Simon & Schuster Children’s Books has signed Sarah Ann Juckes’ "beautiful" first middle-grade novel, with "exquisite" illustrations by Sharon King-Chai, after securing a two-book deal.
The Hunt for the Nightingale follows 10-year-old Jasper, who sets out alone to find the nightingale that is no longer singing in his garden. The synopsis explains: "He’d usually bring his sister on an adventure like this, but Rosie isn’t there anymore. Gathering his courage, his backpack, and his treasured Book of Birds, Jasper’s expedition takes him through town and country, meeting a host of characters who are also searching for lost things. In this heart-breaking and hopeful journey back from the wilderness, Jasper discovers that even in the darkest of moments, the nightingale’s song can always be heard somewhere."
Lucy Pearse, fiction editorial director, bought world all language rights in the book and a second standalone from Sallyanne Sweeney at Mulcahy Associates. Illustration rights were bought from Jodie Hodges at United Agents. The Hunt for the Nightingale will publish in paperback in January 2022, with the second book to follow in 2023.
Pearse said: "The Hunt for the Nightingale is a simply stunning book which has captured the hearts and passion of everyone at S&S. Jasper is one of the most memorable protagonists I’ve come across and his emotional journey will have you turning the final page with tears in your eyes and a heart full of hope. This marks the launch of a major voice in middle-grade fiction and there is nobody better to explore Sarah’s beautiful words on the healing power of nature than the immensely talented Sharon King-Chai. Together they have created a timeless and unmissable book that we are bursting with pride to be publishing."
Juckes’ YA debut, Outside (Penguin) was nominated for the Carnegie Medal 2020 and S&S will be launching her as a major new voice in middle-grade fiction. Her second YA novel, The World Between Us (Penguin) was published in March 2021, She works with writers from all over the world via Jericho Writers and is on the board for Creative Future, a charity supporting underrepresented writers.
She said: "The Hunt for the Nightingale is a real passion-project for me, and I'm so pleased it's found such a welcoming home with S&S. Lucy and the whole team have been so enthusiastic about this from the beginning and I've been blown away by Sharon King-Chai's beautiful illustrations. I am super-excited to watch Jasper's story take flight in 2022!"
King-Chai, recent winner in the 2021 Kate Greenaway Shadowers' Choice Awards, said: "I’m so thrilled to be illustrating this stunning tale from Sarah Ann Juckes. I found myself so moved by Jasper’s journey I knew immediately I wanted to be by his side every step of the way. It has been such a joy to work on, I can’t wait for readers to embark on this emotional adventure."