Award Quality Fiction

2018 Quality Fiction Shortlist

So here it is...

the NSTBA 2018 Quality Fiction shortlist.


A Story Like the Wind      Gill Lewis, illustrated by Jo Weaver

OUP     ISBN: 978-0192758958

You can read the long list review here.


Song of the Dolphin Boy  Elizabeth Laird

Macmillan Children's   ISBN: 978-1509828234

You can read the long list review here.


Mark of the Cyclops: An Ancient Greek Mystery     Saviour Pirotta

Bloomsbury     ISBN: 978-1472934147

You can read the long list review here.



Just Jack    Kate Scott 

Piccadilly    ISBN: 978-1848126244

You can read the long list review here.

Congratulations to all! The winners will be announced at the awards ceremony on the 10th November. 

LONG LIST REVIEW: The House with Chicken Legs

Chicken Legs.jpg

Marinka lives with her Baba in a house with chicken legs which gets up and walks off to somewhere else without warning. This - and the fact that Marinka is a Yaga whose role is to guide the dead through the Gate- makes forming friendships difficult. When she meets first Benjamin and then Nina, Marinka's longing for a different life grows as she has a taste of the companionship she craves. However, things do not work out as she hopes and Marinka has to make many mistakes and face many decisions before she finds her role in life and happiness.

Sophie Anderson has taken the traditional tales about Baba Yaga and woven her own threads to the tapestry of the tale. Marinka, her heroine, is seeking control of her own destiny- stepping outside the bone fence to carve her own future. As her story unfolds, she learns the importance of valuing what you have, but also the importance of moving on and letting go of the past. Stubborn and wilful, Marinka is also loving and loyal and her character is skilfully developed so the reader empathises and is infuriated by her in turns! The House itself is also beautifully drawn- full of personality and charm without uttering a word!

The book is beautifully written with rich language making it perfect for using in upper KS2, as a class read aloud, a main text or for guided reading. There are many passages to savour and enjoy, developing children's vocabulary, grammatical knowledge and love of a good book. Russian words scattered throughout the story could lead to developing children's understanding of that culture and its traditions, including the original Baba Yaga stories. And don't forget, the Geography programme of study requires children to locate Russia on a map of the world!

The cover illustration is beautiful, offering intriguing clues to the story within, tempting those who recognise the Baga Yaga references and those who don't.

For a Year 6 teacher, this is such an exciting story to consider as a class text. There is so much work that could be inspired by it that it's a real gift!

The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson, cover illustration by Melissa Castrillon

Usborne    ISBN: 978-1474940665

LONG LIST REVIEW: A Story Like the Wind


Adrift on the wide ocean in a flimsy boat meant for pleasure, not rescue, a group of strangers huddle together. Each has their own story. Each is clinging to the hope of freedom.

Cradling all he has left, Rami feels lost. As his fellow travellers share their stories and try to share their meagre possessions with him, Rami refuses, saying he has nothing to offer in return. But he has the case he is cradling to his chest which contains a violin...

'Too fragile. Too intricate. Too beautiful. Suspended silence from some other world.'

And so Rami offers music and story with their power to heal and their gift of hope.

That Gill Lewis is a powerful storyteller is no surprise, but in 'A Story Like the Wind' her lyrical writing coupled with the beauty of the illustrations and the poignance of the subject matter left me breathless.

As Rami shares the 'first story' of his instrument, remembered 'in the grain of wood of its body, in the tautness of its strings and in the scroll of its neck', the personal stories of those in the boat become entwined with it. As he plays, his inspiring tale of standing firm in the face of oppression and injustice offers each of them hope and the determination to keep the song of freedom alive.

This powerful story would make an excellent starting point for work in the classroom, inspiring writing, poetry, music, art, discussion, developing empathy... There is so much to explore and enjoy here.

The illustrations are fabulous. Each one is a real work of art, complementing the beautiful text in the telling of both the stories of the refugees and the traditional Mongolian tale of the origin of the horsehead violin.


A Story Like the Wind      Gill Lewis, illustrated by Jo Weaver

OUP     ISBN: 978-0192758958