You could call it the Greta Thunberg effect. British publishers are now scrambling to find teen activists. Jonathan Cape has just won a 14-publisher auction for Birdgirl: This is My World the “inspirational” debut by 18-year-old environmental activist Mya-Rose Craig. This follows 16 year-old Northern Irish check author Dara McAnulty becoming the youngest ever winner of a major literary award with his Diary of a Young Naturalist (Little Toller) which claimed the Wainwright Prize for UK Nature Writing.
Cape Publishing director Michal Shavit acquired UK and Commonwealth rights in Birdgirl from Claire Paterson Conrad at Janklow & Nesbit for publication in autumn 2022. The book is billed as “a wondrous memoir about a young woman’s passion for birds, an inspiring activist’s journey towards environmental and racial justice, and a deeply moving story about family and mental health”.
Craig is a British Bangladeshi from the Chew Valley near Bristol. She is a prominent birder, naturalist, conservationist, environmentalist, race activist, writer, speaker and broadcaster who has written the Birdgirl blog since January 2014 when she was 11 years old. The site is extremely popular with both adults and children alike and now has more than 4 million views.
She has travelled all her life, visiting all seven continents when she was 13 years old, and she says this has given her a global perspective on conservation and the needs of indigenous peoples. She writes posts about birding, nature, stopping climate breakdown, conservation and stopping species loss, other environmental issues and racism from around the world. She is also particularly keen on opening up the world of nature to ethnic minorities and challenging the white male dominance seen in the environmental sector.
Her book also deals with how, throughout her childhood and into her teens, she watched her mother battle a diagnosis of bi-polar disorder. The publisher says: “The book will highlight how the family’s love of birds helped them to heal the trauma of a mental health crisis, moving out of the darkness and into light by looking up at the sky. Birdgirl will be a manifesto for hope, for a saner, fairer world, and one that will be as page-turning as it is inspiring, particularly for fans of Greta Thunberg [the Swedish climate change activist[, Malala Yousafzai [the Pakistani campaigner for female education who won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2014] and Helen Macdonald [the British author of the acclaimed memoir Hawk]”.
Rights have already been sold in a string of other territories with Celadon winning a US auction and pre-empts in Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. In the US, FSG Children’s has acquired the YA rights for a graphic novel. Arabic rights are still available.
Meanwhile, the tiny British independent Little Toller is enjoying considerable success with McAnulty’s book, with rights sold in 18 territories, though not Arabic Nasher understands.
Shavit says: “At only 18, Mya-Rose has done and achieved more than many achieve in a lifetime. This book, which combines her love of nature and in particular, birds, is a letter of love to that world, and to family and mental well-being. It’s an inspirational book of beautiful nature writing that will speak to young and old alike. We couldn’t be prouder to be publishing her at Cape.”