Thursday, 7 February 2013

A Big Chicken House Breakfast

When an invitation to the annual Chicken House Big Breakfast landed on the mat I was at first disappointed that I wouldn't be able to make it, I soon realised however that there would be some Armadillo reviewers who would love to go along so many thanks to Anne and Morag for attending on my behalf.

For Anne and Morag, meeting for the first time, it was a treat to represent Armadillo at the Chicken House Big Breakfast last week. A lovely opportunity to hear about the books they have lined up, and to talk to lots of authors, publishers, librarians and others who are passionate about good writing for children and young people. 

Chicken House founder and managing director Barry Cunningham got things off to a great start by asserting that despite the messages of doom and gloom so often peddled about young people’s reading, he sees the present as a fabulous and exciting time for publishing. Story has never been so popular, he said. He highlighted some of the authors Chicken House is publishing this spring. Five of them then discussed their new books and read excerpts.

‘The ultimate teenage novel’ was Cunningham’s introduction to Melvin Burgess’s latest book The Hit, due out in April. Developed from an original idea by two philosophy teachers, it explores a mind-blowing central proposition: a hijacked euthanasia drug that gives you the best week of your life - before killing you. In a dystopian world, the drug proves irresistible to many young people. Burgess, pictured speaking here, contextualised this in terms of the loss of optimism within the culture of many teenagers today. Adam is tempted. What’s he got to lose? Everything. The story is about hope in the end, we were told. I think this is going to be a fabulous read. 

More dystopia in Poison Boy by Fletcher Moss, which won the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition 2012, and sounds very exciting. I enjoyed talking to Moss. He's a secondary school teacher who clearly knows teenagers and their reading interests well. Dan Smith’s novel My Friend the Enemy is a WW2 story about two young people who hide a German fighter who has parachuted from his burning bomber plane. I brought home a proof copy and am very much looking forward to reading it. Chasing the Dark by Sam Hepburn is a scary thriller with lots of humour thrown in. Quite something to make that combination work, but work it does, if the excerpt we heard is anything to go by. The Extincts by Veronica Cossanteli is for a slightly younger audience. A secret menagerie of creatures thought to be extinct is in danger from a deranged taxidermist. Good fun.

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