HA Announces the winners of the Young Quills for Historical Fiction 2012

Published: 23rd May 2013

The ‘Young Quills' Award for Historical Fiction recognises the powerful role that fiction can have for introducing, informing and exciting young people about historical events, characters and places. The competition has two categories - Primary and Secondary. It is the only book award as far as we know where children help produce the shortlist. The Historical Association introduced the Young Quills 2010 previous winners have included Jacqueline Wilson.

Criteria for inclusion in the 2012 award were:

  • Books must be first published in 2012
  • They must fall firmly into historical fiction
  • A good read is important
  • A sense of history is more important than precise factual information


The winner of the Primary section is:

‘Titanic, Death on the Water' by Tom and Tony Bradman, A & C Black Publishers Ltd


The judges from the children's input said:

Whilst as readers we already know the ending of this story for the ship we do not know the ending for the characters that the authors have created and this is what gives the story real suspense. As one pupil reader commented, ‘it transports you aboard the sinking ship and it allows you to feel the fear,...'.

Billy Fleming is an engaging hero who signs on, as part of the crew of the Titanic, as a bell boy and it is through his eyes that we view events. He is fictional, as our some of the other leading characters, but some are real people too and so this book also raises that thorny issue of how to treat real people in a fictional story, including putting words into their mouths. With their access to the records the authors have no doubt been careful in this respect but it is an interesting question for children to consider if after reading they plan to include real people in their own historical fiction.

Tom and Tony Bradman said: "We're both incredibly pleased to have won the award, especially because it was largely judged by children. It's always great to get feedback from the people we wrote the book for, and positive feedback is even better! We're both honoured and proud to have won against such good competition. Thanks to everyone involved."

The winner was selected from the shortlist here.


The winner of the Secondary section is:

‘Eleven Eleven' by Paul Dowswell, Publishers Bloomsbury Children's Books


The judges from the children's input said:

The device of following the three main characters, one American, one English and one German, through the final hours of the war is very effective in giving this war story a wider human perspective. These three are amply supported by a range of minor characters of different nationalities. Amongst the many strengths of this story are the vivid action sequences and the very atmospheric settings, such as the aerial sequences or the sniper in the wood. As one pupil reader commented, ‘It's very tense and leaves you on the edge of your seat.' Others commented on how they also learnt some German, a consequence of the subtle dropping in of simple words such as ja and of feldgraue.

Most of important of all is the way that the reader becomes caught up in the events and people the way they find themselves willing the three young men to survive those final hours of an awful conflict.

Paul Dowswell said: "Historical fiction is a great medium for both entertaining and educating young readers so I'm delighted and honoured to be chosen as this year's winner of the Young Quills Book Award. Hats off to the Historical Association for their continuous efforts to popularise history and thank you to my editors at Bloomsbury, Ele Fountain and Isabel Ford, for their sterling advice and support."

The winner was selected from the shortlist here.

The authors will receive their awards at an Awards Evening, to be held at Senate House, University of London, on June 18th.

Included at the awards event is a lecture by Professor David Cannadine who is receiving The Medlicott Medal for his contribution to History.