Times Chicken House competition picks shortlist

Children's publisher Chicken House and the Times are on the way to choosing the title that will secure a worldwide publishing deal in their annual competition, with the selection narrowed down to a shortlist.

The shortlist is made up of five titles, with a mixture of fantasy, contemporary and futuristic novels.

The Boy with the Golden Balls by Michael Byrne is described by the judges as a story of "tough love. Life on the streets is portrayed with heart-warming passion and a great 'life's-a-lottery' storyline". It is joined by Like a Brother by Wendy E Constance, a story set 13,000 years ago when two teenagers flee across North America, chosen by the judges for being "wildly engaging".

Also on the shortlist is Born Losers by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison, in which two teens are desperate to lose their virginity before university. The judges said they felt "both the fun and the danger in this boy writer/girl writer combination". Moon Boy by D M Macphail, described as "breathlessly original", and depicting Adam, the only human to have been born on the moon making his first trip to Earth, is also in the running for the prize.

The fifth title is Zach in the Making by Kelly McCaughrain, telling the tale of a "teenage boy who wants to be famous but is rubbish at everything". The judges said: "Getting inside the head of a young man is a dangerous game, but it's pulled off with great humour and refreshing honesty. An original and refreshing voice."

The winner of the publishing deal with Chicken House will be announced in March. Barry Cunningham, Chicken House founder, publisher and managing director, is among the judges for the prize.