You’ve had some big hits in recent years, in particular with the Narwhal and Jelly series by Ben Clanton. Is the momentum continuing in 2018?
We are having a fantastic year, with sales up double digits over 2017. Much of this can, indeed, be attributed to our rocketing sales for the Narwhal and Jelly series, including the release of the newest title, Peanut Butter and Jelly, in March. However, even with Narwhal’s performance aside, we are also seeing growth in picture books and chapter books, like our latest series for emerging readers, Megabat by Anna Humphrey, illustrated by Kass Reich. We’ve also seen some very nice numbers for our growing middle grade list, including Rachelle Delaney’s Clara Voyant.
Are there other surprising or perennial titles selling well?
There is Elly MacKay’s Red Sky at Night, a collection of weather folklore illustrated by her distinctive paper art, which has also found a solid readership and was our top-selling picture book of the summer. The first two titles in our board book series inspired by Anne of Green Gables and created by Kelly Hill, Anne’s Colors and Anne’s Numbers, are also doing particularly well in Canada and the U.S. And we brought the adorable Petra, written and illustrated by Italy’s Marianna Coppo, to North American readers. In addition to garnering three starred reviews, Petra is one of our bestselling picture books of the year.
Is that book representative of the types of relationships you are building globally?
Tundra has always had excellent rights sales, particularly in terms of picture books and Susin Nielsen’s novels, which have a fantastic international track record. This fall we’re also publishing Linda Bailey’s biographical picture book Mary, Who Wrote Frankenstein, which has sold in a number of countries, including the U.K. and Spain, where the book’s illustrator, Júlia Sardà, lives. We’ve also made a name for ourselves as the North American home for international creators among foreign or non-English language publishers and also with the creators themselves.
Does this include working with French-language Canadian publishers?
Yes. For example, we work closely with the prestigious Quebec publisher La Pastèque, bringing titles such as The Pink Umbrella, written by Amélie Callot and illustrated by Geneviève Godbout, and The Golden Glow by Benjamin Flouw, to an English-language market, and they have translated a number of our picture books, including Colette’s Lost Pet by Isabelle Arsenault and The Fog by Kyo Maclear and Kenard Pak into French.
Are there any books that are already starting to build for the holiday season?
There has been lots of excitement for Goodnight, Anne by Kallie George, illustrated by Geneviève Godbout, a picture book inspired by Anne of Green Gables. L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series makes up a large portion of our backlist sales, and Goodnight, Anne is one in a list of new titles we are publishing inspired by this Canadian-born, internationally beloved literary icon. This gentle, pitch-perfect bedtime story is a must-have for the millions of Anne fans out there, but is also the perfect gift book.
Finally, you added a new, important member to your team.
We hired John Martz as our art director. John is a cartoonist and an author-illustrator in his own right, whose books have been nominated for the Eisner Award and the Governor General’s Literary Award. The look and design of our books is hugely important to us—the Tundra list is known for its beautiful, eye-catching books—so having an art director at the helm who knows and understands the needs of writers and illustrators and has such a strong knowledge of and passion for children’s books is a tremendous boon for our program.