WHO WE ARE


The Chicken House is a small, highly individual children’s book publishing company with an enthusiasm for new fiction. Chicken House books have found huge popularity with children, parents, teachers and librarians around the world.

‘ ... a publisher with a growing reputation for ingenuity, not least in finding new talent.’SUNDAY TIMES

‘Chicken House has garnered itself a reputation for finding the quirky and original.’BOOKSELLER

‘Enterprising and interesting publishing of the best sort.’PHILIP PULLMAN, AUTHOR OF HIS DARK MATERIALS

‘In a very short period of time the Chicken House list has produced groundbreaking books that have left their mark on the field of children’s literature.’ELLIE BERGER, PRESIDENT OF TRADE PUBLISHING, SCHOLASTIC INC. NEW YORK

The Story so far ...


Chicken House Publishing Ltd was founded in 2000 by Barry Cunningham, Publisher and Managing Director, with Deputy Managing Director, Rachel Hickman.

Over the last decade, Chicken House has demonstrated that a small, creative publishing team based in Somerset can make an impact on an international scale. Chicken House has sold more than six million copies of Cornelia Funke’s books, including five New York Times children’s bestsellers. The TUNNELS series by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams has been an international hit in over 40 countries, while other writers who have achieved worldwide acclaim include Kevin Brooks, Lucy Christopher and Rachel Ward.

In 2007, in association with The Times newspaper, the company proudly launched The Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition for undiscovered talent. This has since grown into a well-established annual event, recognised for having produced a clutch of successful new authors.

The international reach of the company is thanks to its association with the world’s largest children’s publisher, Scholastic Inc, who bought Chicken House in 2005. Chicken House books are sold in the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and via its export companies around the world. Chicken House sells subsidiary world rights directly to overseas publishers, and, in 2010, Chicken House Deutschland was launched, marking a special collaboration in Germany with leading publisher Carlsen Verlag.

In 2012, Chicken House joined forces with The House of Books, Holland, launching Chicken House Nederland and adding yet another international string to the company's bow.

‘Can we make a difference to children’s reading? Of course we can: By continuing to choose books we truly believe in and talking about them wherever we go! Stories still remain the most important currency of our lives.’ BARRY CUNNINGHAM

Meet the team


Barry Cunningham, OBE

Barry Cunningham, OBE  Publisher and Managing Director

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. Not only was the new list a success, but Barry soon became one of the best known names in publishing after he signed up J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

‘If it wasn’t for Barry Cunningham, Harry Potter might still be languishing in his cupboard under the stairs… I doubt any of the writers with whom he has worked could be more grateful to him.’
J.K Rowling

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.


Rachel Hickman

Rachel Hickman  Deputy Managing Director

Rachel Hickman has been with Chicken House since its inception. She has worked with Barry Cunningham for more than 15 years – forming a professional relationship that combines Barry’s boundless enthusiasm, entrepreneurial spirit and talent spotting ability with her own good strategic planning, lateral thinking, creative marketing and art management.

Rachel wanted to work in children’s books since joining the Puffin Club as a child. After a degree in English and Publishing at Oxford Brookes, she began a career that has now spanned 25 years. In 1987, Rachel Hickman was recruited by Barry Cunningham to work at Penguin Children’s Books where she was Publicity and Promotions Manager. In 1994, she left to head the children’s marketing department at Harper Collins Children’s Books. Throughout her career, Rachel has worked with the most famous names in children’s publishing including Roald Dahl, Dick King-Smith, Ursula Moray Williams, Roger McGough and Posy Simmonds.

She lives in the countryside in Hampshire with her husband and two children (plus the dog and horse!).


Elinor Bagenal

Elinor Bagenal  Rights Director

Elinor Bagenal has been with Chicken House since the very start.

Until recently, Elinor edited the picture book list while also selling licences for Chicken House titles all over the world. She is now focused on selling rights and working with our export sales customers.

Elinor first became involved with books when she needed a day job while trying to become a famous musician. She started her career at BBC Books before moving to Somerset to become Editorial Director at Mathew Price. Elinor later moved to America, working as a rights consultant for a variety of different publishers. Upon her return to the UK she met Barry Cunningham, and assisted him in setting up the Bloomsbury children’s list. When Barry founded Chicken House in 2000, Elinor moved with him and has been here ever since.


Rachel Leyshon

Rachel Leyshon  Senior Editor

Rachel Leyshon came to work at the Chicken House in 2010. She most likes developing exciting new submissions into bestselling fiction, but has always been a bookworm or, more accurately, a book locust. One school report said she read too many novels, so she’s very glad to have a job where that’s an advantage. Her love of children’s books began with Huff the Hedgehog, hero of a beloved and now out-of-print picture book, who just wanted his dinner. Huff led Rachel to an English degree at the University of Birmingham and she began her career in publishing shortly after graduating. Rachel’s first job was at a literary agency where – inconveniently – she discovered that she really wanted to be an editor. She worked first in adult fiction and non-fiction, before finding her natural home in children’s books. When she is not reading or thinking about books, she is busy chasing after her two small and energetic sons.


Imogen Cooper

Imogen Cooper  Senior Editor

Imogen’s route into publishing and editing was an unusual one. She has a degree in Theatre and an MA in European Culture and initially wanted to direct for the stage. She landed in children’s publishing after working on regional arts education projects.

She began her publishing career editing Gervase Phinn, working on the Storysack project and creating award-winning books for babies. After that, she turned her hand to editing longer fiction and this was when she discovered her love of directing for the page rather than the stage!

Since being at Chicken House she has helped many debut authors achieve their potential and, in 2010, received the Branford Boase Award. Imogen thoroughly enjoys acquiring new manuscripts for Chicken House and editing its eclectic list.

Imogen now works for Chicken House on a freelance basis as Senior Editor and has started her own venture, Golden Egg Academy, offering editorial services and support to promising new writers. For more information on Golden Egg, click here.


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