Debut novel 'Urchin' to be published in 2005

NEW YORK — Miramax has acquired U.S. publishing and film rights to “Mistmantle Chronicles,” a forthcoming trilogy of children’s books by Brit author Margi McAllister.

First book in the series, “Urchin of the Riding Stars,” is due for publication in spring 2005 by Miramax Books in the U.S. and by Bloomsbury in the U.K., with the second and third books due in 2006 and 2007, respectively.

Series is about a group of animals, including squirrels, otters, hedgehogs and moles, living on an island hidden in mist. Debut novel centers on Urchin, an orphaned red squirrel, who rises to meet the challenges of a kingdom under threat while learning about loyalty and friendship.

“This is a long way from being a cute fable about furry animals,” said Miramax Books president and editor in chief Jonathan Burnham. “Poison, treachery, power struggles and assassinations all swirl around in an atmosphere reminiscent of Shakespeare and ancient myth.”

Burnham and U.K.-based Miramax European literary acquisitions exec Lola Bubbosh identified the property for the company. Miramax exec VP of European production and development Colin Vaines will oversee the feature project.

“Mistmantle” is one of a growing number of children’s books in Miramax’s feature development channel, underscoring the company’s push into the family entertainment arena that began with this month’s bigscreen release of “Ella Enchanted.”

Fantasy pics in development from kid lit properties include “Artemis Foul,” “The Tiger’s Apprentice” and “The Bartimaeus Trilogy,” while Miramax sister unit Dimension Films is developing “The Lost Years of Merlin.”

Other family-themed material being developed at Miramax includes Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus’ bestseller “The Nanny Diaries” and Allison Pearson’s “I Don’t Know How She Does It” and “I Think I Love You.”

Miramax exec VP of business affairs Steve Hutensky and VP of business and legal affairs Rosalind Lawton negotiated the “Mistmantle” film deal on behalf of the studio. Book deal was negotiated by Hutensky and Jon Yaged, VP of business and legal affairs for Miramax Books.

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