And we’re back!

Begone, hiatus! Lets bring back the most vital space for discussing Aotearoa’s fabulous kids books! Editor Sarah hands over the reins to Linda Jane and both put in a call for greater diversity on the page and behind it.

For me, Sarah, this is a farewell and a welcome, to our new lead editor Linda Jane Keegan. I’m still here, but I just won’t be commissioning quite as much content (if any) and I’ll mainly stay in a supporting role.

In the past year, I have received, and this year finally gave my speech for the Storylines Betty Gilderdale Award. I spoke about the importance of all kids seeing themselves in books. It is also important for all adults to see themselves in the book industry, so when we diversify books, we are doing it with those who couldn’t previously see themselves in them.

This year’s recipient of the Betty Gilderdale Award, should-be-Dame (surely will be?) Libby Limbrick is extremely deserving, as are all those who came before me. But those of us who have received this honour are overwhelmingly Pākehā, and overwhelmingly female! Browsing the list throws up one visibly Māori face, in Kāterina Te Heikōkō Mataira, but there are no Asian or Pasifika faces in those recognised. This award is peer-nominated, which tells you a lot about the number of Pākehā (including myself) in the children’s book space in Aotearoa.  

Next year, you can expect to see us bring you a list of people we think may be worth nominating for their dedication to diverse kids’ literature in Aotearoa.

Sarah and her family at the Storylines Betty Gilderdale Award presentation

I’m more than happy to be handing the reins to The Sapling to Linda Jane, who is Singaporean and Pākeha. It’s been a privilege to bring this site to life with Jane Arthur, and to keep it going through several editorial changes over the past five years, and I know Linda Jane is going to pick it up and run with it. I’m already blown away by the content she is commissioning, and I can’t wait to read The Sapling every time it publishes, and to help her from the background.

One thing I’ve enjoyed about my break is reading to my kids again. And the lack of shoulder pain—a pain which I dubbed my ‘Sapling shoulder’, and which was constant for the last six months of running it. The literal weight of expectations, I guess. Bodies are weird, huh.

Now, we have a fantastic new, easier to manage, back end thanks to Ed and Eleanor at Pixelboom. It won’t look too different to those of you who know and love us—but we are now able to put macrons in our title font (!) and our styles are baked in, meaning no pesky random orange Times New Roman 11pt where we intended to have Open Sans 14pt.

I’ll still be here—but all future correspondence can be to Linda Jane, Briar, and Nida, and our new 19-year-old editor Hannah Marshall. Let’s see where we go now!

– Sarah

Kia ora koutou katoa! Linda Jane here. I’m so excited that The Sapling is coming back to life, and honoured to be in a position to grow with it. I’m a relative newcomer to the scene; I’m better known as someone who runs really weirdly and sometimes has Opinions. Some of those opinions are much like Sarah’s—about genuine diversity in not only who we see in children’s and YA books, but who is creating and publishing them.

There have been a few conversations already this year about diversity in character and content—Hairy Maclary’s all-male cast, the apparent abundance of birds and farts—which Hannah is going to have some words on very soon. (My quick two cents is that good ol’ HM isn’t problematic on its own, but forms part of a canon of dominantly male characters in children’s literature; and as for the bird books well I’m guilty as charged I guess?!).

But there needs to be conversation about who is writing these diverse characters. Sarah already mentioned—almost exactly a year ago—a stereotypical Chinese villain in her reckons on Newsroom, and just today I opened a (US-published) teen magazine, published in 2022, with the most boringly racist tripe of a novelty menu akin to that of Bamboozle a few years ago. I’m an adult and I felt hurt by it. When we have greater diversity in published authors and illustrators, and easy access to their books, we will get to see a much wider range of characters who represent us—all of us.

Linda Jane and one of those godforsaken bird books

I hope to add to the excellent conversations The Sapling has started over the years, and continue to celebrate the wonderful books our community is putting out into the world. I won’t be afraid to have difficult conversations, if that means moving toward more of the good stuff, and less of the not-so-good stuff.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I am a bit afraid. But only because I might make mistakes. I might get it wrong. I can’t speak for everyone, or maybe even anyone, but I will do my best to advocate for a community that recognises and celebrates all kinds of people, whether they be the characters or their creators.

It’s spring and The Sapling is ready to spread its roots, branch out and bloom. I’m delighted to be taking up the mantle with our team of editors and hope we can do our children’s literature industry justice.

– Linda Jane

P.S. Please enjoy our shiny new site! And do let us know if you spot any broken links or anything else that doesn’t seem right. We are still working on fixing the layout of the old content so there are still some funky (i.e. weirdly formatted) pages but please just send us a message if you see anything that needs attention!