Young Quills winners 2022

The Young Quills Awards for best historical fiction for young people

Published: 5th July 2022

The Young Quills Awards 2022 – the winners

We are delighted to announce the 2022 competition winners for the Historical Association’s Young Quills Awards for Historical Fiction for children and young adults: 

Ages 5–9 years category:

Winner: The Chessmen Thief by Barbara Henderson, Pokey Hat, Cranachan Publishing
Highly commended: The Valley of Lost Secrets by Lesley Parr, Bloomsbury Publishing 

Ages 10–13 years category: 

Winner: The Swallows' Flight by Hilary McKay, Macmillan Children’s books
Highly Commended: Torn Apart by Swapna Haddow, Scholastic 

14+ years category: 

Winner: We Played With Fire by Catherine Barter, Andersen Press
Highly commended: A Rebel in Auschwitz by Jack Fairweather, Scholastic Focus

It has been a wonderful year for reading books, with lots of strong entries into the competition for 2022. Fortunately, a lot of the hard work is done by the audience as the Young Quills shortlist is created using the children’s and young people’s reviews of the books. Those reviews then also continue to assist the judges in their final deliberations.

This year the guest author judge was acclaimed writer of Historical Fiction and previous Young Quills winner Tony Bradman.

This is the only fiction competition for children’s books where it is the recommended audience who help to devise the shortlist – and very good they are at it. A big thank you to all the schools and young people who contributed.

A few comments from this year’s winners:

Barbara Henderson:
“I can't believe my luck, winning the Young Quills Award a second time – it's beyond what I could have imagined, especially considering the quality of the shortlist! Thanks so much to all the young readers and the judges! I live in the Highlands and my publishers are based on the Isle of Lewis, so I am especially proud that a book set mostly in Orkney and the Hebrides has, in some small way, put the North of Scotland on the story-map.”

Hilary McKay: 
“I am completely delighted to have won a Young Quills award. Looking at the wonderful books on the shortlist with The Swallows’ Flight, I realise what an honour it is. I was particularly chuffed to hear that it was chosen by young readers. Thanks so much to all of them.

“An award coming from the Historical Association means a great deal to me. Even more than writing the story, I enjoyed the research. Lockdown interrupted me half way through, but the sublime British Library came (not for the first time) to my rescue. They had already found me every newspaper stocked in the second week of November 1938 in a Devon newsagents shop. Now, despite a level 4 lockdown, they managed to email me, amongst other things, vintage street maps of Berlin, and three separate articles on the pre-war price of rubies. Cherish your libraries, young readers! Never let them go.” 

Catherine Barter:
“I'm absolutely thrilled to have won this award for We Played With Fire! The story of the spirit-talking Fox sisters is not always taken seriously, but it was no coincidence that their antics – real or fake – took place against the backdrop of a turbulent, transitional period of American history. The Young Quills Awards are a wonderful celebration of historical fiction and I'm so grateful for their recognition of this book. Thank you. 

The Young Quills Awards – more information

The Young Quills books for each year must be published for the first time in English in the year preceding the competition – so 2021 for this year’s selection. Divided by age suitability the books are given to schools on the condition that the children and young people there write a review of the book following our criteria.

For further information on the Young Quills please contact

Contact the HA directly if you would like to enter a book or apply to be a reviewing school.