor.” But one with a keen eye for a good story. Fickling recalled picking up a manuscript that crossed his desk, written by one Philip Pullman. “I read it in one sitting and was amazed,” he recalled. “I ran down the corridor and asked a friend, ‘What am I supposed to do now?’ And he answered, ‘I think you’re supposed to publish it, David.’ ” Fickling signed up the novel, The Ruby in the Smoke, the first book of the Sally Lockhart quartet, and has published Pullman’s books ever since, including the bestselling His Dark Materials trilogy.
Fickling’s next publishing move was to Doubleday U.K., where he launched a program of original children’s books, whose list included titles by Pullman, Jacqueline Wilson, and Nick Sharratt. “I had such a fantastic time putting together that list – I found myself forgetting to pick up my children from school!” he quipped. “The job was a joy to do.”
The editor then moved to Scholastic U.K., commuting to London from Oxford, and once again “having the most wonderful time.” After almost a decade with that house, where he published books under his own imprint, Fickling had a visit from “lovely Craig Virden,” the late head of children’s books at Random House, who offered the editor the chance to launch his own imprint with that company.
“I was so shocked and happy, I didn’t even let Craig finish speaking,” said Fickling, whose David Fickling Books imprint was then published by the Random House Group in both the U.K. and the U.S. from 2001 to 2013. That list included such acclaimed novels as John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, Jenny Downham’s Before I Die, and Trash by Andy Mulligan.
Unleashing More Stories
After leaving Random House and establishing David Fickling Books as an independent venture in July 2013, a propitious phone call from Ellie Berger, president of trade publishing at Scholastic, precipitated a shift in Fickling’s career direction once again. “It was like coming home,” said Fickling. “Ellie rang me up and invited me to partner with Scholastic, and I realized what an extraordinary thing that would be. America is such a big place, and when you’re small and independent, you want a partner. It’s wonderful to feel as though you’ve come through a cat door and arrived in the U.S. without coming through customs at all – and can set great stories loose!”
Fickling will initially set four stories loose in this country, all of which were recently published by David Fickling Books in the U.K. Due in May are Close to the Wind by Jon Walter, a middle-grade novel about a boy and his grandfather who hope to escape their occupied town with other refugees by gaining passage aboard a ship; and Tim Hall’s Shadow of the Wolf, launching a YA trilogy that offers a new take on the Robin Hood legend. Scheduled for June release is Jampires by Sarah McIntyre and David O’Connell, a picture book that solves the mystery of why the filling disappears from jelly doughnuts. And capping off the launch list in July is Dave Shelton’s Thirteen Chairs, a YA roundup of 13 ghost stories that shape one larger tale as well.
Berger, who is working closely with Scholastic v-p and group publisher Lori Benton on David Fickling Books, called the line “a carefully curated list of fresh voices and quality storytelling that will reach a wide range of readers through our retail distribution as well as our school distribution channels. David Fickling has built an amazing reputation of developing talent, and we’re thrilled to welcome him back to the Scholastic family.”
As always, quality storytelling is at the core of Fickling’s current publishing mission. “I may be boasting when I refer to David Fickling Books as the home of the story,” he said, “but I work with some amazing storytellers, who bring everything to their writing – almost like magic elves – to create the best possible stories they can. Story is at the heart of everything in our lives. I’ve always been excited by ‘What happens next?’ I feel blessed to be able to share these stories with readers. And I hope they can trust that any one of our books will bring them a good story. That’s really all that matters.”
Close to the Wind by Jon Walter. Scholastic/Fickling, $17.99 May ISBN 978-0-545-81662-5
Shadow of the Wolf by Tim Hall. Scholastic/Fickling, $18.99 May ISBN 978-0-545-81644-9
Jampires by Sarah McIntyre and David O’Connell. Scholastic/Fickling, $16.99 June ISBN 978-0-545-81663-2
Thirteen Chairs by Dave Shelton. Scholastic/Fickling, $17.99 July ISBN 978-0-545-82311-1