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This competition has now closed. See the winners below.

Judged by authors Robin Stevens, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, Carrie Hope Fletcher, and more!

For budding writers aged 6-18. Win up to £200 of National Book Tokens!

Now more than ever is a time for imagination. While our world changes, every day people are finding new, creative ways to tell stories and spread joy. Now is the time to find comfort and inspiration in unbelievable words, extraordinary adventures and magical encounters with big friendly giants and tiny talking spiders. Now is the time to dream.

In collaboration with the Puffin Festival of Big Dreams, we've teamed up with six of the UK's most exciting children's and YA authors to ask your children to do just that.



How to enter: ask your child to write a story of up to 300 words, using the theme BIG DREAMS. Submit it here by midnight on 28th May 2020.

They can interpret the theme however they like: an epic fantasy inspired by a dream, an amazing adventure that takes place in another world, or a true-to-life story set in an imaginary school. The winning stories will be chosen by not one, not two, but six amazing Puffin authors: Nathan Bryon and Sam Copeland (6-10), Robin Stevens and Yassmin Abdel-Magied (11-14), and Emma Smith-Barton and Carrie Hope Fletcher (15-18). 

National Book Tokens gift cardsOur esteemed judges will award one winner in each age group the grand prize of a £200 National Book Token, with added prizes of 2 x £100 and 16 x £50 National Book Tokens in each category. The winners will be announced on Sunday 14th June by the authors themselves at the Puffin Festival of Big Dreams on Puffin Books' YouTube and Facebook channels, and the three winning stories will be published on our website. 

We can't wait to read all these big dreams!

This competition was inspired by author John Boyne's extraordinary short story competition, which saw thousands of young Irish writers submit their stories in the early weeks of the pandemic.





A BIG thank you to every young writer who submitted their story; we received thousands of fantastical, scary, and emotional BIG DREAMS. And thank you to our judges: Nathan Bryon and Sam Copeland (6-10), Robin Stevens and Yassmin Abdel-Magied (11-14), and Emma Smith-Barton and Carrie Hope Fletcher (15-18), who all had a brilliant time reading them.

The winners were announced on Sunday 14th June 2020 by the authors themselves at the Puffin Festival of Big Dreams on Puffin Books' YouTube and Facebook channels. You can watch the announcement – and see what the judges thought of the stories – in the video below.

The winners have each won a £200 National Book Token to spend on lovely new books, with the runners-up taking home a £100 National Book Token, and each highly commended writer a £50 National Book Token. Congratulations, big dreamers! We will contact everyone by email about their prizes very soon.

Winners (6-10)

Winner: Emily Nicholson, age 10, Dreamwanderer. Berlin, 12 August 1961

I can see into other peoples dreams. It may sound silly, but I can. At night, I watch the dreams of every child in Berlin. Ive seen stupid dreams, crazy dreams, even nightmares. My own dreams only come when something bad is going to happen. They are the reason I am still here.

Im Miranda. Im ten years old, but my hair is silvery grey. Mum says it might be because I can see into dreams. For years, people had been leaving East Berlin, my home, and moving into the West. The government threatened to build a wall around East Berlin, but nobody believed it was true.

Until, one night, I had a dream. Government officials were talking about the wall. We shall start with a barbed-wire fence, said one, then we shall turn it to concrete!

I woke up, shocked. I had to warn everyone! The officials had said it would happen on 12 August, at midnight. I looked at my watch; it was 11pm. I had to act. Fast.

I woke up Mum and Dad, and told them about my dream. They were up in moments. They started running all over East Berlin, warning people that the threatened wall was coming. At home, I phoned everyone they couldnt reach. People swarmed through the border between East and West, leaving only my parents and me. Mum and Dad went through, but then the clock struck twelve. I was trapped.

I ran and ran as though my life depended on it (which it probably did). Police trucks were closing in. Soldiers stood nearby, their guns out, ready to fire. I flew over the border, and into my parents arms. Everyone from East Berlin was now in the West. That night, I had a dream: of people celebrating, free at last.


Zori Varoujian, age 9, Sid the Sock

All forgotten on the highest shelf, laid a sock puppet that was so old and sad that his googly eyes were already slowly, slowly falling off. His name was Sid. Sid was all alone and had no one to share his thoughts with. Sid had one dream: to become a real person able to move of his own free will and make friends. He wished that Jane, the little girl that created him, never stopped her dream of having the largest sock puppet collection. However, all she had done after creating Sid was to go to sleep with that dream in her head, waking up in the morning and never bothering to make another friend for Sid.

One day, Sid thought and thought and had an idea. Focusing all his strength he pushed himself an inch forward, then another and another. Eventually, Sid made himself topple over the edge right onto the table. However, something was wrong. Where was the delightful sound of Jane laughing happily? Where was mother joyfully cooking in the kitchen? Where was father who in his busy manner usually sat at this very table doing his work? Wait! He could hear two voices laughing. One sounded like Jane but a bit deeper, and another just like the soft tinkling of running water. 

Suddenly, two people rushed in but to Sids surprise it was Jane grown up. (You see, sock versions of time are slower as socks do not die). A small girl looking like a younger version of Jane picked up Sid and said, Mum whats this?
Thats a sock puppet. replied Jane.
Can we make some? said the girl.
Of course said Jane.
Soon after, not only did Sid have many friends, but Jane also had the worlds largest sock puppet collection!

Mille Dodd, age 10, Prima Donna

My name is Mary. I am a normal twelve year old: I go to school, I have a loving family and friends. In fact everything about me is normal. Apart from the fact that I am blind.

I have never seen my mother. Is she pretty? Does she have a beautiful smile? I have a sister, Rosalyn. She has always supported me. But shes never understood.

Ever since I was three years old I wanted to be a ballerina at Le Grand theatre. It was a book that inspired me. My mum used to read it to me every night. No one got my obsession. I want to one day dance on stage. Be a Prima Donna.

I have also being going to ballet school since I was four. I used to struggle but now I can really dance. I passed exams by a long way. Until I auditioned.

When I auditioned for the dance show, the teacher there didnt even watch me. She said that it wouldnt be easy for the other dancers to adjust but I knew that was an excuse for not wanting a handicapped girl in the troupe. So then I quit dance altogether. I still danced in my bedroom but only sometimes.

When I moved school, there was a massive dance hall in there. When everyone else was outside I used my stick to find the room. I opened the door and started dancing. I danced and danced until I heard someone coming in. It was the dance teacher. She watched me and then asked me to audition for a show.

Next week I was dancing, solo, in le grand theatre. I was there. A famous dancer. Me, Mary the blind girl, a Prima Donna.

Highly Commended

  • Stella Tortise, age 9, No Regrets
  • Rudy Holland, age 8, Dream Team
  • Bhavi Patel, age 9, The Magic Tree
  • Erika Lam, age 9, The Princess’ Bound Feet
  • Anouk Williamson, age 10, Heaven and Hell
  • Elise Millet, age 9, The Vegetable Dream
  • Ella Cond, age 9, Dream Big Always
  • Charlotte Watson, age 7, Max and the Avocado Wizard
  • Emma Hayward, age 10, Dream Big
  • Eli Smith, age 7, The Hat with a Hand
  • Harlyn Robertson, age 8, The Mask and the Mirror
  • Maisy Jones, age 8, The Big Adventure
  • Fred Finnie, age 7, The Rosie Bloom
  • Emilio Cox-Shanks, age 9, Bonnie’s Scotland
  • Aaron Nathan, age 7, Lockdown Party
  • Hussain Chowdhury, age 9, Hussain and His Adventures


Winners (11-14)

Winner: Katie Hathaway, age 11, Untitled

Reading her book, Willow touched her necklace. It had been given to her by her mother before she died; Willow never took it off. Whenever she opened it, the name Aloke came to her mind. Deep into the night, Willows eyes became heavy, the words on the page beginning to swirl in front of her. Willow had fallen asleep with the book lying on her chest; her hand clasped around her mother's necklace.

Her head spinning, Willow felt a sharp, cold breeze hit her pale cheek. Where was she? Blinking intensely, she looked around. The place seemed familiar. She realised what had happened. She had entered the land in her book.

Her eyes scoured the vast landscape but she could see nothing except the bright white glare of the sun on the snow. Out of the corner of her eye, she glimpsed the wing of a mythical creature circling in the sky above.

Trudging through the frozen abyss, Willow shivered. As darkness fell, the sky became covered by a blanket of deep, grey clouds. I need to find shelter! A few hours later, she spotted a small, old cabin. Smiling, she sprinted over to the snow-covered oak door. Knock Knock!

That necklace looks familiar... Came a squeaky voice through the letterbox. A kind-looking dwarf, dressed in blue, opened the door and looked at Willow intensely from head to toe, Come in then.

Willow introduced herself but the dwarf already knew her. Willow, I need you to know something.. She nodded to show that he had her undivided attention. Its about your necklace.. Before your mother died, she always came to this land. That's why she gave you that necklace, so you could enter the book in your dreams too.

Speechless, Willow stared at him. What is your name?



Tom Ikin, age 13, Home

The day was painting the island red with ochres of setting sun. A cave by the sea; inside, pools of water, clear and saline, the birthplace of crabs. Small crabs, with abdomens like single orange segments, pale pink as the sea at sunrise, crawled from the cave. They were hermit crabs, shell-less by nature, but compelled to wear shells discarded by others.

This morning the beach was white. White hot, white sand, white sun. A little hermit crab was walking, leaving little black dots in the sand, tiny footprints. It wore a shell over its abdomen, a shell worn by sun and snail alike, full of holes. For a young hermit crab, good shells were rare, and many spent weeks hiding in a cave, shell-less. This crab, however, was dreaming. It dreamed of the ideal shell, a shell that others would envy, even dream of, as it did. A shell of legend, beautiful as the moon on the rise, pearlescent and pure.

It wandered aimlessly for some time, leaving little black footprints all over the beach. The tide washed foam over the sand, and over the lone crab. When the sea went through the holes in its shell, it scampered with some purpose: away from the sea, as far as it could go, for the salt stung its scarcely protected abdomen. It climbed the black rocks by the beach and settled in a shady overhang. It was there that it saw, to its utmost glee and amazement, the greatest shell it had ever set eyes upon. There were fragments of shell all about, but this one was perfect, beautiful and intact.

It was the shell of dreams, the envy of the world, and from then on the little crab was no longer the dreamer, but the object of others' dreams.

Victoria Moreno-Ferrer, age 13, Nerium Oleander

Chrysanthemums spiralled out of her mouth one after the other, tumbling out endlessly. Clary didnt understand what was happening. She only needed to know what on earth that little group were doing in that spare classroom on the third floor, curiosity taking her by the heels. As soon as she swung open the door and noticed what looked to be a clock floating in mid-air, the next thing she knew, grass sprouted at her feet and she was hurling flowers from her lips. Clary choked on the soft petals that laid at the back of her throat, the sickly-sweet smell of pollen filling the once crisp air of the classroom.

The others in the room rushed over to her side, the scent of the room making them gag. One of them-a girl called Lydia if she remembered correctly- sat in front of her, placing her hand upon Clarys shoulder to calm her slightly. Lydias hand was warm and comforting, in contrast to Clarys trembling body, the panic fading for a second before rippling at full speed when another flower poured out of her mouth. A pendulum darker than onyx was held tightly in Lydias other hand, the jewel emitting a sort of glow when it came near her. Lydia gently pressed the gemstone against Clarys forehead, the glow becoming more and more blinding by the second. Before Clary knew it, a wave of exhaustion hit her, the flowers that once blocked her throat disappeared and her eyes were slipping shut, the glow from the pendulum fading out...

Lydia turned to face the others; the saccharine scent no longer present. The girl was slumped against her chest, heavy eyelids locked shut and the colour returning to her pale face.

Safe to say shes one of us, Lydia whispered casually.

Highly Commended

  • Tanwen Robertson, age 12, In a world full of cream, be the crimson
  • Tilly Meers, age 13, The Shared Dream
  • Flo Winning, age 12, Swimming to the Stars
  • Elliot Hargraves, age 11, Red Sand and Green Men
  • Chloe Walker, age 11, The Dream Time
  • Joaquin Tallon Viejo, age 12, I am a Dream
  • Fatimeh Nagey, age 11, Sweet Dreams
  • Hannah Rodriques, age 13, Izzy
  • Marcus Mahony, age 11, Big Dreams
  • Izzy Nash, age 13, Running to a Dream Victory
  • Phoebe Burn, age 12, Untitled
  • Hannah Rosser, age 12, Dreams Come True
  • Grace Johnson, age 12, For Lucy
  • Katie Wood, age 13, Ghost
  • Aisha Yasar, age 12, The Friend Better Than Sight
  • Rem Fernyhough, age 11, Life is Short


Winners (15-18)

Winner: Lia Doyle, age 17, Two Seconds Was All It Took

As a young girl who was from Iran, my middle eastern parents would never have accepted the fact that I was gay. But I had big dreams, I wanted to love with no judgement.

I met her when we were at school. She had just moved down from Birmingham and was pretty scared standing in a North London canteen. Whilst my friends were fantasising over the new love interest in the latest romantic comedy movie, I was looking at the girl. She was standing there with her beautiful black hair running down her back, her smooth brown skin and her hands tied in a knot. That was when I knew I was gay. So, I walked over, said Hi and then we were friends.

As the years went on we grew closer. We went through exams together, spending every lunch barely revising, through relatives deaths and divorces. She thought we were just very close. My parents loved the fact that I had someone this close to me. It meant I didnt have to be looked after by them.

One day I told her was gay, when we were 17. I just couldnt take it anymore. She, of course, accepted me, and relished in my new found confidence and freedom. But the weight wasnt lifted off my shoulders. I had a bigger secret. She never talked about boys so I thought there was hope.

Yet, she met a guy.
And I met a girl.

And as I stand here as her maid of honour with a smile on my face, and even though Im happily in love, I cant help but think that my big dreams failed. Because she was my big dream.


Kea Allen, age 18, Werk in Process

Painting her face was hard when the lighting was so dull. The bulbs bordering her crooked mirror were half-dead, merely flickering occasionally. The dressing room smelt rank and sweaty, the lone window that was cracked open made little difference. A wall of stink hit her as she walked in each evening, it was not the sort of smell she could get used to. But then again, she did not want to be there long enough to get comfortable.

Although pretending was essentially her job, she found it very difficult. Each night she pretended that she relished performing to a deserted crowd, pretended that the isolated heckles -from the few audience members there were- didnt bruise her ego. The only pretending that she enjoyed was pretending to be a woman- and she was an expert. But she knew that. Her wig cap was always hidden, her lashes were never crooked, her tuck was always tight. She would look at herself in the mirror and trace her fingers down the outline of her voluptuously padded hips. She was powerful. The illiberal old men she would entertain each evening were not her intended audience, her work was for the blaring outsiders; those who needed to find other peculiar people, and her heart was set on giving them something more extravagant. A queen needed her empire, but she knew it took time and patience to achieve her dream.

She dreamt of her first night in a glamorous drag club as the headline performer. The lights would beam brightly onto the stage, the walkway stretching out through a packed audience. The palpable energy from the crowd could be heard in the bright and unsoiled dressing room. She would strut elegantly in her 6-inch heels to the stage. Next up! The fierce, the brave, Big Dreams!

Freddie Houlahan, age 16, In Perpetuum

It was eight minutes after stealing bread for the first time that my ambitions blinded me. The day remains distinct in my head for its extraordinary normality: no film moguls or red-faced, puffing businessmen had driven through the suburbs in pursuit of whatever they sought in the decidedly more agreeable parts of Lagos. Nor, for that matter, did the rattle of guns bore holes through the dusty murmur of the marketplace though, in retrospect, it occurs to me that they had likely just taken up residence elsewhere for the day. Someone else had shouldered that burden and I was given reprieve in return. Not that it matters to me. Its how the world works.

You will recall you were there, after all that I was, on this most insignificant of days, lying broken under the hammering of the sun. I recognised that the single loaf would prove impotent in the grand scheme of things; I have felt for some time that my days have grown increasingly finite. Perhaps it was something in the water, perhaps in an insects gut. Regardless, I was hungry and so I took. I hoped, briefly, that I might continue just a little longer. I am only human, after all. Ah. I suppose you mightnt subscribe to that belief.

It was and remains unsurprising that my actions elicited a loud and thundery response from the emblazoned man watching waiting across the street. The drugs and guns are not of his concern, as long as the money makes it to him somehow.
I had only hoped to delay him, perhaps take a little from his pocket, that I might have a little more time.

And yet my wish, my dream to live has come at the cost of your own.

That, Officer, is how the world works.

Jessica Robinson-Jones, age 15, The Dream Catcher

A shadow. There, by the wall. A monster. He reached for the lamp.
There, standing in the pale beams of light stood a figure; tall and scary. A monster.
The monster shifted and he could see it clearly now. The monster was a girl. A strange girl, with locks as dark as the midnight sky and two eyes, each as bright as moons. Staring straight at him.
The boy peeked from under his blankets.
Who are you?" he whispered. "What do you want?".
As the girl stepped further into the light, he could see the cloak shimmer. A cloak of stars.
Im not here to hurt you. Im a catcher. Her warm smile was soothing and reassuring.
What do you mean a catcher?
My job, she said is to empty all the dreamcatchers. They fill up with nightmares, and I empty them.
He frowned.
You mean you get rid of them?
The bed dipped a little as the girl sat down.
The little boy made his way towards the dreamcatcher hung on his wall and fingered the tufts of feathers hanging from the strings.
What do you do with them? The nightmares?
I take them away to a place where they can never hurt you again.
He smiled.
That sounds nice.
The boy wrapped his small arms around her.
Thank you. For keeping me safe from the nightmares.
The catcher girl smiled back.
Youre welcome.
She retrieved her bag of nightmares and climbed up onto the windowsill.
And remember - your monsters may feel real, but they are just another thing to conquer.
With that she vanished into the night, her cloak of stars trailing behind her, shimmering in the moonlight.

Highly Commended

  • Ellen McKeag, age 16, Betelgeuse
  • Patrick Heyes, age 17, Moonlight Dreams
  • Leanne Painter, age 15, Let's Make Them True
  • Rhian Kille, age 16, The Sandman
  • Yulia Wolcuzk, age 15, When I Grow Up…
  • Mollie Bruce, age 18, Some People Dream
  • Ffion Godwin, age 18 The Lost Library
  • Grace Chambers, age 16, I Used to Be a Size 12
  • Emily Campbell, age 17, Nightmares of Past and Present
  • Saffron Leaves, age 16, Under the Bed
  • Anya Johnstone, age 17, Concealing the Truth
  • Emilia Brooks, age 18, Blackberry, Blackbird?
  • Ellie Beckett, age 15, Dream for Equality. It’s 1963.
  • Ava Datta, age 17, What is the point in dreaming?
  • Josie Bloom, age 17, Untitled


Watch the authors read out the winners at 45:30!

Terms and Conditions

Key Points

  • There are three age ranges: 6-10, 11-14, and 15-18. Please ensure you submit according to the child's age at the time of entry. For children aged 6-15, entries must be submitted by an adult over the age of 18. Entrants aged 16-17 may submit their own story. 
  • If you are submitting on behalf of more than one child, please submit each story separately.  
  • The theme of the short story competition is "Big Dreams". The child can be as creative with this theme as they wish. 
  • Submitted stories should be a maximum of 300 words and a minimum of 50 words. The story's title is not included in the word count.  
  • Closing date for submission is 11:59pm on Thursday 28th May 2020. 
  • Winners will be announced at the online Puffin Festival of Big Dreams on Sunday 14th June 2020, and on the National Book Tokens website. 


  • The total prize fund is £3,600* of National Book Tokens gift cards (*the competition is open to residents of the Republic of Ireland, in which case some of the prizes may be awarded in Euros) 
  • The prizes will be in the form of National Book Tokens gift cards (physical gift cards sent via post) or e-Gift cards (sent via email).
  • Winners x 3 (1 per age group) receive £200 National Book Tokens.
  • Runners up x 6 (2 per age group) – receive £100 National Book Tokens.
  • Highly commended x 48 (16 per age group) receive £50 National Book Tokens. 

Detailed Terms and Conditions

  • No purchase necessary. 
  • Opening date: Monday 18th May 2020.
    Closing date: 11:59pm, Thursday 28th May 2020.  
  • Entries must be submitted according to the child’s age at the time of entry (6-10, 11-14, 15-18). 
  • For children aged 6-15, entries must be submitted by an adult over the age of 18; children aged 16-18 may submit their own entries. 
  • Entrants may submit multiple stories per child (one per form), but may not win more than one prize per child. 
  • Entries must include a story that is a maximum of 300 words (and a minimum of 50 words); stories must be on the theme of "big dreams" and the child can be as creative with this theme as they wish. 
  • The Promoter reserves the right to publish or reproduce the entirety or extracts of any of the submitted entries, either directly or via partners, including but not exclusively social media, digital and printed reproduction. 
  • The competition is open to UK and Republic of Ireland residents except employees of the Booksellers Association, Book Tokens Ltd., Penguin Random House, their families, employees of participating bookshops, and anyone else connected with this promotion.
  • Prizes: 

    Winners x 3 (1 per age group) £200 National Book Tokens 
    Runners up x 6 (2 per age group) £100 National Book Tokens  
    Highly commended x 48 (16 per age group) £50 National Book Tokens  

    The prizes are non-transferable and there are no cash alternatives. The Promoter reserves the right to amend the specification of the prize or offer an alternative prize. In exceptional circumstances, the Promoter reserves the right to foreclose the competition without notice. 
  • Entrants agree to the Promoter using the child’s name, age and regional area in post-competition publicity. Your details will not be used for any other purpose, or passed onto any third parties, unless specified. Winners’ details may be shared securely with a third-party in order to fulfil the dispatch of competition prizes. 
  • We will contact winners by email. In the event of a winner not responding after 5 days, we reserve the right to allocate the prize to another winner or foreclose the prize. Unfortunately, unsuccessful entrants will not be contacted. 
  • The Promoter accepts no responsibility for entries that are incomplete, illegible, incorrect, corrupted or fail to reach the Promoter by the closing date for any reason. Automatically generated entries or entries via third parties are invalid and shall not be considered. 
  • The Promoter and judging panel's decision is final, and no correspondence will be entered into. 
  • The Promoter reserves the right to change the judging panel or add to it.  
  • The Promoter will only use your email address and other personal information as outlined in our privacy policy. 
  • Promoter: Book Tokens Ltd, 6 Bell Yard, London, WC2A 2JR. 
  • Due to the public health crisis (Covid-19), prizes may be delayed in being dispatched to winners; there may be a delay in contacting winners; there may be unavoidable issues that mean the Promoter needs to amend the specification of the prize or offer an alternative prize. 

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About National Book Tokens

National Book Tokens have been inspiring booklovers since 1932. We work with our charity partners at World Book Day, Book Aid International and Read for Good – and through the thousands of people who give National Book Tokens as gifts and rewards each year – to encourage a lifelong love of reading among children everywhere.

Accepted in thousands of bookshops, online and on eBooks, National Book Tokens are the perfect way to reward and inspire.

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About the Puffin Festival of Big Dreams

Puffin, the world’s biggest children’s publisher, is celebrating its 80th birthday with the Puffin Festival of Big Dreams. The seven-day online festival, in partnership with Waterstones, will launch on the 8th June and will bring together authors and illustrators including Jacqueline Wilson, Robin Stevens, Nick Sharratt, Dapo Adeola, Nathan Bryon and Nadia Shireen, to inspire children to keep on dreaming. 

Hosted on Puffin’s YouTube and Facebook Live channels, the festival will feature an all-star line up of authors, illustrators, and special guests who will be running writing masterclasses, draw-alongs and setting creative challenges to keep children's imaginations dreaming long after screen-time is over. Every weekday families will be able to enjoy two new videos from Puffin’s star-studded line-up, which will culminate in a live, interactive extravaganza at the weekend. Each event will be themed around dreams, be they bold, brave or wild, and the events will take storytime to the next level.

Authors and illustrators taking part include: Jacqueline Wilson (former Children’s Laureate), Robin Stevens (Murder Most Unladylike), Nathan Bryon & Dapo Adeola (Look Up!) Carrie Hope Fletcher (Into the Spotlight), Sam Copeland (Charlie Changes into a Chicken), Nadia Shireen (Bumblebear) Stuart Heritage and Nicola Slater (Jonathan’s Magic Pony), Jamie Littler (Frostheart), Rashmi Sirdeshpande (How to be Extraordinary), Yassmin Abdel-Magied (My Name is Layla) and will be hosted by former Blue Peter presenter Radzi Chinyanganya. The full line-up and programme will be announced shortly.

Dream big with Puffin.


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You could win £5,000/€5,000 of National Book Tokens for your school's library, ready to spend when schools reopen – you'll also get £100/€120 of National Book Tokens to spend on yourself!

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