Young Quills winners 2020

The Young Quills Awards for best historical fiction

Published: 8th July 2021

The winners for the 2020 Young Quills for Historical Fiction are:

6-9 years category:

The Closest Thing to Flying
By Gill Lewis, Oxford University Press

10-13 years category:

Our Castle by the Sea
By Lucy Strange, Chicken House

14 years + category:

The Stolen Ones
By Vanessa Curtis, Usborne Publishing 

Highly commended:

6-9 years category:

Winter of the Wolves
By Tony Bradman, Bloomsbury

10-13 years category:

The Diver’s Daughter – A Tudor Story
By Patrice Lawrence, Scholastic

– and a special mention to all the ‘Voices’ series of books of which this is just one, which open up the past to include many different voices of those that were there. 

14 years + category:

The Fountains of Silence
By Ruta Sepetys, Penguin

The competition works by the HA distributing to schools all the books provided and entered by the publishers. The schools and the young people send us their reviews of the books, and the shortlist for the awards is created from these reviews.

The 2020 awards were severely affected by the COVID-19 as the reading and reviews are usually done from February to May in school – which was exactly when the first lockdown occurred. Nonetheless we at the HA ploughed on, fully aware of how important reading and history is to our young people.

We, at the Historical Association, want to say a massive thank you to all the authors and publishers and to all the young people who got reviews to us. We have collated all the reviews onto our website so that you can see them all for yourself. During these last eighteen months – writers for children in all genres have provided information, entertainment, education, escape, solace and excitement to millions of young people when they have most needed it. You should all be proud!

Now from the 2020 winning and commended authors:

Gill Lewis – The Closest Thing to Flying
'I’m utterly delighted that The Closest Thing to Flying has won the Young Quills 6-9 category. Researching the women founders of the RSPB was fascinating. The initial work they did, to stop the use of feathers in fashion, has had far reaching benefits today. The conservation work by the RSPB has saved habitats and helped many species. However, I have a guilty confession, that I hated studying history as a child. I thought it was a dull subject about dates and dead people. But I know now, that it is one of the most interesting subjects of all: an infinite timeline of stories weaving through the extraordinariness of time. Each story has a different perspective, each story holds a different truth. We are human, fascinated and beguiled by each other. Stories make us human, and history holds the most incredible soap operas of all time.'

Lucy Strange – Our Castle by the Sea
'I was thrilled to bits when Our Castle by the Sea was shortlisted alongside such an array of wonderful historical fiction titles for the Young Quills Award, and I can't believe that it has won – I am OVER THE MOON! Of all my books, Our Castle by the Sea has the strongest message – a plea for humanity and hope, using its historical context to touch upon social and political themes that are still powerfully relevant today. Thank you to all the young readers and judges involved in the Young Quills, and thank you to everyone who reads, writes and cares about children's historical fiction.'

Vanessa Curtis – The Stolen Ones
'I'm truly delighted to win the teen category of Young Quills for my book The Stolen Ones (Usborne). I really enjoy my work as a teller of untold true stories from history and winning this award makes it even more worthwhile. Many thanks.'

Tony Bradman – Winter of the Wolves
'The Historical Association’s Young Quills Awards are a terrific way to get children interested in historical fiction. The hard-working organisers of the Awards at the HA and all the teachers and children who took part in choosing the shortlists and winners of the Covid-delayed 2020 awards should all be highly commended themselves for doing such a great job in such historically different circumstances! I’m very pleased with a ‘Highly Commended’ for Winter of the Wolves – many congratulations to all the winners!'

In 2020 all the books that were sent out to schools made a massive difference to the pupils and students who were at home during lockdown.

The book reviews for all the books that were part of Young Quills 2020 are here: Young Quills reviews 2020