• The Publishing Post

Spotlighting Debut Children’s and YA Fiction

By Michaela O’Callaghan, Annabella Costantino, Aimee Haldron and Joanne Boustead Children’s publishing has such a variety of genres and formats to explore and with new emerging authors, it’s always exciting to see debut titles gain positive attention. Debuts are an integral part of the publishing landscape and make space for fresh perspectives from authors of all backgrounds. Publishers are always finding different ways to promote kids’ books with creative campaigns, so let’s look at some current and upcoming debuts in middle grade and YA!


Middle Grade


Libby and the Parisian Puzzle by Jo Clarke (3 March)


This fast-paced and fun detective debut is published by Firefly Press and written by Jo Clarke, who is known throughout the bookish community as @bookloverjo. Jo has been an immense supporter of children’s books across social media and her blog, so it has been lovely to see the community support her debut. Libby and the Parisian Puzzle was published earlier this month, with a blog tour running from publication date. To make the blog tour extra fun, a scavenger hunt has been organised across the blog stops to find a mysterious word! The second in the Travelling School Mysteries series takes place in Scotland, under the name Libby and the Highland Heist. You can find out more here and pre-order if you like what you see!

Skandar and the Unicorn Thief by A.F. Steadman (28 April)


To be published by Simon & Schuster next month, this book has already received huge amounts of praise from children’s booksellers and authors alike, pitching itself as the new children’s fantasy series of 2022. With the rights now acquired in thirty-four territories, A.F. Steadman’s success story is quite the tale. For fans of Amari and the Night Brothers and Beast Quest, this magical debut will not fail to deliver an epic adventure to your bookshelf! You can read more about the author’s publication journey on The Bookseller website and pre-order here.

Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun by Tọlá Okogwu (9 June)


Another Simon & Schuster title, this empowering book is bound to catch your attention when it hits bookshops this summer. With psychokinetic Afro hair and children with superpowers, Tọlá Okogwu is going all out with her debut novel! Packed full of fast-paced action, lovers of Black Panther and X-Men will adore this coming of age story full of superhero goodness, all set against a sci-fi Nigerian backdrop. Keep your eyes peeled for the Netflix original by Will Smith. This book is available to pre-order here, and be sure to follow the author on social media!


Young Adult


The Ivory Key by Akshaya Raman (4 January)


Previously released by Hot Key Books in the New Year, this book is the first in a magical duology celebrating ancient Indian culture. Since its publication, the book has been a roaring success in the YA community, receiving many glowing reviews through an extensive blog tour. This stirred up a great level of anticipation around this author’s work, which is full of royalty, magic and family. Fantasy titles are very popular in this area of children’s books, and this book is no exception. You can hear Raman talk more about The Ivory Key here and order your copy online now!

Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tann (20 January)


This YA fantasy novel is written by Malaysian writer Sue Lynn Tan and published by Harper Voyager. Inspired by Chinese mythology, this novel is already out in hardback with a stunning cover and is part of a romantic duology. For this debut, it was important to get the attention of the passionate YA community through author endorsements from Fantasy heavyweights such as Stephanie Garber, author of the Caraval series. Waterstones has supported this title with an exclusive edition and a blog exploring Sue Lynn Tan’s inspiration behind the novel. This book sits well as YA or Adult, and careful pitching of this title to Fantasy fans has already made it a Sunday Times Bestseller – find out more here.


The Balloon Thief by Aneesa Marufu (3 March)


Inspired by Aneesa Marufu’s South Asian heritage and published by Chicken House, The Balloon Thief tells the tale of Khadija, a Ghadaean girl whose destiny is marriage and boredom. Khadija’s story is about finding acceptance, companionship and the difficulty of finding a safe place in the world. The Balloon Thief opens up discussions about racism and extremism and draws from Aneesa’s own experiences with Islamophobia. This debut was the winner of the Kimberley Chambers Kickstart Prize in 2019 and weaves Islamic folklore, mythology and personal experience into a magical new fantasy world. To help promote the book, advanced reader copies were rolled out – beautifully wrapped in the style of the front cover and tied off with a golden bow! Keep up to date with Aneesa on her Instagram @aneesa.marufu and discover more about The Balloon Thief here.


With many more publication days on the horizon, it’s safe to say we will definitely be keeping our eyes peeled for more debuts over the next few months!


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