Chicken House will publish Melissa Harrison's debut children's novel, By Ash, Oak and Thorn, as well as a sequel, By Rowan and Yew.
World rights to both titles were acquired by editorial director Rachel Leyshon from Jenny Hewson at Lutyens & Rubinstein.
By Ash, Oak and Thorn will be published by on 6th May 2021. Inspired by BB's The Little Grey Men (OUP, 2001), the book is "is designed to open children’s eyes to the excitement, wonder and richness of the outdoors."
The novel will follow three tiny, ancient beings—Moss, Burnet and Cumulus, once revered as guardians and caretakers of the "Wild World"—who wake from their winter sleep. When their ash tree home is destroyed, they set off on an adventure that takes them first into the deep countryside and then the heart of a city. Helped along the way by birds and animals, the trio search for a way to survive and thrive in a precious yet disappearing world.
Leyshon said: "Melissa Harrison is the real deal, a special and important writer whose passionate voice celebrates the natural world. These beautifully written stories offer optimism, comfort and beauty, something we all need more than ever. And once you fall into Melissa’s tiny wild universe, something magical starts to happen... We are honoured to publish this classic duology, beginning with By Ash, Oak and Thorn which celebrates spring and summer, to be followed with By Rowan and Yew, its wintry companion."
Harrison commented: "Stories were a crucial way in which I connected with nature as a little girl, imaginatively and emotionally. I'd love to see a new wave of children's nature writing follow these books and help today's kids do the same.
"All of my writing has a common purpose: to try and connect readers to the natural world, because I think it is transformative. It’s vital both for us and for nature that more people are engaged with it, and can develop a deeply felt, experiential connection that is imaginative and emotional and will inspire us to change our behaviour.
"I wanted to write something that was accessible and inclusive, funny and magical—that didn’t prioritise the countryside over the city, and that allowed children to understand that other creatures are as real as they are—that humans are not the only actors on the stage.”
Harrison is the author of Clay (Bloomsbury, 2013) which won the Portsmouth First Fiction prize and At Hawthorn Time (Bloomsbury, 2015) which was shortlisted for the Costa Best Novel Award and long-listed for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.