Winners of the Young Quills Awards 2011 Announced

Published: 27th September 2011

The Young Quills are shortlisted by young people, with adults involved at the end of the judging. Only historical fiction from the previous 12 months directly aimed at children and teenagers are included. And with just two categories based on age range the competition is fierce. The Young Quills are organised and awarded by the Historical Association.

The winner in the primary section (under 12 years ) for this year is The Sacred Scarab by Gill Harvey (Bloomsbury). The book is set in Ancient Egypt involving a collection of characters with children at the heart of the novel.

The judges described the winner as "An intriguing and very believable story. The protagonists Isis and Hopi are engaging; and Abana is a very plausible villain with his money making plot."

As readers the judges felt "the dust in the streets of Waset, sensed the cycle of the farming year, shared the reverence for the Gods and learnt about Egyptian medicine without the narrative ever being delayed."

Gill Harvey said of her win:

"I'm really delighted that The Sacred Scarab has won the Young Quills award this year. It feels an honour to have been shortlisted by young readers, as they're so discerning and sure of what they like. Writing historical fiction is a juggling act between storytelling and recreating another world, so it's a thrill when readers confirm that you've got the balance right. Many thanks to the Historical Association for celebrating that process."


The winner in the teenage section (12+) is Prisoner of the Inquisition by Theresa Breslin (Doubleday). The book is set in Spain during the fifteenth century and was described by the judges as

"An exciting and compelling story about love, hate, loyalty, kindness, sacrifice, suffering and religious persecution that never becomes melodramatic". They went on to state

"Theresa Breslin creates a rich and convincing setting in Spain during Ferdinand and Isabella's reconquest of Granada and in so doing shines a light on an area of history most students will never encounter unless they go on to A level. The link to Christopher Columbus and a part of history readers will already know helps cement the story in students' ‘big picture' of history."

Theresa Breslin said of her win:

"I'm especially thrilled that Prisoner of the Inquisition has won the Young Quills Award as the young reviewers for this award not only have to enjoy the book themselves but also feel that they'd want recommend it to others. History is not just about where we've been, it can also give insight into where we might go. This prize takes into consideration that the reader learns something and, crucially, is stimulated to find out more. That's a huge accolade for any book and writer to be given, and I'm extraordinarily pleased."  

The Historical Association introduced the awards two years ago in recognition of the important role fiction can play in introducing children and young people to history. Previous winners have included Jacqueline Wilson.

This year's wining books will be marked as Young Quills award winners when on sale. Information on the shortlist can be obtained from the Historical Association.

For further information regarding this release please contact Paula Kitching 07720809481


Theresa Breslin is the critically acclaimed author of over 30 books for children and young adults whose work has been filmed for television, broadcast on radio, and is read world-wide in many languages. Before taking up writing full-time, Theresa worked as a librarian in Scottish libraries for over twenty years. She won the Carnegie Medal, the UK's most prestigious award in children's literature, for Whispers in the Graveyard, in 1995.

Her latest novel, Prisoner of the Inquisition, was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal 2011. She travels extensively, doing research for her books and speaking at international conferences and book festivals.

Gill Harvey has two main passions in life: writing, and exploring her favourite continent, Africa. The result is quite a lot of travel-inspired books that she's either written or contributed to. Most of these are novels or stories for children. The first four are a new series, the Egyptian Chronicles. Gill fits in as many school visits as possible in the UK. They focus on ancient Egypt and involve a massive board game called Cobras and Vipers. Not all Gill's writing is for children. As well as working on Bradt travel guides, she writes travel articles. At the moment, Gill is spending a lot of time in Guinea-Bissau on the west coast of Africa. The animist cultures there have inspired her to start work on something new.

Young Quill Awards

The Historical Association announces the shortlist for the 2010 Young Quills Award. This prize has two separate categories; Primary and Secondary, although some books obviously fit into both categories. Books are selected for the shortlist by children reviewers in each category.

In order to qualify for the shortlist the submitted works had to conform to two criteria:

  • That the children reviewers enjoyed the book and would recommend it.

  • That the review contained evidence that ‘the history was good' and that the reviewer had both learnt something and was keen to find out more.

The short listed works selected by our reviewers are:


  • The Blue-Eyed Aborigine, by Rosemary Hayes [Frances Lincoln]

  • A Boy Called Mouse, by Penny Dolan [Bloomsbury]

  • The Secret Scarab, by Gill Harvey [Bloomsbury]

  • The Dumpy Princess, by Karin Fernald [Frances Lincoln]



  • The Cabinet of Curiosities, by Paul Dowswell [Bloomsbury]

  • Fallen Grace, by Mary Hooper [Bloomsbury]

  • The Fool's Girl, by Celia Rees [Bloomsbury]

  • Johnny Swanson, by Eleanor Updale [David Fickling Books]

  • Montacute House, by Lucy Jago [Bloomsbury]

  • Prisoner of the Inquisition, by Theresa Breslin [Doubleday]


The reviewers for this year's prize were drawn from children at the following schools:

Deansfield Primary in South London

Helpringham Primary School in Lincolnshire

Ilfracombe Art College in Devon

Kesteven and Sleaford High School in Lincolnshire

Swanmore College of Technology in Hampshire

The standard of books submitted this year was better than ever, and shows that historical fiction for younger readers is alive and well. Plenty of other books submitted received excellent reviews from our readers. You can read some of the reviews of the short listed books on the Historical Association website

If your school would like to get involved with reading for the 2012 Quills contact Alf Wilkinson: