Thursday 20 December 2012

10th day of Christmas: Fiction Editor Kirsten Armstrong and Picture Book Editor Joe Marriot of Tamarind Books

Fiction Editor AND Picture Book Editor of the wonderful Tamarind Books! Blimey!

Joe Marriott studied English at Leeds University. He has worked as an editor for a legal publisher and then for an independent children’s publisher, Mantra Lingua. He joined Random House Children’s Publishing as picture book editor in 2011, with a particular responsibility for the Tamarind imprint.

Kirsten Armstrong studied English at Oxford University, before completing an interdisciplinary MA at York University. She began her career in educational publishing and moved to Random House Children’s Publishers in 2011. She spent a year working for the David Fickling Books imprint, and now works across the Random House fiction list with special responsibility for the Tamarind imprint.

Tamarind Books was founded by Verna Wilkins in 1987 with the mission of redressing the balance of diversity in children’s publishing. Tamarind still exists to put diversity ‘in the picture’. Find out more

On the tenth day of Christmas, we’d love Santa to send both of us…

A brilliant story that features children from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds in leading roles. Really exciting, rip-roaring texts, or stunning, top-quality illustrations, but with a multicultural cast of characters.

Here's a totally selective selection of Tamarind books featuring our very own Addy Farmer and NFTSP friends Malaika Rose Stanley and Odette Elliott

We strongly believe that all children should be able to see themselves in the books they read, and feel represented. We would like to see more portrayals of diverse families – so perhaps children with two mums or two dads, mixed race families, or families whose members have a disability. However, these stories need to stand up in their own right, and have the ability to be enjoyed by everyone. We’re not usually looking for ‘issue’ books, where diversity itself is the theme.

Picture Book Editor Joe  says:

I’m looking for texts that really make me laugh – I love dry, witty books with lots of character: I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen, Dogs Don’t Do Ballet by Anna Kemp and Churchill’s Tale of Tails by Anca Sandu are all examples of recent books that have made me laugh: more of that, please!

I’d like to see completely fresh takes on the central themes that speak to children – lots of exciting new twists. It would be exciting to discover someone like Emily Gravett, or a team like Janet and Allan Ahlberg, who have created books that feel enormously imaginative and original.

Even if the core concepts are the same – it would be great to see innovative execution and completely fresh interpretations of old ideas. It’s exciting to feel that something is unique and has never been done before.

Fiction Editor Kirsten says:

At the risk of sounding repetitive (that’s the problem with posting on Day 10!) I would also love to receive a great mystery! I grew up with Nancy Drew and Miss Marple, and these are the stories I love the most.

A reboot of classic children's mystery fiction Nancy Drew and Miss Marple as played by Margaret Rutherford in the 1960s

I’d like to see a tightly-constructed plot with twists and turns, and brilliantly intriguing clues for the reader to try and piece together. Something clever and page-turning, with three-dimensional characters. Something like a children’s literary equivalent of this brilliant, brilliant series:

I would also like to find a manuscript that surprises me, and makes me think. A beautifully-written text that leads the reader in an unexpected and original direction. Preferably with gorgeous illustrations as well. Here are two recent examples that I adore:

Here are the amazing illustrations juxtaposed with the book covers of A Boy and a Bear in a Boat by Dave Shelton and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness


  1. Tamarind Books are fab - I hope that you get all you wish for!

  2. Wow! The Boy and a Bear in a boat and I want my hat back is featured ever so often. A great list of examples.


  3. Wow all the editors want mysteries! Mystery series were what made me fall for reading as a child. There's going to be a lucky bunch of kids in two years time when these books emerge! Thanks for this enlightening and inspiring contribution, Kirsten and Joe!

  4. A Monster Calls is my book of the year - great choices.

    1. It has to be doesn't it because of the combination of wow images and amazing words!

      But you know if it were just about story ... my book of the year (and the shortlist is particularly LONG this year so I am putting my neck on the line) would be 15 Days Without a Head by Dave Cousins. Having said that my to-read pile is towering. Haven't read some of the most acclaimed books of 2012 yet and have been putting off reading some books by friends until after I finish my own book! Something to look forward to!

  5. Kirsten Armstrong20 December 2012 at 10:28

    Ooh, I haven't read Fifteen Days Without a Head - thanks for the recommendation!

    1. 15 Days Without a Head has the warmth that Anne Clark mentions on her post. Unfortunately I bought it on the kindle which meant I couldn't get Dave to sign it. I may buy it again just to get that signature. This could be good for authors!

  6. Thanks for a fab post, Joe and Kirsten, I'm very pleased to see you're looking for a picture book team.

  7. A question for Joe please: what is the top end age of your picture book readers? It seems to me at the moment most of the publishers are aiming for 0 to 3. Thank you for this informatiove blog. Angie

  8. Thank you for introducing me to Tamarind books! Thank you also to Joe, it is really interesting and useful to hear what you are looking for in picture books.


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