Hot Key signs illustrated novella for teens from Dockrill and Millward

Hot Key signs illustrated novella for teens from Dockrill and Millward

Hot Key Books has signed Laura Dockrill's first illustrated fiction title for teens, illustrated by Gwen Millward.

The sketchbook novella for young teen readers is titled Dream House and will be published by the Bonnier Books UK imprint in September 2021. Editor Jenny Jacoby acquired world rights in all languages from Jodie Hodges at United Agents.

Publishing as a fully illustrated pocket-sized hardback, Dream House centres on the inner world of character Rex as he stays with his godfather, Sparky, to recuperate. The synopsis reads: "In Sparky’s garden, under the canopy of the willow tree, is the Dream House: a place for Rex to dream, to think, to be. But to go inside Rex must summon all his strength for revisiting the ghosts of his past..."

Praising Dockrill for bringing "astonishing depth of feeling to original and endearing storytelling", Jacoby said: "It’s thrilling to be working on another very special illustrated book with her and with Gwen, whose artwork always captures emotion in such a beautiful way."

Dockrill is a performance poet and novelist, whose YA novel Lorali was nominated for the Carnegie Medal, as was the Darcy Burdock series (Random House) for younger readers, which was also shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. In 2020 her first adult title, What Have I Done?, a meditation on her own experience with postpartum psychosis, was published, and it is now being developed into a "genre-defying" TV adaptation by Pulse Films. 

Of her inspiration for this latest project, Dockrill said: "When I was a little girl my godfather built a playhouse for me and my sister in his back garden. It was a wonky little shed filled with art and he had placed two old school desks inside. We couldn't believe that he'd built this dream house for us under the willow tree in his garden. It was totally magical and we felt safe knowing the adults were inside the house and we were here, in the wilderness of imagination and play, free to dream exactly as we pleased. Touched by personal grief of a family friend, I found myself probing nostalgia, Dream House came knocking for me and a story was born. I very much see the piece as an older sibling to Butterfly Brain. Growling and fumbling in the dark as a young person might – trying to find its place in the world."

Millward has worked on picture books including Butterfly Brain by Laura Dockrill (Piccadilly Press), Guess What I Found In Dragon Wood by Timothy Knapman (Puffin), The Bog Baby by Jeanne Willis (Puffin) and The Beasties by Jenny Nimmo (Egmont), and written and illustrated her own titles including Bear and Bird and Tiger Lily (Egmont). She said: "I was over the moon to be asked to illustrate another book for Laura! Her writing conjures such incredibly emotive images for me – it’s an absolute joy to draw from her beautiful words."