‘The Next Harry Potter’ Ignites the Next Hollywood Freak-Out

Photo: Courtesy of Chicken House

How to create a Hollywood panic attack in three easy steps:

1. Write a children's book.

2. Get your publisher, the man who discovered Harry Potter, to call your book the next Harry Potter.

3. Wait.

That's all it took for every book-to-film person in Hollywood to fly into a tizzy this week, trying desperately to find and cover a copy of Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams's YA novel Tunnels, to be published next month in the U.K. by Chicken House. The book was a success when self-published by the authors, but Hollywood didn't notice until Chicken House publisher Barry Cunningham — who, as an editor at Bloomsbury, first signed J.K. Rowling — agreed to republish the book and told reporters, "I knew from page one that Harry Potter was magic. Reading Tunnels gave me the same thrill." A Reuters story got picked up by Yahoo! News, and the frenzy began.

Rumors are flying that a studio — possibly Disney — is about to make an offer to the agent, Stephen Moore at the Paul Kohner Agency, for the film rights to the book, first in a projected series about a 14-year-old boy-archaeologist who discovers a hidden world populated by a cult-like group below London. Other readers are telling us they've passed, finding the religious themes a little too weird: "I kept waiting for David Koresh to show up," said one.

"It's so predictable," another Hollywood source sighed. "Any time someone drops the H.P. bomb, Hollywood collectively shits its pants."

Could boy archaeologist be next Harry Potter? [Reuters, via Yahoo]