A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to receive a rather snazzy invite in the post to Penguin Random House Children's 2016 showcase. There, they would be talking about the highlights of what they are publishing this year, and Clare Balding, Malorie Blackman, Simon Mayo and Robin Stevens amongst others were also due to attend.
Fast forward to 21st March and there I was, in the building where most of my favourite books had been brought to life. Before I started blogging, I hadn't heard of most of the publishers I'm now in contact with, but I've always been aware of Penguin. They published my favourite books as a child and continued to do so as I grew up. As far as I knew, nothing short of magic happened in those offices - and now I was inside the place where it all happened.
We then got to see the pre-school books being released this year, including The Bumblebear by Nadia Shireen, out in May. It's such a sweet picture book about a bear who loves honey and wears a bee onesie, and Shireen showed us how to draw him. Here is my masterpiece:
I also liked the look of Goodnight Spaceman by Michelle Robinson, out in April and inspired by British astronaut Tim Peake, and The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots by Beatrix Potter and illustrated by Quentin Blake, rediscovered after 100 years and out in September.
Then we were shown the highlights of all the wonderful primary-age fiction coming out this year, including some fun new editions of Roald Dahl's books, which I believe came out last month to celebrate his centenary and The BFG film hitting cinemas this summer (I'm so excited for that!). Out in April are Knights of the Borrowed Dark by Dave Rudden, from which the author himself treated us to a reading, and Broken Heart Club by the wonderful Cathy Cassidy. The much-loved Rick Riordan is releasing The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle in May, and with an appearance from Percy Jackson himself, this is apparently not to be missed. Confession: I've never read any of Rick Riordan's books, but seeing as everyone seems to love them, I might have to give one a go at some point.
September brings national treasure Clare Balding's debut children's book, The Racehorse Who Wouldn't Gallop, which she read from and talked about at the event. In October, McFly's Tom Fletcher is releasing his first children's novel, The Christmasaurus. We watched his announcement video which is so genius that you should go and watch it right now. Come straight back, though.
Done? Good, because now I'm going to talk about what I am most excited for: 2016's YA titles. Out already is a book which I picked up at the event, Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit. It's a gorgeous hardback which I am so looking forward to reading, and it's said to be perfect for fans of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.
Out in April is Malorie Blackman's long-awaited new book, Chasing the Stars. It was so interesting to hear her talk about the writing process, and I really wanted to meet her at the buffet afterwards but unfortunately I am Not Good At Mingling™.
May brings the paperback edition of Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella which, if you've read my review, you'll know I absolutely loved and hugely related to. Definitely worth reading.
In July, And I Darken by Kiersten White is published, which was described as being like a 'feminist Game of Thrones' and 'the new obsession for fans of The Hunger Games.' Sold.
Also out that month is Blame by radio presenter Simon Mayo. What happens when society wants you banged up in prison for a crime your parents committed? It was really interesting to hear about the inspiration behind it and, described as being 'blockbuster reading for the Netflix generation', I'm very much looking forward to reading it.
Lastly, we have Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven, author of the New York Times bestseller All the Bright Places which I reviewed here. Instead of Violet and Finch, this one focuses on Jack, who can't recognise faces, and Libby, who is so heavy she had to be lifted out of her house by a crane. This is out in October and I need it nowwwww. Thanks.
They're not all the books being published by Penguin this year - there are lots more, trust me - but these are the ones I'm most excited about. We also got a sneak peek and a very early copy of a 2017 release (I KNOW) called The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr which I cannot wait to read. We saw the trailer and it looked spectacularly eerie and intriguing. I've read one of Barr's adult books before and really enjoyed it, so I'm sure her foray into YA will be equally good.
After hearing about all the bookish goodness Penguin has planned for us this year, we were treated to lots and lots of food including mountains of fruit and mountains of (delicious) brownies. I was NOT OKAY. But I remained calm and professional in the presence of both free food and amazing authors because I am a naturally cool, collected and sophisticated person. Obviously. I really wanted to say hello to people but I have issues.
Amber, I hear you ask, what did you get in your many goody bags which made your fingers swell up and your upper arms actually develop muscles?
And that was the end of that. It was amazing to be there and know that so much bookish magic was happening so close to where I was sat munching on half a strawberry and trying not to create mess. Stored somewhere in the very same building was likely to be an early draft of a new book by a future favourite author that I haven't even heard of yet. Somewhere, eye-catching covers were being designed, and another (brilliant) video being planned for the awesome Penguin Platform channel.
Maybe next time I go to Penguin it'll be to sign my book deal and I can be like, wow, remember when I last came here as an awkward 17-year-old and drew a bear in a onesie and now I have my life together? Life goals, right there.
Big thank you to the wonderful word magicians at Penguin for the invite, and I can't wait to get started on their 2016 titles.
Have any of the books in this post caught your eye?