A New Zealand children's book company launched only this year has won one of the world's biggest publishing awards.

OneTree House was named Best Children's Publisher of the Year (Oceania) at the Bologna Children's Book Fair in Italy on Monday evening. Remarkably, it was nominated for the Bologna prize before it even published its first books on the strength of its planned titles alone.

That left founders Jenny Nagle and Christine Dale "gob-smacked, astonished and obviously delighted" but to actually win the prize for Oceania (Australia, NZ and the Pacific) has stunned the two women whose headquarters are their respective kitchen tables in their Ellerslie homes.

Nagle, who travelled to Italy, called Dale yesterday morning with news of the win and asked, "Are you sitting down?"

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"I was just amazed, absolutely blown away," says Dale, who is yet to see the judges' statement on why OneTree House beat four Australian publishers and one other from NZ, Oratia Press.

Now in its sixth year, the prize acknowledges publishers in six areas of the world: Africa, Central and South America, North America, Asia, Europe and Oceania. Nominees are considered to have stood out for their creativity, courage and quality of their editorial choices; Wellington's Gecko Press won the inaugural Oceania award in 2013.

OneTree House's first six books were published this month; one, Sticking with Pigs by Mary-Anne Scott, is already on the NZ best sellers lists. In all, it will put out 43 titles for children and young adults this year: picture, junior fiction and YA books; bilingual editions — for babies, early language learning and educational resources to reflect NZ's growing multiculturalism — and Te Reo Maori titles.

OneTree House was named Best Children's Publisher of the Year (Oceania) at the Bologna Children's Book Fair.
OneTree House was named Best Children's Publisher of the Year (Oceania) at the Bologna Children's Book Fair.

The Bologna Children's Book Fair is now in its 55th year and attracts around 26,000 publishers, authors, illustrators and literary agents from more than 100 countries. It means the win will bring global attention to the fledgling company which could be particularly valuable for its bilingual books in Te Reo, Samoan, Hindi, Korean and Mandarin.

Beloved children's author Joy Cowley was one of five international authors nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Award. While the award is made by the International Board on Books for Young People, it is presented at the Bologna fair and regarded as the highest international prize for children's book authors and illustrators.

This year's winners were Eiko Kadono of Japan for Writing and Russia's Igor Oleynikov for Illustration but OneTree House's award gave a strong NZ contingent in Bologna reason to celebrate.

With help from Creative NZ, the Publishers Association of NZ (PANZ) has a stand for the first time at the fair allowing several local publishers to take their books to the world. Award-winning illustrator Donovan Bixley delivers a workshop and a talk as will fellow NZ illustrator/publisher Martin Bailey.