Meet the Judges for the Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition 2024!

Posted by Jazz on Friday March 22nd, 2024

It's time to reveal our all-star lineup of judges for the 2024 competition ...

We are so excited to showcase the amazing panel for this year's competition. Manuscript reading is underway, and the submissions portal is still open, so if you want to be in with a chance of having these incredible industry professionals read your story, make sure to head over to the submissions page. But first, read on to see who those incredible industry professionals are ...




Barry Cunningham has had an impressive career in publishing. After an English degree at Cambridge, he joined Penguin Books in 1977. As Children’s Marketing Director for Puffin, he worked with all the great names in children’s books including Roald Dahl and Spike Milligan, and was responsible for the re-launch of Beatrix Potter. In 1984 he was promoted to the Penguin Board and became responsible for the marketing of all Penguin Books, a position he held until 1988, when he was headhunted by Random House. In 1994 he was approached by Bloomsbury to set up their first children’s book list. Barry left Bloomsbury at the height of its success and, in early 2000, decided to start his own publishing company. The result was Chicken House, a lively and creative company publishing highly original and enjoyable children’s books, with a special emphasis on new fiction. He has been a judge for the competition since it's fruition.



Lucy Bannerman is an award-winning journalist at The Times, who has been chasing stories for the past 20 years. She has reported from 24 countries around the world, covering everything from the funeral of Nelson Mandela to the Eurovision Song Contest in Azerbaijan.

She is a regular contributor to The Times magazine, Times Radio and the Stories of Our Times podcast. As the newspaper's children's book critic, the best part of her working week is sifting through the hundreds of stories and picture books - from the fantastical and magical to the comical and historical - that arrive in the mail room every week to find the one that will become 'The Times children's book of the week.' It is the only weekly review space dedicated to children's literature in the mainstream press.

She was Young Journalist of the Year 2006 but is older now.



Tim Compton is joint Head of Kids & Family (alongside Angelo Abela) at Lime Pictures. Prior to this, he was a script editor and producer at HIT Entertainment and CBBC. For Lime, Tim was the story producer and core writer on the global hit House of Anubis (Nickelodeon) and producer and co-creator of Evermoor, which was the Disney Channel's first direct drama commission from outside the US. Tim produced and wrote for Free Reign, the Emmy award-winning Netflix original and was executive producer on the Emmy-nominated limited series Zero Chill, also for Netflix. He is currently executive producer on Wereworld, Lime’s first animated series for Netflix.



Lydia Silver is a Senior Literary Agent at Darley Anderson Children’s Agency. Since joining the agency in 2018, Lydia has built a wide-ranging list of dynamic and diverse writing and illustrating talent. Among other accolades, her authors have been picked as Blackwell’s Book of the Month, been shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and the Jhalak Prize, and won the Diverse Book Award. She was chosen as a Bookseller Rising Star in 2022.



Tessa is a literary scout for Children's and YA books, working with Lucy Abrahams Literary Scouting. Tessa studied Modern and Medieval Languages at Cambridge before taking up a work experience placement with a literary scout. She went on to work as a literary agent for translation, selling international rights for a wide list of Children's and YA authors. Since then, Tessa has written, edited and translated books for children, as well as moderating the Faber Academy Writing a Novel course. Tessa writes fiction for both adults and young adults, and she currently works with the Professional Writing Academy, providing editorial feedback for new writers.



Joel Rochester is your friendly neighbourhood cozy curator with a taste for the magical and macabre. Both an award-winning content creator, and an academic possessing a BA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Winchester. Between playing video games, browsing the nearest bookstore, and writing new stories, they possess an eagerness to embark on new adventures to undiscovered worlds.



Frank Cottrell-Boyce is a children's novelist who won the Carnegie Medal for his first book - Millions - in 2004 and the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize for The Unforgotten Coat in 2013. Millions was made into a film by Danny Boyle, for whom Frank went on to work as the writer on the London Olympics Opening Ceremony, 2012. His other books include Framed (filmed by the BBC), Cosmic, The Astounding Broccoli Boy and Runaway Robot. He also wrote the three official sequels to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. His films include 24 Hour Party PeopleGod on Trial and Hilary and Jackie. His short work, The Great Rocket Robbery, was published for World Book Day in 2019. His latest novel, The Wonder Brothers, was published by Macmillan in July 2023.


Posted by Jazz on Tuesday February 6th, 2024

Do you wish you had a professional editor on board to help you develop your children’s novel or idea? Well, this opportunity might just be for you!

We’re delighted to announce a 24-hour open submissions period here at Chicken House, for finished or unfinished debut novels for children aged 7 up to (and including) YA, for the chance to gain mentorship from a member of our editorial team.

Writers selected during past Open Coops include Alison Weatherby (The Secrets Act) and Sabine Adeyinka (Jummy at the River School), both of whom went on to sign publishing contracts with Chicken House!

What we are offering

Our editorial team (consisting of Rachel Leyshon, Barry Cunningham and Shalu Vallepur) will pick their favourite submissions to receive feedback and mentoring. We’d love to help you develop your idea or draft into a fully-fledged children’s novel with expert editorial input.

How to submit

In order to submit, please create a single Word document including the following material and email it to between 12:01am and 11:59pm (UK time) on 29 February 2024.

A cover letter of no more than a page, single spaced, including a short pitch for your story, a little about yourself, and how far along you are with writing the novel.

A synopsis of not more than a page, single spaced, describing the story you’re writing from beginning to end (no cliff-hangers!). If you haven’t decided on the full synopsis yet, that’s OK – you can detail as much of the story as you have planned.

Either the first 1,500 words or the first three chapters of your novel (whichever is longest).

Please ensure the title of your email follows this format: OPEN COOP: [Your name] [Your title]

Entry is FREE!

Please note that due to the volume of submissions we receive, we are unable to respond to entrants individually either to confirm receipt or if you have been unsuccessful. We will only be in touch if we are interested in moving forward with your submission.

What to submit

Although we encourage submissions of children’s and YA novels of all themes and subjects, here are a few ‘wish list’ items from two of our editors …

Rachel would love to see something from underrepresented groups, new perspectives, and animal stories for any age.

Shalu is interested in fantasy stories, Middle Grade or YA, that offer a fresh perspective. Own voice stories centred around culture and identity (especially food!) are always encouraged!

We can’t wait to hear about what you’re working on!


Will I receive a confirmation email once I’ve submitted?

No – unfortunately we don’t have the ability to confirm receipt of your entry.

Can I send more than one novel/pitch?

No – Open Coop is limited to one submission per person.

Will you let me know if I’m not successful?

We will be in touch with those we’d like to take forward within 3 months of entry. Sadly if you haven’t heard from us by then, you have been unsuccessful on this occasion – but please try again next time!

Do I have to have written the full manuscript already?

No – if you have then that’s great, but at this point we’re just looking for a great idea and a sample of your writing.

What’s the difference between the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition and Open Coop – and can I enter Open Coop if I’ve already submitted to the Competition?

The Times/Chicken House Competition (which is currently open for unagented submissions) is for a full manuscript, there is an entry fee and the prize is a publishing contract. Open Coop is a much more casual affair, and not a competition – it’s for manuscripts at all stages of development, it’s free, and we’ll be looking at submission samples and offering mentorship rather than a formal prize. It’s fine for you to submit to Open Coop as well as the Times/Chicken House – even if it’s with the same book – particularly as they are assessed by two different teams of readers.

I’m under 18 – am I able to submit?

Unfortunately not – for legal reasons you must be over 18.

I don’t live in the UK. Am I eligible to submit?

Yes. We welcome all entries.

Can I submit my short story/poetry/graphic novel/picture book/non-fiction work?

No. Chicken House publishes children’s/YA fiction for ages 7+.

I have a literary agent? Can I submit?

No. Agented authors are not eligible to enter – after all, we accept ordinary submissions via all established literary agencies.

I have previously had published a short story/poem/picture book/non-fiction/academic title. Can I still enter?
Yes, you are eligible as long as you haven’t had a full-length children’s novel commercially published, anywhere in the world.

And the winners of the 2023 Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition are …

Posted by Jazz on Thursday November 23rd, 2023

Yesterday was a very exciting day for the Chickens – not only did we host our Big Breakfast event (in which we introduced our industry pals to our 2024 authors) but we also hosted the Times/Chicken House Competition judging panel … AND announced the winners!

The judges meeting resulted in some fantastic, thoughtful feedback from our panel, which consisted of chairman and publisher Barry Cunningham, The Times reporter and children’s book critic Lucy Bannerman, Co-Head of Lime Picture’s Kids and Family Tim Compton, agent Davinia Andrew-Lynch, author Frances Hardinge, scout and festival organiser Jane Churchill, Bounce sales rep CJ Gajjar, and Waterstones Children’s Team campaigner Lucy Jakes. A huge thank you to each one of our judges for their time and attention on our seven shortlisted manuscripts – you are all stars!

Well, the time has come …


The winner of the Times/Chicken House Competition 2023 is …

Marisa Linton with THE POUKA KING

And the winner of the Lime Picture’s prize is …

Asli Jensen with LOVE ON SIGHT

Many congratulations to you both – we can’t wait to start working with you on your stories!

Congratulations, too, to the rest of our shortlist for reaching the final seven – any two of you were capable of winning and debate among the judges was very healthy! We’ll be providing all of you with detailed feedback based on the panel’s thoughts.

Watch this space for details of the 2024 competition, which we’re planning to open in December.

Meet the Judges for the Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition 2023!

Posted by Olivia Jeggo on Friday April 7th, 2023

It's time to reveal our all-star lineup of judges for the 2023 competition ...


The 2023 Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition is now open!

Posted by Olivia Jeggo on Thursday December 1st, 2022

Hot on the heels of our 2022 winner's announcement, we’re so excited to share that the submissions portal for the Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition 2023 is OPEN!


Times/Chicken House Competition 2022 Shortlist Reveal!

Posted by Olivia Jeggo on Friday September 30th, 2022

The Times/Chicken House shortlist is here!


Times/Chicken House Competition 2022 Longlist Reveal!

Posted by Kesia on Tuesday September 13th, 2022

The Times/Chicken House long list is here!


The Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition 2022

Posted by Olivia Jeggo on Wednesday December 1st, 2021

With the dust finally settling from our 2021 winner's announcement, we’re so excited to share that the submissions portal for The Times/Chicken House Competition 2022 is OPEN!


And the winner is ...

Posted by Olivia Jeggo on Thursday October 14th, 2021

There's been lots of lively discussion this week as our panel of judges gathered to discuss this year’s incredible Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition and IET 150 Award shortlists. The journey to choosing our winners was no easy task ... (more…)

The 2021 Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition

Posted by Jazz on Monday October 26th, 2020

Hot on the tail of our 2020 winner announcement, we’re so excited to declare the new Times Competition OPEN!

This year, we’re introducing a brand new prize in partnership with the wonderful Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). Here are the basics about the two prizes on offer in 2021…

The Times/Chicken House Prize

The prize you already know and love – a worldwide publishing contract with Chicken House with a £10,000 advance (subject to contract) for a complete fiction manuscript of any genre for children aged 7 up to YA. The winning entry will be the novel that, in the opinion of the judges, demonstrates the greatest entertainment value, quality, originality and suitability for children.

The IET 150 Award

A brand new prize to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the IET in 2021! The IET 150 Award will be awarded to a complete fiction manuscript for children aged 7 up to Young Adult that broadly explores or celebrates Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. The prize is a worldwide publishing contract with Chicken House with a £10,000 advance (subject to contract).

The good news is, you don’t need to do anything extra to be considered for the IET 150 Award; simply enter the competition as normal and our expert team of readers will do the rest. Simple!

The deadline is 14th May 2021 at 11.59pm GMT. Time enough to polish off that manuscript you’ve got languishing in the bottom drawer… or maybe even to write a new one…

For more details on the competition, both prizes, and instructions on how to enter, please visit our submissions page. We can’t wait to read your novel – good luck!

The Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition 2020 winners are …

Posted by Jazz on Friday October 23rd, 2020

After a great deal of um-ing, ah-ing and lively discussion by our panel of judges on our incredibly competitive shortlist, the moment has finally arrived ...


The 2020 Times/Chicken House long list is here!

Posted by Jazz on Tuesday August 18th, 2020

2020 has been… pretty weird so far. But thank goodness, there are still some things you can rely on: writers will write, readers will read, and the wheels of the annual Times/Chicken House Competition will keep on turning.

Sure, we’re running a little late (thank you, public health crisis) but better late than never – and we are very proud to announce this year’s absolutely stonking long list!

Our 18 longlisted manuscripts are an even split between middle-grade and teen/YA. We’re incredibly proud of this diverse bunch of novels whose settings include India past and present, Egypt, London, 1990s Russia, a dystopic near-future, a clockwork shop, a magical island, a time loop, and a haunted house.

These stories are peopled with characters as marvellous as they are relatable – a lion highwayman, a pirate captain, a carer robot, a would-be alchemist, a maid-turned-master-criminal, an amateur sleuth, a reluctant agony aunt, a YouTube star, and a spider sidekick. And that’s to name but a few! So, without further ado, here is the 2020 longlist:

Adjay and the Mumbai Rail Times by Varsha Shah
Clockwork Magpies by Emma Whitehall
Dandy Paws the Highway Lion by Stephanie Sorrell
Don’t Ask Me by Catherine Mallette
Eye Spye by Sophie Stewart
Kali’s Kismet by Dev Kothari
The Boy and the Wolf by Tom Mann
The Elephant Heist by Rucha Dixit
The Eternal Return of Clara Hart by Louise Cook
The Girl Who Cared by Caitlin Sanderson
The Hangman’s Daughter by Kathryn Nelson
The Networked Wonderland of Us by Sarah Gibson Yates
The Other Ones by Fran Hart
The Precarious Potions of Kitta Quint by Mandy Rabin
The Rise and Fall of Priya and Paul by Beatrice Anobah
The Way to Zaubery by Katie Allen
Things I Learned While I Was Dead by Kathryn Clark
Waiting in the Wings by Harriet Parsons

Huge congratulations to our talented longlisted authors. We hope to announce the shortlist by the end of the month, so watch this space – and keep an eye on our social media accounts – for more news.

And the winner is ...

Posted by Jazz on Friday September 13th, 2019

Friday 6 September was a very exciting day for Chicken House: our esteemed panel of judges gathered in London to discuss this year’s incredible Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition shortlist and decide on the winner. (more…)

Presenting our shortlist!

Posted by Kesia on Friday July 5th, 2019

It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for: the shortlist announcement! (more…)

The Times/Chicken House longlist is here!

Posted by Jazz on Friday May 31st, 2019

WOW – what a year! (more…)

ONE MONTH to go ...

Posted by Kesia on Friday January 25th, 2019

There is just one month left to enter the special tenth anniversary Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition, which closes on 28 February. Are you excited? (WE ARE!) (more…)

An ode to writing competitions ...

Posted by Jazz on Friday October 26th, 2018

Nicki Thornton's debut novel The Last Chance Hotel won the Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition in 2016 and is currently Waterstones' Children's Book of the Month. Nicki has dropped by the blog to share how the competition changed her life ... 


Posted by Kesia on Tuesday August 15th, 2017

Are you an unpublished, unagented children's writer? If so, we'd love for you to enter our competition to win a publishing contract with a £10,000 advance ...


#TimesChickenHouse Competition: The Panel

Posted by Kesia on Thursday June 22nd, 2017

We have a very exciting #TimesChickenHouse announcement on its way tomorrow... yes, a winner! But before we start the drumroll, we wanted to say a big thank you to our judges, who did a brilliant job of debating an incredibly competitive shortlist yesterday (more on that soon). Alongside our very own Publisher, Barry Cunningham, this fantastic panel of industry experts lent their expertise to the task, and we couldn't be more grateful. Here they are - can we have a round of applause, please? (more…)

The #TimesChickenHouse shortlist is here!

Posted by Kesia on Friday May 5th, 2017

Our discerning Publisher, Barry Cunningham, has had the tricky job of picking out the top five longlisted submissions for the Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition shortlist. We don’t envy him: picking a longlist was difficult enough – the standard was truly spectacular! – but we’re pleased to say that he’s arrived at a decision. Drumroll please – our shortlist is … (more…)