5th Jun '12



Festival season is well and truly upon us and literature festivals are as popular as ever before. In particular, the children's programmes of the major literature festivals in the UK have grown in their popularity year-on-year. The Telegraph is the media sponsor for both the Bath Kids' Lit' Fest and the children's programme at the Hay Festival of Literature. I asked the Telegraph's children's literary critic, Lorna Bradbury, why she feels festivals are a great way to celebrate all that's good in the children's book world:

"Children's books are currently thriving – whether you're talking about illustrated picture books for toddlers or, at the other end of the spectrum, the recent explosion in excellent fiction for teenagers. Literary festivals are a big part of what we do at the Telegraph, and we are lucky enough to sponsor the two leading children's festivals: Hay Fever, which takes place later this month, with a terrific line-up including Philippa Gregory, Lauren Child and Francesca Simon, and the Bath Festival of Children's Literature, in September. These festivals are important for us because they make our alliances with children's writers more publicly prominent – and this in turn nourishes our coverage in the paper and online. Perhaps one reason that children's festivals are growing in popularity has to do with how creatively programmed they are. Children's writers are among the best performers out there."

Last year Freddie Rawlins, age 11, went to his first ever literary festival, the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Here on The sCoop!, Freddie tells us all about the experience and about why he can’t wait to hit the festival circuit again this year:

“When I went to Edinburgh last summer I was blown away! I’d never have considered going to a book festival but I got the chance to go to Edinburgh with my mum and it really set the bar. To me, book festivals are all about meeting the creators of other worlds and seeing the pure genius that went into books like CHERUB and the Skulduggery series. I think a book festival is all about escaping into fantasy.

We first went to see Cathy Cassidy, who talked about where she writes and the environment she likes to write in. I enjoyed her talking about how a small caravan in her garden inspired her new book. We then joined the queue for Robert Muchamore. He was brilliant talking about the reason that he writes for children but still uses more realistic and adult vocabulary. I loved the book signing afterwards and because my mum was an author (Sophia Bennett) I was allowed in the authors’ tent where I spoke to Robert Muchamore about his new book The Prisoner.

But I have to say my favourite author was Derek Landy. He spoke without any script or podium, explaining that as a child he loved 1940’s fast-speaking detectives and that’s what Skulduggery is based on. Derek spoke about Skulduggery as if he was a real person. He was entertaining, enthusiastic and hilarious! His new book had just come out and I had got it signed and had read it by the time we got home. Can’t wait for this year!”

Festival season kicks off with the wonderful Hay Festival. You can catch some great Chicken House authors in action this week, on the children’s programme, Hay Fever:

Daniel Blythe

Author of Shadow Runners, and Doctor Who novel writer, Daniel Blythe, will unlock the secrets of creating strange and mysterious worlds.

Event HF80 • Wednesday 6 June 2012, 11.30am • Venue: Starlight Stage

William Osborne (with H.M. Castor)

Hollywood script-writer and debut children’s novelist William Osborne, will talk about the blending of fact and fiction in his faced-paced adventure Hitler’s Angel.

Event HF103 • Thursday 7 June 2012, 1pm • Venue: Starlight Stage

Sophia Bennett

Author of the Threads series and The Look (and Freddie’s mum!), Sophia Bennett will be joined by Bliss magazine as she talks to teens about the challenges of following your dreams.

Event HF109 • Thursday 7 June 2012, 4pm • Venue: Digital Stage

Don't forget to check out Lorna Bradbury's great weekly column in the Telegraph, 'Ask Lorna', which answers readers' letters, and presents children's books, both old and new, in a useful way for parents and grandparents.

24th May '12

Subject HAUNTERS REVIEW by Freddie Rawlins, Aged 11

ByTina & Freddie

To celebrate the launch of Haunters by Thomas Taylor here's a review almost as blistering as the book itself by our very own book-eating boy, Freddie Rawlins (aged 11):

"Haunters is an incredible take on the traditional ghost stories told around the fire. Thomas Taylor’s idea about ghosts coming from the future is innovative and surprising. In Haunters, nothing is certain: the past, present, or future.

Eddie, Adam and David can all ‘dreamwalk’; when they sleep, they appear in the past as ghosts. But when the past is changed, so is the future. There are the scientists and historians who are working for a greater knowledge of history. Then there is ‘The Haunting’, a sinister organisation that manipulates history for riches and fame. However, there’s a catch – no one over the age of 18 can dreamwalk, meaning that the fate of history rests with children.

This is a book that when you stop reading it feels like a part of you is missing. The characters all have their own mysterious pasts – and each glimpse of their pasts gives the reader a new perspective of them. The book is an adventure story and has an element of psychology but it’s not just a ghost story. If David doesn’t stop Adam, then no one, in any time, will be safe."

This is Freddie's second review for Chicken House, but he's already a hit! He's been spotted by First News and picked as a Red House Reader. Keep up the good work Freddie and we'll buy you an ice cream!

3rd May '12



To celebrate the release of William Osborne's rip-roaring adventure Hitler's Angel we are featuring the very first review by Chicken House' young book reviewer, Freddie Rawlins (pictured). Over the coming months, Freddie (aged 11) will be sharing his thoughts on all the latest Chicken House titles. So hold on to your tin-hats and get ready to bunker down:


"Hitler’s Angel is about two children sent behind enemy lines to retrieve a mysterious package that could bring down Hitler for good, but what lies in their path? The main characters, Leni and Otto, are recruited in London by British Intelligence as a last hope to turn the tide of the war. Going to England had been a dream for both of them but now they have to face their worst nightmare and return to Nazi Germany.

This book by William Osborne is a good combination of Robert Muchamore's ‘Henderson’s Boys’-style fiction and World War II fact; with real characters, such as Heinrich Himmler, who William Osborne really seems to bring to life. The story is aimed at boys and girls aged 10 to 13. With both emotional and serious moments the book has a deeper meaning, while the action is unpredictable and exciting as stories intertwine effortlessly behind the scenes. The book seems set for a sequel and I hope there will be one as Osborne’s writing is inspiring and intriguing. "


If you would like to share your own reviews of any of our titles, why not tweet us the link @Chickenhsebooks or email us at chickenhouse@doublecluck.com?

15th Mar '12



While Chicken House are busy at Bologna, The Scoop! takes a look at how ‘Muncle Trogg’ got the international treatment, and became ‘Mikrus Troglodycki’ …

Muncle Trogg’s author, Janet Foxley, thought long and hard to find a name fit for the tiny, titular giant. She wanted something rooted in fact, that sounded story-bookish and fun:

“Muncle Trogg's name comes from both Latin and Greek. Muncle is the middle bit of the Latin word ‘hoMUNCULus’, which means ‘little man’. I just changed the spelling a bit, to make it look more like an English word. Muncle’s family name ‘Trogg’ comes from the word ‘troglodyte’, someone who lives in a cave or den. ‘Troglodyte’ comes from the Greek word ‘τρωγλοδύτής’, which is formed from two words meaning ‘to get into’ and ‘a hole’. I doubled the G to make it feel more substantial and finished.”

When the Polish publisher of Muncle Trogg, Bukowy Las, translated the text they took just as much care over finding a name for the little guy:

“After long hours and days of hard thinking (between the translators, editors and myself) we decided to change the english ‘Muncle Trogg’ into the Polish ‘Mikrus Troglodycki’. And we hope he will be really happy with this!

‘Mikrus’ means ‘titch’, ‘shorty’, ‘tot’, but this word is colloquial rather than pejorative in the Polish language. It has ancient Greek origin (micros is ‘small’ in Greek language) and its etymology you can find in all words starting with micro: microcosm, microbe, microlab etc. So it means the same as ‘Muncle’ but sounds better in Polish.

In ‘Troglodycki’ we saved the etymology of ‘Trogg’ and added the typical Polish gentry ending ‘–cki’ to the english surname so ‘Muncle/Mikrus’ is of noble birth in Poland. Isn’t it awesome?”

Well, who knew there was so much in a name?


Picture © Steve Wells

4th Feb '12

Subject Doubt and the Writer

ByMichelle Paver

If you are deliberating on whether or not you have what it takes to enter the Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition 2013, you might be heartened to know that it isn't just the novice who doubts his or her abilities. Even the most well-established and talented authors have those moments of self-doubt - kept awake by the nagging thought: 'Am I good enough?'

Here on The sCoop! Michelle Paver, the hugely successful bestselling author of the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, and one of the judges of The Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition 2012, shares with us her own feelings on that little devil called doubt:

"A while ago, I took part in a workshop for aspiring writers, and during the panel discussion, I mentioned that it had taken me 16 years to get published. Afterwards, a young woman from the audience came up to me and asked, a bit hesitantly, whether during that time I’d ever experienced any doubt.

I was genuinely startled. “Of course,” I replied as gently as I could, “every day for 16 years, and pretty much every day since then, too.” And I kicked myself for not having got this across during the discussion.

And this reminded me of the gulf that unpublished writers sometimes feel exists between themselves and those lucky souls whose books are sitting on the shelves in Waterstones. But the fact is, whether you’re published or not, doubt is part of a writer’s life. It goes with the territory.

Granted, what you worry about is probably different, depending on which side of the line you’re on. The aspiring writer may wonder, “Am I even remotely publishable? Or am I wasting my time? Am I any good?” Whereas the published writer may wonder, “Can I do it again? Have I taken a wrong turn? Am I any good?” But the doubts are there, just the same.

And that’s as it should be. Because if you don’t experience doubt – if you don’t constantly question yourself and your work – then how can you see what’s wrong with it, and make it better?

One final thing. It’s occurred to me that the idea that published writers are free of any doubt may have something to do with all those newspaper features about the author of the moment and her latest bestseller – complete with confidently smiling photo. Well, it might help to bear in mind that the morning after that interview was given, the author in question probably padded into her study with a mug of tea, and stood blinking at the blank page awaiting her on the desk – and thought, oh God, Chapter Nineteen. What if I can’t do it?"



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