"Everywhere else in the children’s book world I meet caution and nervousness.
Walker Books has managed to escape some of this, leaving space for experiment, fantasy, risk, wildness, quirkiness, oddity, beauty, jazz, feeling. It kinda reminds you of why you got into this malarkey in the first place.”
Michael Rosen, Author and children’s laureate
The best ideas are often simple ones, and Walker Books’ founder, Sebastian Walker, had a simple vision for the company: a publisher dedicated to creating the best stories and pictures for children everywhere. “All that counts,” he said, “is that a child says at the end of the book, ‘Again!’” Sebastian created Walker Books with colleagues Amelia Edwards and Wendy Boase in a spare bedroom. From those small beginnings, with just 18 books in 1980, we now create over 300 books per year.
We outgrew the spare bedroom years back, but we still have Sebastian’s ethos at heart and continue to be Britain’s leading independent children’s book publisher. We’ve also spread our wings, establishing a sister company, Candlewick Press, in the US in 1992 and Walker Books Australia in 1993.
Walker wouldn’t be Walker without the very best children's authors and artists: Allan Ahlberg, Jez Alborough, Lucy Cousins, Polly Dunbar, Martin Handford, Anthony Horowitz, Shirley Hughes, Jill Murphy, Helen Oxenbury, Mal Peet, Michael Rosen and Martin Waddell are just a few! It’s impossible to list all our stars here, so take a peek at our Authors and Artists gallery for more.
"I had been publishing for 20 years, constantly struggling to keep the wolf from the door, when in through that door came the Bear ... and the blending of words and image to create the perfect picture books took priority over everything else. The Bear’s way of doing things is a frightening, exciting, stimulating, exhausting process for all concerned … but it works. Long live the Bear!”
"For me, Walker Books is like a second family. I adore the fact that there’s a real personality to
the whole place; it’s hugely professional, and finicky about every tiny detail (aaargh!),
but it’s also quirky, very loving, and enormous fun.”
Walker’s commitment to doing things differently started in the 1980s when Sebastian launched a list of books by top authors with Sainsbury’s – a partnership which got great books out to parents and children everywhere.
It was also in 1985 that Helen Oxenbury created our Walker bear logo, and our books have worn him proudly ever since, we like to say “For the best children’s books, look for the bear”.
And the best children’s books started to be made in the 1980s, many of which were favourites then and classics now: Five Minutes' Peace by Jill Murphy; Can't You Sleep, Little Bear? by Martin Waddell and Barbara Firth, and We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury.
Plus we launched Martin Handford’s runaway success Where's Wally? in 1987, which has sold over 43 million copies to date worldwide.
"When Walker Books suggested to me the idea of creating a set of picture books for the very youngest age group I leapt at the opportunity. It was great to work with Walker on these books, and new ideas are still coming. As publishers they have made a hugely creative contribution to helping children to learn how to look, not only as an adjunct to learning to read but as a lifelong pleasure in itself, a springboard into all kinds of future delights.”
“Walker Books for me just means the best children's books you can get. Walker books just look lovelier than other books! Everyone at Walker is trying to do the same thing with every book they work on to make it the best it can possibly be. Every reader is a valued, respected reader, and everyone at Walker does their best for every reader.”
The 1990s was a decade full of new beginnings and anniversaries for Walker. We saw Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram sell 150,000 copies in the first four months of publication, going on to sell over 19 million copies worldwide!
Classics such as The Mousehole Cat by Antonia Barber and Nicola Bayley, Farmer Duck by Martin Waddell and Helen Oxenbury continued to win awards, and Maisy hit TV screens nationwide.
Sadly, Sebastian didn’t live to see these successes. He passed away in 1991 but ensured that his spirit lived on in the company – in its ambitions, enthusiasms and above all its independence: thanks to Sebastian, Walker is wholly owned by its staff, and by its authors and artists.
Wendy Boase, our editorial director and one of our co-founders, died in 1999, as did author Henrietta Branford. We still commemorate their lives and work in the annual Branford Boase Award, set up to celebrate an outstanding children's novel by a first-time author and their editor.
“The people at Walker Books love children’s books.
Open any of their books and you will see it and feel it. What else is there to say?”
“I can honestly say that if it hadn’t been for Walker Books, I would have given up writing for children about ten years
ago – and Alex Rider would never have been born. From the start the wonderful Wendy Boase offered me support and enthusiasm that I had never found elsewhere. This was true of everyone I met in the company and this is surely what makes Walker Books unique.’’
We celebrated our twentieth birthday in 2000 and continue to celebrate …
We welcomed Anthony Horowitz’s teenage spy Alex Rider to the Walker family and watched the seven Alex Rider titles sell more than 4 million copies in the UK and Ireland, and over 10 million worldwide!
And we’re proud to continue bringing you some of the brightest stars in children’s books, from past and present Children’s Laureates Michael Morpurgo and Michael Rosen, to award-winning illustrators John Burningham, Jimmy Liao and Polly Dunbar.
Here’s Jane Winterbotham, Publishing Director at Walker, to tell you more:
In 2010 Walker Books celebrated its 30th birthday with a stunning list of new books, and events up and down the UK. To mark this special year, we’ll be taking part in festivals and reading activities with partners like Readathon and the National Literacy Trust, while our authors and illustrators will be appearing in bookshops, schools and libraries entertaining thousands of children.
As well as Walker’s 30th, a number of our other favourite titles and characters have anniversaries this year: Maisy’s Show in the autumn marks 20 years of Maisy books, while both Judy Moody and Alex Rider celebrate their 10th – check out Judy Moody’s Way Wacky Uber Awesome Book of More Fun Stuff to Do, and the striking new cover look for the reissued Alex Rider series in the spring, including the paperback of the latest thrilling title, Crocodile Tears.
Where’s Wally? has just reached the amazing milestone of five million copies sold across the series: Where’s Wally? The Spectacular Poster Book is the latest to collect.
There are plenty of fun new characters to look out for: Hooey Higgins, The Mythical 9th Division and Bookaboo all make their debut on the list, while there are new adventures from Amy Green, Poppy Love, Stink and the ever-disgusting Fleabag Monkeyface.
New fiction comes from the greats: David Almond’s uplifting The Boy Who Climbed Into the Moon and Slog’s Dad, horror from Anthony Horowitz in More Bloody Horowitz, the final part of Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy Monsters of Men and the next instalment of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments trilogy City of Glass. Don’t miss brand new talent, Jandy Nelson’s breathtaking The Sky is Everywhere.
True to our reputation for great illustrated gift books, we’re recreating the classics as never seen before: a lavish illustrated edition of Ted Hughes’ The Iron Man, Patrick Dillon’s narrative Story of Britain with glorious pictures by PJ Lynch, a stunning Greek Myths from Ann Turnbull and Sarah Young, and Gods and Heroes from the masters of pop-up, Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart.
Action, fun, adventure, passion, entertainment – it’s all here in our 30th anniversary list. Read and enjoy!
"My sister once told me I had the best job in the world, and I’ve been thinking: I think what Walker Books really means to me is never having to smell the smell in a crisp factory again, and being able to do what come naturally in my life, rather than what doesn’t.”
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What does Walker Books mean to me?
It means good lunches! Good parties.
Lots of heart, laughter and life.
Immense respect and consideration for artists, writers and the whole creative caboodle.
Warmth and generosity.
And finally over to Helen McAleer, Managing Director about Walker's vision for the future:
"We continue to be excited by the new: whether it’s a new author, a new format we haven’t explored before, like picture books with animated DVDs, or just a new way of doing things. That’s why we established Walker Productions in 2007: to develop our characters and stories in other media ourselves.
Over the years, many of our favourite characters and stories – Maisy and The Large Family to name two – now have second lives on TV, while Alex Rider leapt onto the big screen with Stormbreaker the movie. At Walker Productions we’re working with a range of world-class producers and animators, bringing books to life and creating environments in which yet more stories can unfold. We already have two series in development – and many more to follow.
It’s all very exciting – and thoroughly grown up. We're approaching our thirtieth birthday, but at heart we've never really grown up at all.
It’s one of the secrets of our success."
“One publisher above others we all love working for is Walker Books. Why so? They’re enthusiastic and passionate about getting books right: getting the best from the text, getting the best colour in the illustrations and getting the cover looking as striking as possible.”
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