The Independent’s Arifa Akbar reports that Barry Cunningham, the former Bloomsbury employee who championed a little-known children’s book named HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE, claims to have done it again. Now the managing director of Chicken House publishing, he’s signed up TUNNELS, a debut children’s fantasy novel about “a boy archaeologist who discovers a lost world under London by digging into tunnels beneath the city”, written by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams. Pre-publication rights have sold in 15 languages, amassing advances of over 500,000 pounds with a major Hollywood film deal in the pipeline.

“I knew from page one that Harry Potter was magic,” said Cunningham. “Digging into TUNNELS gave me the same thrill, discovering a world of imagination just beyond our everyday lives. I’m always on the lookout for something that has a transforming imagination. Children love portals that start in the everyday world and use magic or wardrobes to take them somewhere else.”