Usborne wins Russian folklore tale in 'hotly contested' auction

Usborne wins Russian folklore tale in 'hotly contested' auction

Usborne has snapped up a Russian folklore-inspired middle grade fantasy following a “hotly contested four-way auction”.

Rebecca Hill, the publisher’s fiction director, acquired the UK and Commonwealth rights (excluding Canada) to The House with Chicken Legs and an as yet untitled novel by Sophie Anderson from Gemma Cooper at The Bent Agency. The novel is due to be published by Usborne in April 2018 in paperback.

Rights have been sold to a publisher in the US while The Bent Agency has also sold Italian rights in a pre-empt and German rights at auction.

The novel follows 12-year-old Marinka who dreams of a normal life, where her house stays in one place long enough for her to make friends, but instead it has chicken legs and constantly moved around. This means the only people Marinka meets are dead and they disappear when her grandmother, Baba Yaga, guides them through “The Gate”.

Hill said she bought the novel in a “hotly contested” auction involving three other publishers because of “breathtakingly beautiful writing”. She said: “From the first, perfect sentence, I knew this was a story to treasure forever. A courageous heroine, breathtakingly beautiful writing and a bold sweeping storyline left us all utterly spellbound by this stunning debut.”

She added: “Sophie is a natural storyteller and we couldn’t be more delighted to share her stories far and wide.”

Anderson, a former geologist and science teacher originally from Swansea, said joining Usborne was “a dream come true”.

Cooper praised the “heartwarming” novel. She said: “I love fresh spins on folklore and this is one of the most inventive and heart-warming I've read. I’m delighted it has found a home with such an enthusiastic publisher.”