Little Island Books celebrates winning Irish Small Press of the Year 2019
‘We love to publish new writing and illustration, so if you have a book, do get in touch!’
Siobhán Parkinson: publisher with Little Island Books
Little Island Books, a three-person independent publisher of books for children and young people based in Dublin, last week won the Irish section of the inaugural Small Press of the Year awards sponsored by the Bookseller as part of the British Book Awards. This is a major achievement for a very small and relatively young company specialising in books for children.
Little Island was up against stiff competition on the Irish shortlist – the prestigious literary publisher Lilliput Press and the very fine history publisher Wordwell, which also publishes the magazine of record for the Irish publishing industry and book trade, Books Ireland.
Little Island published its first list in 2010, and has been publishing seven to 10 books a year for children and young people ever since. We specialise in discovering and nurturing new Irish talent in writing for children. We also have a commitment to bringing books in translation to English-speaking children. Both of these commitments expose us to difficult markets, and we are fortunate to be in receipt of funding from the Arts Council of Ireland.
This is not our first award by any means. In fact, we’ve built up quite a shelf!
Little Island currently has two titles, Dr Hibernica Finch’s Compelling Compendium of Irish Animals by Aga Grandowicz and Rob Maguire and Mucking About by John Chambers, on the Children’s Books Ireland Book of the Year shortlist.
Last year we had no fewer than four books on that shortlist. Our sumptuously produced and bestselling book for young adults, Tangleweed and Brine by Deirdre Sullivan, illustrated by Karen Vaughan, took the main Book of the Year award. We also won the Eilís Dillon award for a debut children’s book, with Meg Grehan’s The Space Between, and the Honour for Fiction, with Sheena Wilkinson’s Star by Star. Sheena has been shortlisted for the CBI awards more times than you had hot dinners last week, and has carried off several awards over the years, including the overall award, for Grounded.
Tangleweed and Brine also took the award in the young adult section of the general book trade’s Irish Book Awards in 2017, and Compelling Compendium was shortlisted in 2018.
Christine Hamill’s hilarious The Best Medicine won the British award known as the Lollies (for funny books for kids) in 2017, a major achievement for a debut children’s book published by a small Irish publisher up against the giant UK publishing companies.
And not quite an award but certainly an accolade: Patricia Forde’s Bumpfizzle the Best on Plantet Earth was Dublin Unesco City of Literature’s Citywide Read this year and is available in all Dublin libraries; you’ll also find it in the bookshops.
We are always on the lookout for authors whose careers we can support over time and we are particularly jubilant when the writers Little Island has been nurturing over several books win awards.
One of our proudest boasts is that we are still publishing Sheena Wilkinson and Deirdre Sullivan, whose first novels appeared on our own first list in 2010 – two very fine writers whose reputations have grown over the years.
We love to work in collaboration with other likeminded people.
Lucinda Jacob’s Hopscotch in the Sky, illustrated by Lauren O’Neill – a poetry book, free-to-download poetry kit and an audiobook (poems read by Jennifer Johnston with accompanying songs and music by Enda Reilly) – was produced in collaboration with Poetry Ireland.
Our very handsome collection of short stories and poems Once upon a Place, compiled by Eoin Colfer and illustrated by PJ Lynch, was a joint Little Island/Children’s Books Ireland publication during Eoin’s laureateship.
Last year we worked pro bono with various educational bodies to produce Kevin Mc Dermott’s novella Mary’s Shadow for distribution to Deis and JCSP schools. We know that great work goes on in these schools. Kevin is very often at the heart of that work and we are delighted to support it.
It is such fun to find books from other countries that can open children’s eyes to different ways of looking at the world.
All Better, an illustrated collection of poems for small children about illness and recovery, was originally published in Latvian. We are delighted with how the Irish poet Catherine Ann Cullen reimagined the poems for English-speaking children. Great for when your child needs to visit the doctor or have a procedure in hospital.
Declaration of the Rights of Boys and Girls is a delightful and warm-hearted picturebook from France, whose serious message is conveyed with energy and humour.
And as for Not without my Tractor – the illustrations are so bold and striking that any young tractor fan is going to run away with this book, originally written in German. This book will hit the shops in June.
Onwards and upwards
We are constantly on the lookout for new authors and new books. We have an open submissions policy, which means that anyone can submit a book to us on our website, where you will find guidelines about what it is that we are looking for. We love to support and publish new talent in writing and illustration, so if you have a book then please do get in touch!
You can also buy our books on our website, of course. So it’s well worth a visit to littleisland.ie.
Siobhán Parkinson is publisher with Little Island Books and author of Rocking the System: Fearless and Amazing Irish Women who Made History