Faber has acquired The Umbra Tales, a "magical, bold" new middle grade fantasy series from debut writer and FAB Prize-winner Janelle McCurdy.
Publisher Leah Thaxton acquired UK, Commonwealth and translation rights at auction from Rachel Mann at Jo Unwin Literary Agency.
Mia and the Lightcasters, the first in the series, is an "action-packed middle-grade adventure", which follows Mia, a young girl who has always dreamed of becoming an umbra tamer. "When Mia’s parents are captured by the shadowy Reaper King, she must learn to quickly harness her umbra taming abilities," the synopsis reads. "If she can’t, she’ll lose her soul, her family and her city to the Darkness forever. Including stand-out immersive artwork from Ana Latese, Mia and the Lightcasters is a moving story about overcoming fear and discovering the magic within yourself, heavily inspired by Janelle’s passion for gaming."
McCurdy, who was awarded second prize at the 2020 FAB Prize for text, was also selected for the BookTrust Represents development programme in 2021, an initiative which sees emerging authors and illustrators of colour take part in training sessions hosted by well-known children’s book authors, illustrators and industry experts.
"The Umbra Tales trilogy was born from my love of gaming, anime and fantasy books," she said. "Growing up, I hardly saw anything fantasy with Black girls and boys front and centre. Mia and the Lightcasters is a nod to all the anime, manga, fantasy books and games I loved both now and as a child. It's a book about finding your inner strength, friendship and hope. I want kids to know that they are enough, they're resilient and stronger than they think. I want them to get lost in this world and let their imaginations run wild. I'm so glad to be working with Faber on this series. From the very first email, the love they had for Mia and my creatures born of shadows and stars really touched my heart. It was a perfect match. I can't wait to share this story with the world."
Mann said: "The energy and spark of Janelle's writing had me gripped from the first page. Reading Mia and the Lightcasters is like watching the most magical, funny, action-packed film, and Mia and Lucas are characters to fall completely in love with – this is such a fresh and exciting world for young readers to jump into, and it's very exciting to be launching the series in the UK, US and beyond."
"Janelle dazzled us with this standout fantasy series inspired by her love of anime and gaming," Thaxton added. "Her FAB entry was so memorable we were not at all surprised to find ourselves in an auction situation. There is so much personality and verve to Janelle’s writing, we see her as a star already; Mia and the Lightcasters will be our middle-grade debut of the year."
Mia and the Lightcasters will be published in paperback on 4th August 2022, with subsequent titles to be announced.