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Young Readers Awards 2017

The only book awards curated by bookshops, chosen by booklovers

Are you a young reader? Vote below for your favourite book!


The Books Are My Bag Readers Awards are one of a kind. The shortlists are created by real booksellers from across the UK and Ireland, and all the voting is done by you - the public!

This year's vote is now closed, but read  on for more information about the shortlists, and to find out what this year's authors had to say when children from across the country asked their burning questions!

The winners of this year's awards will be announced on 21st November. 

For the full list of awards, including adult fiction and non-fiction, head on over to our main awards page.




Middle Grade (7-11) Award shortlist


Letters From the Lighthouse by Emma Carroll - February, 1941. Olive and her brother Cliff are evacuated to a Devonshire lighthouse - but Olive has a secret which soon links her to something dark and possibly dangerous.

Moonlocket by Peter Bunzl - When infamous escapologist Jack Door breaks out from Pentonville Prison, he sets out for the town of Brackenbridge, determined to find his missing treasure - the Moonlocket.

Radio Boy by Christian O'ConnellFrom leading breakfast radio star Christian O’Connell comes a brilliant and laugh-out-loud story of an ordinary boy with an extraordinary secret radio show. (Broadcast from his shed.)

The Explorer by Katherine Rundell, illustrated by Hannah HornFred, Con, Lila, and Max's plane crashes in the Amazon jungle, leaving them all alone... until Fred finds a map that leads them to a ruined city, and to a secret.

The Guggenheim Mystery by Robin Stevens & Siobhan Dowd - Ted Spark is visiting his aunt in New York when a painting is stolen from the Guggenheim Museum - and his aunt is blamed for the crime! Can Ted find the real culprit?

Who Let the Gods Out by Maz EvansElliot’s mum is ill and his home is under threat, but a shooting star crashes to earth and changes his life forever. Elliot must turn to the old Olympian gods for help - but are they up to the task?

Vote for your favourite Middle Grade book using the form below!



Young Adult (12-18) Award shortlist


Ink by Alice BroadwayEvery action, every deed, every significant moment is tattooed on your skin for ever. Leora is desperate to see her father's memory preserved, but in a world where your life story is written on your skin, will he prove worthy?

Piglettes by Clémentine Beauvais - Mireille, Astrid and Hakima are voted the three ugliest girls in their school, but does that mean they’re going to sit around crying about it? Well… yes, a bit, but not for long! A wickedly funny road-trip story.

Release by Patrick NessIt’s Saturday, it’s summer and, although he doesn’t know it yet, everything in Adam Thorn’s life is going to fall apart. A new classic about teenage relationships, it's the most tender and personal novel from Patrick Ness yet.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas - Sixteen-year-old Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend by a police officer. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl's struggle for justice.

Things a Bright Girl Can Do by Sally NichollsThrough rallies and marches, in polite drawing rooms and freezing prison cells and the poverty-stricken slums of the East End, three courageous young women join the fight for the vote.

Welcome to Nowhere by Elizabeth Laird - Omar and his family are driven from their Syrian home by war, taking with them only what they can carry. Yet no matter how far they run, the shadow of war follows them - where do you go when you can't go home?

Vote for your favourite Young Adult book using the form below!


The authors in their own words

We asked children and young adults from across the UK and Ireland to tell us what they'd like to ask this year's shortlisted authors. We picked our favourite questions and you can read the authors' answers - on everything from which book characters would help them defeat a dragon, to what they'd do if writing books was against the law - below!

Find out what the authors said!

If writing books was against the law, what would you do instead? (Mudathir, 10)

Peter Bunzl: This is a great question, and a terrible thought. I would probably say filmmaking because I love telling stories whatever the medium, and hopefully that would still be allowed in this book-less dystopia!

Maz Evans: I'd probably still go to prison - it would be worth it. And if I wasn't writing, I'd probably be in prison anyway because I'm no good at anything else, so would almost certainly have resorted to a life of crime. So either way - I'm on Crimewatch. Other careers I've considered included: event planning, teaching, tourism and the law. Strangely, none of them wanted me...

Robin Stevens: That would honestly be my worst nightmare! But I think that I'd just try to find another way to tell stories. I might write films or TV shows, or make comics. Stories are how I make sense of the world - I can't imagine my life without them. I don't mind how I tell them, but I need to tell them! 


Do you have a 'Writer's Jacket' that you wear when you write and is it made from a special material, like velvet? (Student from Our Lady of Grace Junior School)

Christian O'Connell: Yes I have a writers jacket. It's made from a bear, a dead one, it died of natural causes. The last thing it said before sadly passing away was “please make me into a writers jacket for the guy that wrote Radio Boy”. Well kids, that guy is ME.

Katherine Rundell: I love the idea of Writer's Jacket - but, very boringly, the answer is no - I can write more or less anywhere, wearing more or less anything. One of the best things for me about writing is it's such a portable job. I've written on trains and aeroplanes and in bed; and wearing jeans, pyjamas and ball gowns (though not all at once).


Do you ever turn your dreams into stories/novels? (Evan, 10)

Emma Carroll: Funnily enough, the ending to Frost Hollow Hall came to me in a dream. Big old houses feature a lot in my dreams, which probably says something about the state of my subconscious!

Katherine Rundell: Well, I've often had an idea in a dream which, at the time, I think is spectacular, genius, ground-breaking. So I wake up and write it down in the dark. The difficulty is that, in the cold light of day, my notes say things like, 'A dragon (underlined) who (illegible) vegetables (illegible) gold!!!' So, no: my best ideas come to me while I'm awake.


If you could invite three authors for afternoon tea, who would they be and why? (Sienna, 10)

Maz Evans: Wow, that's tricky. I'm very lucky to have lots of authors as friends, so I'd have to pick authors I don't know or I might need a bit of magic to have tea with...

1) Quentin Blake: I would just sit and stare at him. I loved everything he wrote and drew as a child, and I love reading it all as a Mum. It wouldn't be a very fun tea for him. I'd just be sitting. Staring. Wouldn't even remember to offer him some cake. It would be very embarrassing all round.

2) Dr Seuss: I'd just talk in rhyme. The whole entire time. With cheesecake and lime. He'd eat half of mine. We'd get on just fine.

3) J K Rowling: Okay, so it's a very obvious answer, but I just think she's a genius. The Harry Potter series was such a huge inspiration to me to write 'Who Let the Gods Out' and the legacy she has left for children's literature is just immense. Oh, and she's awesome on Twitter. Love her.

Christian O'Connell: Great question, Sue Townsend, Roald Dahl and JK Rowling. Three great writers, plus JK Rowling is so rich she can pay for all the food and some wine.


Who enabled and supported you to become the writer you are today? (Francesca, 11)

Peter Bunzl: My parents. My dad has supported me in countless ways, and my mum has always been an inspiration. She’s an artist who worked as a costume designer and then in textiles and as a sculptor. Plus she is great at telling stories, so she’s always been a creative role model. My sister is a avid reader who gives lots of good feedback on my work, and my partner Michael looks after me on a deadlines with his amazing cooking, while making sure I leave the house when I am becoming stir crazy from too much writing!

Emma Carroll: So many people - my parents who took me to the library every Saturday when I was young, my English teacher at secondary school, the Arvon Foundation and Bath Spa Uni where I did courses in creative writing, my agent Jodie who sold my first story, the editors I've worked with at Faber- Rebecca and now Alice- who've helped me become a better writer. And last but not least my husband who makes the best pasta and is my biggest cheerleader. Being a writer is very much a team effort.

Robin Stevens: My parents were incredibly supportive, and I know I was very lucky to have them. They took me to libraries and second-hand bookstores and they read all of my early stories and told me they were great. I also had some great teachers who made writing fun and looked past my AWFUL handwriting to praise the stories I was writing. But I was also very influenced by my favourite authors. I knew how much I loved reading their books, and so I wanted to grow up to tell stories as exciting as theirs! 


Is there anything you wish you could have put in the book, or taken out? Did your editor ever take out a bit that you really liked? (Alice and Ava, both 12)

Elizabeth Laird: What an interesting question! Yes, I would have liked to write a bit more about Eman and her friends. But that would have taken the focus away from Omar. Since the story is written in his voice, it has to be true to his thoughts, and I don’t think he would have found his older sister and her friends very interesting.


If you were your favourite character in one of your books, would you actually do what the character does in the book? (Csenge, 11)

Clémentine Beauvais: If I were Mireille in Piglettes, I would definitely do all the eating but none of the cycling. I don't like cycling. I do like eating, though. The 'cuddling the cat' part is fine too. In other words: I get my characters to do all the things that actually involve some kind of effort... I think that's what characters should be for (among other things).

Sally Nicholls: Yes and no. All my favourite characters have a bit of me in them, so there are definitely things they would do that I would. Usually the things they like are things I also like, and I don't tend to have characters who believe very different things to me. However, they also have to be a certain sort of person to make the plot work - usually braver and luckier and kinder (and occasionally more stupid) than I am. I am quite bad at conflict, which is a really bad trait in a main character - you need to be able to deal with things rather than hiding and hoping they go away. So all my main characters are better at that than me.


Imagine you had to defeat a dragon and you could choose two book characters to help you, who would you choose and why? (Jasmine, 11)

Alice Broadway: Obviously my first choice would be Hermione because she's super clever, very brave and has magic on her side. Plus, I think she would be kind and not want to let the dragon get hurt while we escaped. I would also have Bella Fisher from Super Awkward by Beth Garrod because, although, like me, she would be fairly rubbish at defeating a dragon, she would make me laugh while we were waiting to die.

Elizabeth Laird: Well, Hermione Granger stands out, doesn’t she? She’d know exactly what to do. But the other one - let me see - I know. I’d go right back in time and pick Mowgli. I mean, if he could hang out with a tiger like Shere Khan, and a panther like Bagheera, I guess he’d be pretty cool with dragons. And he’d get all the jungle animals to help him.


Have you ever lost inspiration whilst writing? If so, what did you do to combat it? (Matty, 16)

Clémentine Beauvais: I haven't really lost inspiration, but often I lose energy, which isn't quite the same thing. It's not ideas that are lacking, in general - it's more the time, the stamina and the enthusiasm to transform them into something page-worthy. Sometimes, you just need to stop doing what you're doing, and go out or go to sleep or pick up a book. You feel guilty that you're not writing - but you just can't do it anymore. Yet the story keeps unfolding somewhere in your mind, and 'catching' bits of the world around, and it becomes enriched, even if you're not writing 24/7.

Sally Nicholls: They say any creative endeavour is a mixture of perspiration and inspiration. I haven't really lost inspiration, because stories are problems that can usually be solved by much thinking and questioning and wondering, but I've certainly lost the desire to keep perspiring. Writing can be hard, long, boring work - like any long project. Some days all you can do is put your head down and keep at it.


Do you ever listen to music while writing? If so, what do you like to listen to? (Ellie, 12)

Alice Broadway: I wish I could listen to music while I work, but I end up only listening to the music and not getting anything done. While I write I listen to white-noise ambient cafe sounds and in my breaks I'll listen to an audiobook like Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, which is perfect for when I need some inspiration or a kick to get working. 


Thanks to all the children and young adults who sent us questions for the shortlisted authors - you've each received a £15 National Book Token and a set of the shortlisted books for your school library!



Vote & Competition - Terms and Conditions

10 x winners will win a £100 (€115) National Book Token gift card.

  • By entering into this vote and prize draw, you agree to be bound by these terms and conditions.
  • No purchase necessary.
  • Only one entry per person will be accepted.
  • To be entered into the prize draw, at least one vote must be received for an award category.
  • Winners will be drawn from votes received through the main voting page at as well as votes placed by young readers (aged 7-18) through the Young Readers Award voting page at Duplicate entries will not be accepted. 
  • The prizes are non-transferable and there are no cash alternatives.
  • The public vote and prize draw close at 23:59 on 13th November 2017. 
  • Voters are allowed one vote per award category; the outcome of the popular vote will directly determine the winner of each category.
  • The competition is open to UK and Republic of Ireland residents except employees of the Booksellers Association, Book Tokens Ltd and employees of participating bookshops.
  • By entering, entrants acknowledge that this competition is a game of chance, which does not involve exercising any skill or judgement.
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  • The promoters’ decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
  • Promoter: Book Tokens Ltd, 6 Bell Yard, London, WC2A 2JR.