13th Apr '15

Subject NEW BOOKS!


April has been a really exciting month for us at Chicken House HQ – not only have we announced the winner of the 2015 Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition, but we've also got four brand new books publishing! 

SALT & STONE by Victoria Scott (12+)

One hundred and twenty-two began. Only sixty-four remain.
Tella’s made it through the first terrains of the Brimstone Bleed – but the contest isn’t over yet. If she wants to save her brother, she must face oceans and icy mountains, all for the chance of winning the Cure.
And even if Tella survives these deadly places, the greatest threat will still be her fellow Contenders – even the ones she trusts the most …

The explosive sequel to FIRE & FLOOD is finally here! A must-read for all YA fans, SALT & STONE is an action-packed journey which will leave you on the edge of your seat all the way to the end. You'll read it in one sitting!

Follow Victoria Scott on Twitter: @victoriascottya

IF YOU WERE ME by Sam Hepburn (12+)

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.

From award-winning author Sam Hepburn comes an exciting new teen crime mystery following two teenagers who face the very real issues of contemporary London. You can also get your hands on a beautiful new edition of Sam's first books, CHASING THE DARK, this month too!

Follow Sam Hepburn on Twitter: @sam_osman_books

THE BIG WISH by Brandon Robshaw (9+)

Eleven-year-old Sam has a problem. Well, quite a few problems. So when he sees a shooting star, he naturally wishes on it – for a million wishes. Of course, he doesn’t expect the wish to come true, but somehow it does.

Sam has fun experimenting with wishes – he can change anything he wants. But then he discovers that changing stuff has consequences he hadn’t anticipated. And what’s the point of doing anything, if you can just wish for it and make it happen?

A story that will make you laugh out loud as well as think about the big themes behind it! THE BIG WISH combines comic fantasy and exciting ideas to create a perfect read – what in the world would you wish for?

Follow Brandon Robshaw on Twitter: @brandonrobshaw

THE SOUND OF WHALES by Kerr Thomson (10+)

Three children are spending their summer on a wild Scottish island. Fraser is desperate for adventure and Hayley is fed up she’s even there, while Dunny spends his days staring out to sea. He hasn’t said a word in years.

But everything changes with the discovery of two bodies on the beach: a whale and a man. Fraser and Hayley see a mystery-adventure to be solved, but Dunny is inconsolable. And in the end, it will take someone who listens to the sea to put it right.

Winner of the 2014 Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition, THE SOUND OF WHALES is a classic story that explores the importance of our environment, our relationship with animals and how the truth isn’t always straightforward. A magical adventure set on the Scottish coast!

Follow Kerr Thomson on Twitter: @kerr_thomson

Follow Chicken House on Twitter: @chickenhsebooks 

10th Apr '15

Subject TOP 5 FRIDAY: Literary Crushes

ByRachel L

Setting aside the possibly unhealthy habit of fancying people in books rather than in real life (how can anyone ever measure up to Will Parry’s determination to drift about in atoms until he finds Lyra again?) we are of course spoilt for choice in literary worlds. Here’s a mix of suitable boys and very bad boys who only exist in our fevered imaginations – but we love them all.

1. THE FIRST CRUSH: Gilbert Blythe from Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables

Although there’s close competition from Laurie in Little Women (how could Jo dump him), the moment Gilbert pulled Anne Shirley’s braid and called her ‘carrots’ is hard to beat. Handsome, persistent (for years), intelligent and romantic (‘I don’t want your friendship, Anne…’), Gilbert doesn’t have ANY faults.

2. THE ALL-AMERICAN CRUSH: Jay Gatsby from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

Those infamous, expensive parties are all for Daisy and the promise of the green light at the end of the dock. Fabulously wealthy, he’s just a dreamer at heart and gets it all wrong trying to impress one (undeserving!) girl. The serious ‘lifetime achievement’ vote in this category should go to Atticus Finch for inspiring moral courage that has endured for more than half a century.

3. THE DISTURBING CRUSH: Edward Cullen from Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight

The noughties cannot be mentioned without him, or are we all thinking of R-Pattz?  Disturbing because his Byronic looks, the sparkling marble skin, the superhuman abilities, disguise the fact that he’s a terrifying predator. But as his fans would say, it’s not his fault he’s a telepathic vampire …

4. THE CLASSIC CRUSH: Marius Pontmercy from Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables

 Tempting though it is to choose swashbuckling d’Artagnan or vengeful Edmond Dantes, the animal Heathcliff or the repressed Mr Darcy (‘In vain have I struggled!’), it’s the idealistic revolutionary Marius that wins our vote. Susan Fletcher’s Eponine might have said she was only ‘a little’ in love but who was she kidding, really?

5. THE FIGHT-TO-THE-DEATH CRUSH: Luca Falcone from Catherine Doyle’s Vendetta

Who would you trust when you’re fighting for your life? In The Hunger Games there’s Gale and Peta – difficult choice. In Catherine Doyle’s Vendetta you get five hot mafia brothers – nightmare decision! But ultimately, are you on Team Nic or Team Luca? And before you ask, no – you can’t have more than one … 

Who have we missed? Let us know by tweeting us at @chickenhsebooks!

2nd Apr '15

Subject The Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition: One Year On

ByKerr Thomson

Kerr Thomson, the 2014 Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition winner, shares his experience of being published ...

Now that THE SOUND OF WHALES has been published (and it’s a beautiful book!), it is somewhat strange to think back to July last year, when the sun dazzled disconcertingly in the Glasgow sky, the sporting festival of the Commonwealth Games was magnificently staged, and I was sitting in a dark corner of a local library rewriting large chunks of the thing. Such a shame, you cry – but no, I was loving every second of it. I was a writer!

This is perhaps the greatest pleasure in winning the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition: the validation you get that your writing has merit and the encouragement you receive to keep at it. It also helps that there is an end product to all your labours – and when you first hold the finished book a tingle travels from your fingertips all the way to your face where it erupts as an embarrassingly cheesy smile. That was me a couple of weeks ago.

But getting to the finished book is a long and, at times, painful job. I could tell you of man called Ishmael. He was a nice guy, an interesting chap and he’s dead now. I killed him. Not literally, just literarily! Ishmael was a character in the book who never made the final cut. Editing can be brutal; people go, places go, clever bits of writing that took hours to craft are snipped in a second. But you trust your editor because editors know best. And in the end the finished book bears only a passing resemblance to the one that won … but is a million times better!

A year on from winning, and now that the book is published, the thrills just get more thrilling, the wonders more wonderful. If there’s a finished manuscript lying in a drawer somewhere it is time to dust it down and fire it off for next year’s competition. If it happened to me it can happen to you!

The 2016 competition is now open! Click here for details on how to enter. 

Follow Kerr Thomson on Twitter: @kerr_thomson

Follow Chicken House on Twitter: @chickenhsebooks

1st Apr '15

Subject SALT & STONE reviews tour!


Contenders, ready! We're celebrating the release of Victoria Scott's SALT & STONE with a six-date tour, comprising entirely of reviews from some fabulous bloggers. SALT & STONE is the hotly-anticipated sequel to last year's FIRE & FLOOD, the first book in Victoria's series. A modern-day survival story packed with action, survival and – of course – Pandoras, this is definitely a must-read for all fans of YA! 


One hundred and twenty-two began. Only sixty-four remain. 

Tella’s made it through the first terrains of the Brimstone Bleed – but the contest isn’t over yet. If she wants to save her brother, she must face oceans and icy mountains, all for the chance of winning the Cure.

And even if Tella survives these deadly places, the greatest threat will still be her fellow Contenders – even the ones she trusts the most …

You can read what our early reviewers thought of SALT & STONE by heading over to the following blogs: 

1st April – Choose YA

3rd April – Book Passion for Life

6th April – An Awful Lot of Reading

7th April – George Lester Writes

8th April – Book Worm Birds

9th April – Kate Ormand 


 Let us know what you think of SALT & STONE by tweeting us at @chickenhsebooks! You can also follow author Victoria Scott on Twitter: @victoriascottya

31st Mar '15

Subject The Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition: Judging Panel and Lunch


The drawing room at the Savile Club: gilded and wood-panelled, faded-grand, the carpet soft as whispers. It’s time for the judging panel.

Our seven judges arrive – best-selling author Sophie Mackenzie; Alex O’Connell of The Times; Melissa Cox from Waterstones; Kate Newport from Scholastic Clubs and Fairs; Natasha Farrant, literary scout and author; Tereze Brikmane from the indie children’s bookshop Tales on Moon Lane; and our very own Barry Cunningham. Before long, we’re sat at a round table (in true Arthurian diplomatic style!). Over tea, coffee and custard creams, the discussion commences.

I’m an impartial note-taking observer, and (although it’s occasionally an effort to stop myself interjecting!) it’s very informative to watch.  I can’t help but feel proud and a little protective of our final shortlisted six novels that have come so far, each of which receives praise and criticism from the panel. The discussion is lively, and each judge initially has a different favourite, which seems to come as a surprise to some of them. By quarter past twelve, however, the decision is unanimous.

For the first time, we’ve invited the shortlisted authors to lunch for the announcement of the winner – and this year’s shortlistees are an enthusiastic and dedicated group of writers. Despite the fear-factors of a photographer/videographer and two PRs, the authors keep their cool through the pre-lunch mingle. We sit down – in a judge-beside-shortlistee arrangement – and tuck in.

Over rice pudding, Barry and Alex announce the winner: Laurel Remington! It’s touching to watch the transformation of her expression – surprise, joy, and an overwhelming sense of relief. And despite inevitable disappointment for the runners-up, everyone is genuinely pleased for her.

[Above right: Our fabulous shortlistees and Barry Cunningham, from left to right: Wai Lan Mo, Anna Day, Barry, Steve Lee, Laurel Remington, Martin Sturrock, Mary Hopewell]

Post-lunch, the shortlistees exchange email addresses (word is there’s to be a writing group!) before heading off to the nearest pub for a well-deserved pint. Gradually, the drawing room empties, and it feels like the end of something special.

But of course, it’s only the beginning. We can’t wait to start on preparing Laurel’s excellent novel for publication – and, meanwhile, we’ll continue to work with the entire shortlist, offering editorial notes and guidance, and readers’ reports for everyone on the longlist. Laurel described her road to publication as ‘a long haul’, spanning several books and several years. She’s a wonderful example: keep trying … and enter the 2016 Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition! 

30th Mar '15

Subject TOP 5 FRIDAY (ish): Awesome Archers


I know it's not actually Friday, but we were so excited about the announcement of this year'sTimes/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition winner that there just wasn't any room to fit in a top 5 last week! 

1. Robin Hood

Not strictly in a children’s book, but Disney’s classic animated film put him firmly on the metaphorical bow-wielding map. He’s the original archer – the inspiration behind countless others, and is cool even as an anthropomorphic fox. Not bad going.

2. Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games trilogy

The girl on fire herself! Katniss is the YA heroine of the 21st century (Hermione excluded), and it’s her power with a bow that makes her so awesome. She’s the one out there providing for her family, shooting down deers and pheasants – just using her archery skills and her penchant for breaking rules. And let’s not forget [SPOILER ALERT] ending the Hunger Games and initiating a revolution. Awesome.

3. Legolas from The Lord of the Rings trilogy

It’s well-known that Legolas is a master archer and I’d like to say that it’s his archery skills that earn him a place on this list … but really it’s the hair. Anyone that manages to have hair that long and glossy and not get it tangled in their arrows deserves a mention.

4. Susan Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia series

Susan has a bit of an unfair advantage by having a bow that never misses – but she’s not one for slacking off, practicing as much as she can to make sure she’s the best. And she becomes Queen of Narnia at the age of 12.

5. Merry Owen from Longbow Girl

Ah, I won’t reveal too much here. Merry is a heroine for the past and present and very much deserves a place on the list – but you’ll have to wait until September to find out why! In the meantime, you can find out a bit more about Merry's story here

Are there any we've missed? Let us know by tweeting us at @chickenhsebooks! 


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