Puffin has swept up an “incredible” new middle-grade trilogy by Jordan Lees in a seven-figure pre-empt. Carmen McCullough, editorial director, bought world rights to The Whisperwicks trilogy from Chloe Seager at Madeleine Milburn. Rights have already been snapped up in 10 languages in the weeks leading up to Frankfurt 2022, with pre-empts in Germany (CBJ), Spain (La Roca), Portugal (PRH), and the Netherlands (Unieboek), and rights sold at auction in France (Auzou), Italy (Salani), Greece (Psichogios) and Turkey (Timas). Offers are on the table in Finland and Lithuania. Lees has been flown out to Frankfurt to celebrate the international reaction to his book with a themed drinks reception and Q&A with his UK editor, McCullough, today (19th October).  

Alice Grigg, international rights director, said: “The overnight outpouring of enthusiasm for The Whisperwicks only matches our own when we first read an early draft of Jordan’s incredible debut. The flurry of multi-book deals over the past few weeks is testament to just how much The Whisperwicks has captured people’s hearts the world over.” 

Lees said: “This story has been with me for a long time and it was incredibly nerve-wracking to finally share it. I’ve been amazed and overwhelmed by the response. Thank you to my super agent Chloe for your belief, support and guidance. As for Carmen and everybody at Puffin, there’s no team I’d rather do this with. I feel very fortunate to be working with you all and can’t wait for readers to join Benjamiah and Elizabella on their journey through the labyrinth.” 

McCullough said: “The highest praise I can give The Whisperwicks is that it made me feel the same way as I did when I first read some of my beloved childhood favourites – The Secret GardenNorthern LightsGrimm’s FairytalesThe Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. That pure shivery sense of magic that fills you up inside and makes you want to stay up all night under the covers, desperate to read on but also never wanting to leave this world that you have fallen in love with. Jordan has created an astonishing and very special book – undoubtedly a future classic and one that Puffin couldn’t be prouder or more excited to publish.” 

Seager praised The Whisperwicks as “one of those rare submissions that I knew as I was reading would stay with me a lifetime”. She told The Bookseller: “The response to Jordan’s debut has been deservedly phenomenal. We were blown away by Carmen’s vision for the series and I’m over the moon that this astonishing story, from an extraordinary talent, has landed with the team at Puffin.”  

The first book in the series, The Labyrinth of Lost and Found, will publish in April 2024.