1st May '15



It’s May day – and the first bank holiday weekend of the year! Chicken House is celebrating with true spring spontaneity: for 24 hours only, we’re accepting unsolicited submissions for mystery novels aimed at a middle grade (8-12) audience. If you’ve written a complete novel which fits these criteria, please email a one-page synopsis and the first three chapters of your manuscript to opencoop@doublecluck.com on MONDAY 4 MAY from 12am to 12 midnight.

We will read all submissions. If we would like to read your full manuscript, you'll hear from us within a month. Otherwise, you haven't been lucky this time, but watch out for the next Open Coop!

May the Fourth be with you…

30th Apr '15

Subject TOP 5 FRIDAY: Deaths


There’s nothing better than a good story – one that makes you fall in love with the heroes and heroines despite all their faults. But the trauma of their deaths is something hard to get over … This week, Laura Myers shares five of the most memorable deaths in children’s books – WARNING: MASSIVE SPOILERS ALERT!


1. SIRIUS BLACK in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling

The first significant death in Harry Potter – who didn’t cry when Sirius fell through the veil? Harry’s passionate reaction was painful to read, but Lupin’s restrained grief was the killer for me. Just when Harry had a father figure in his life, he was cruelly snatched away. And those last words were not fit to be the last words of someone so brave and loyal … *sob*

 2. AUGUSTUS WATERS in The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Augustus’ death was, in a word, harrowing. It was all the more painful because it was so real – agonizing and unheroic (in the traditional sense of the word). I put the book down and cried for a full twenty minutes because of that line: ‘The only person I really wanted to talk to about Augustus Waters’ death was Augustus Waters.

 3. CALLUM MCGREGOR in Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman

One of the most traumatic scenes I read as a child, Callum’s hanging left me reeling. They did it … they actually did it. And Sephy’s agony at not knowing whether Callum had heard her professions of love was utterly heart-wrenching. If only he hadn’t gone to the rose gardens …

 4. MANCHEE in The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

So sweet, so loyal, so innocent. When I think of Manchee, I can see his puzzled eyes, hear his questioning thoughts, his yelps. One of the few fictional animal deaths that has reduced me to tears, Manchee’s sacrifice will never be forgotten.

5. RABBIT in I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

Not a sad death, but memorable all the same. They say a picture can tell a thousand words, and that’s never been more true than the antepenultimate page in I Want My Hat Back. He totally had it coming, and I’m not ashamed to say that this one made me laugh. 

24th Apr '15

Subject TOP 5 FRIDAY: Castles


Oh, to be lord or lady of one’s own castle. The turrets! The moats! The … other castley bits! Unfortunately, unless you’re a royal in medieval Germany or a knight of the round table, the likeliness of owning your own castle is slim – luckily, there’s a ton of children’s books out there which describe beautiful castles so vividly that you almost feel like you’re there living in them.  

1. HOGWARTS from the Harry Potter series

As you’re probably well aware by now, it’s physically impossible for us to write a top 5 without including Harry Potter – but this one is justified. Arguably the most iconic moment of the first book is when Harry travels over the Great Lake and sets his eyes on the castle for the first time. Moving staircases, sneaky only-open-if-you-know-about-them rooms, trapdoors concealing almost certain death … what’s not to love?

2. THE BEAST’S CASTLE from Beauty and the Beast

It was all a bit bleak before Belle arrived, but the Beast’s castle was thoroughly uplifted by the arrival of Beauty. Boasting an incredible library, it’s a book lover’s heaven – and I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t want to be serenaded by a candlestick with a French accent. But beware of entering the mysterious West Wing without permission …

3. THE MOVING CASTLE from Howl’s Moving Castle

Not like the others above, but a castle nonetheless. Diana Wynne Jones introduced us to a different kind of castle – one that moves about by its own accord. Governed by the enigmatic wizard Howl (handsomely voiced by Christian Bale in the movie adaptation) with a door that can transport the castle to different spots all over the world (including a strange and mysterious land they call ‘Wales’) and a fire demon who powers the whole thing, who wouldn’t want to live in this contraption?


The extravagant castle in this teen thriller is also home to the beautiful backdrop of the Mediterranean. Our hero Peta sets off on a crazy mission to rescue her dad from a high-security fortress – but when the setting is this pretty, the castle can’t be too scary, right? Right?   

Follow author Sophia Bennett on Twitter: @sophiabennett

5. DARKMERE CASTLE from Darkmere

Not strictly an actual castle, but anything a castle can do, it can do better. Spooky dilapidated rooms? Check. Huge towers with built-in libraries? Check. Curse of a nineteenth-century girl hanging over all its inhabitants? Er … check. Publishing August 2015! 

Follow author Helen Maslin on Twitter: @helenmaslin

Which castle would you choose to live in? Tweet us and let us know  at @chickenhsebooks

23rd Apr '15



I first visited the London Book Fair in 2012 as an intern. It was a pleasant day spent wafting in and out of talks, soaking in the bookish buzz, sipping coffees and browsing lovely display stands, occasionally nipping to my ‘home stall’ to gaze at the crowds and enjoy the infectious feeling of excitement.

This year’s London Book Fair was exciting, too, but otherwise a completely contrasting experience. To sum up that experience in one word: MEETINGS. Back-to-back, half-hour meetings from 10am to 6.30pm – yep, wave goodbye to lunch hour! And as for enjoying the warmest, sunniest day of the year so far – pah! – you’ll be trapped in an Ikea-esque book maze. Editors are hunting for the next big thing, agents are there to sell it, and everyone’s trying to talk to everyone else. But on the way you’re bumping into old colleagues and recognising publishing acquaintances and dodging random clusters of people sipping pinot grigio – and ooo, what’s that film crew doing? – until half the building is running twenty minutes late. We’re all in the race and it’s electrifying, but it’s a marathon. Sometimes literally!

Ranged over three floors the size of what felt like twenty-seven football pitches, or possibly the entire solar system, Olympia is enormous. Travelling from one stall to another is enough to give you sports injuries. I woke up this morning with two sprained legs and a blister. Everyone got lost. At one point I went to the wrong ground floor. How can there even be a wrong ground floor?

But, despite occasionally feeling like a Maze Runner, it was wonderful. I met loads of enthusiastic, book-loving people and heard about some potentially very exciting projects on the horizon. I’ve got four shiny catalogues and a tote bag, and even the three-hour journey back to the West couldn’t spoil my sense of positivity. Call me a mad optimist, but seems to me the book industry’s alive and kicking and doing business.

21st Apr '15

Subject IF YOU WERE ME blog tour


Looking for an exciting new read this month? Look no further than Sam Hepburn's IF YOU WERE ME – an exciting teen mystery set in contemporary London. This week we're kicking off the blog tour – check out the blogs at the dates below to read Sam's posts! 

20th April – SABLE CAUGHT







28th April – GOBBLEFUNKED 

Not long after Aliya’s family escapes Afghanistan for Britain, her brother is accused of a bomb attack. Aliya is sure of his innocence, but when plumber’s son Dan finds a gun in their bathroom, what’s she to think?

Dan has his own reasons for staying silent: he’s worried the gun might have something to do with his dad. Thrown together by chance, the two of them set out to uncover a tangled and twisted truth. 

Follow Sam Hepburn on Twitter: @sam_osman_books

Follow Chicken House on Twitter: @chickenhsebooks

17th Apr '15

Subject TOP 5 FRIDAY: Curses


We've all been there: just when everything seems to be going great, you get put under a curse. But fear not! For countless years, children's literature has been advising us how to get out of those sticky curse-related situations. Junior Editor Kesia talks us through her favourites ... 

1. The Witch of the Waste’s curse in Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne-Jones

My go-to ‘medicine book’ (well-thumbed from childhood bouts of flu), Howl’s Moving Castle is bursting with wicked magic. Matter-of-fact Sophie is cursed by the Witch of the Waste into the body of a stick-wielding crone, and sets off in pursuit of the dastardly, handsome, but terribly disorganised Wizard Howl, despite her new-found aches and pains. Her common sense and determination are proof a handbag-toting octogenarian can be as gritty as an Eastenders villain on a sharp gravel drive. The kind of old lady I want to be when I grow up.

2. Auryn’s gift in The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

Our hero, Bastian, journeys through a mysterious book to the land of Fantastica, and retrieves a magical amulet, Auryn. On its reverse, he finds an intriguing engraving: ‘Do what you wish’. So he wishes, and wishes, and wishes – and each one is granted: soon, Bastian is the hero of his own fabulous adventures. A gift, right? Erm, no. Wishes are the ultimate tricksters (read The Big Wish for an excellent example). With each wish, Bastian loses a memory of his life in the real world, and slowly but surely traps himself in Fantastica for ever ...

3. The enchanted rings in The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis

Polly and Diggory are tricked by devious Uncle Andrew into a daring adventure. Four sparkling magic rings are keys to the strange and terrible portals of the Woods between the Worlds. Our heroes’ first destination – the ruined, blood-sunned kingdom of Charn – haunts my nightmares still. The dead (or sleeping …?) figures of its wicked monarchs range, enthroned, across the silent hall. And then (no thanks to blimmin’ Diggory) the bell tolls, and the evilest of evil queens awakens …

4. ‘Formula 86 delay action mouse maker’ from The Witches by Roald Dahl

The Grand High Witch’s plot is truly diabolical – but what can you expect? England’s witches, as you’ve doubtless heard, are utterly notorious for their ruthless pursuit of the ultimate witchy aim: the elimination of children. As our terrified child narrator hides from the witches’ conference, the masterplan is revealed: sweetshops; free, delicious candy; a magical potion named ‘Formula 86’. Anyone who consumes it is cursed to transform into a mouse. Eek! (Or rather, squeak!)

5. Sectumsempra from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

I did try not to mention Harry Potter (honest!) but it’s impossible! Its curses are inventive and excruciating, and – particularly for those of us on Slytherin’s Unofficial Dark Side – possess a certain horrible allure. The mischievous curses are effective, certainly – the ear-shriveller, for instance, or petrificus totalus – while the floaty/screamy effects of the Opal Necklace are truly chilling. But for plot significance, you can’t beat the Half-Blood Prince’s ghastly invention, Sectumsempra, which Harry unwittingly casts against Malfoy … to devastating effect.

What have we missed? Tweet us at @chickenhsebooks


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