Usborne has snapped up YA author David Owen’s first foray into middle-grade fiction, billed as “an irresistibly funny, high-octane” adventure series with eco themes.
Senior commissioning editor Sarah Stewart acquired world rights for three Alex Neptune books from Ella Kahn of Diamond Kahn & Woods. George Ermos has been commissioned as the illustrator for the series and the first book will publish in August 2022. Two more titles will follow in this series in 2023.
First book Alex Neptune, Dragon Thief is described as “a hugely commercial” heist adventure. The blurb explains: “For as long as Alex Neptune can remember, the ocean has wanted to kill him. So he’s not too happy when a bunch of sea creatures drag him to the spooky abandoned aquarium on the hill, where an imprisoned water dragon needs his help. But how can he say no to a magical myth? Recruiting his tech-genius best friend Zoe, legend-lover Anil, a sharp-shooting octopus, three acrobatic otters and a thieving seagull, Alex plots a heist to break the dragon out and return it to the sea. And suddenly discovers the powers of the ocean are at his fingertips…”
Owen's YA debut Panther was longlisted for the Carnegie Medal, and was followed by The Fallen Children, All the Lonely People and Grief Angels, all published by Atom. He said: “I’ve always wanted to write middle-grade fiction so I could go big on action, humour and a pacey plot—all the things I love in a book.”
Stewart called it “uproariously funny and hugely imaginative, with a joyous cast of characters and a lovably unassuming hero at their heart”.