TOP 5 FRIDAY: Deaths

Posted by Laura on Thursday April 30th, 2015

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.

TOP 5 FRIDAY: Castles

Posted by Jazz on Friday April 24th, 2015

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?


IF YOU WERE ME blog tour

Posted by Jazz on Tuesday April 21st, 2015

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!


TOP 5 FRIDAY: Curses

Posted by Kesia on Friday April 17th, 2015

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!


Posted by Jazz on Monday April 13th, 2015

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

TOP 5 FRIDAY: Literary Crushes

Posted by Rachel L on Friday April 10th, 2015

Literary CrushesSetting 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!

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

Posted by Jazz on Thursday April 2nd, 2015

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

SALT & STONE reviews tour!

Posted by Jazz on Wednesday April 1st, 2015

Salt and Stone review tourContenders, 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