Running on Empty

2018 Moving On Shortlist

So here it is...

the NSTBA 2018 Moving On shortlist.


Running on Empty      S E Durrant

Nosy Crow      ISBN: 978-0857637406

You can read the long list review here.


Charlie and Me   Mark Lowery

Piccadilly   ISBN:  978-1848126220

You can read the long list review here.


The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole  Michelle Cuevas

Simon and Schuster      ISBN: 978-1471170188

You can read the long list review here.


Ella on the Outside     Cath Howe

Nosy Crow   ISBN: 978-1788000338

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: Running on Empty

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There are two things about AJ which make him different to others. The first is his ability to run- he was born to run; the other is that his parents have learning difficulties. This has never been an issue as Grandad has always been around to guide the family and help them cope with things like paying bills. On a day to day basis, AJ doesn't think he looks after his parents: It’s no big deal for me. Really it isn’t. I don’t look after them. We look after each other.

However, things start to unravel for AJ when his much loved grandfather dies. Reeling from the loss of this stable and loving figure, AJ has to to cope with the move from primary to secondary, taking responsibility for dealing with bills (including the red bills) and navigating the demands of his new school. His greatest worry is what will happen to his parents without him should people realise his grandfather is dead and he be taken into care.

'Running on Empty' is a deeply moving story of one young carer's struggle to keep his family together. The reader watches while AJ thinks he is coping, yet has sudden irrational outbursts. The way he keeps his troubles hidden means he is often misjudged, leading to misunderstandings. The story cleverly shows how some children can get lost in the system as the stories known to teachers at Primary are not necessarily understood by those at secondary, particularly when the child is trying desperately to hide things. 

However, the story is also one full of love- and about the importance of following your dreams. It is beautifully written and thought provoking. A really special book.

Running on Empty      S E Durrant

Nosy Crow      ISBN: 978-0857637406


You can read another review of this here.

Guest Post: My writing inspirations- Sue Durrant

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Today we have a guest post from S.E. Durrant, author of 'Running on Empty', where she gives us an insight into why she wrote the story. 

I have written for as long as I can remember, as a way of trying to make sense of the world, and I think that is why I am interested in writing about real life situations. In my experience, ‘ordinary’ lives often involve quiet heroics. In Little Bits of Sky, ten year old Ira is my unseen hero; in Running on Empty, it is eleven year old AJ.

I decided to write Running on Empty after reading about a family in which the parents had learning difficulties and their child did not. I thought about how the world might look to such a child and I later met with parents with learning difficulties to understand a little more about some of the issues they face.

AJ’s grandad, who has given the family lots of support, has died unexpectedly and, for a few months, AJ tries to take on his responsibilities alone. He has just begun secondary school and for a while his problems go unnoticed in the jump from one teacher, one class, at primary school to multiple teachers and multiple classes in secondary.

I set this story close to the Olympic Park in East London because I wanted AJ to be involved in the world beyond home and school. In 2012, I was lucky enough to spend a day watching the London Paralympics and I found the atmosphere inspirational. AJ is a keen runner and his happiest memory is of watching Usain Bolt win gold at the London Olympics with his grandad; his dream, and the hope that sustains him, is to run in the Olympic stadium.

AJ’s family are poor, bills have to be budgeted for and unplanned expenses can be catastrophic. This is a common situation for many families and schools often try to offset the impact of poverty, for instance by providing breakfast. In AJ’s case, a teacher tries to help him out. Children living in poverty are often marginalised, unable to attend local events, play dates etc, and I thought it was very important that AJ is at the centre of his own story rather than on the margins. He is the narrator and the world is seen through his eyes.

Thinking about AJ’s situation, I was reminded how easily children can be labelled. AJ is a caring, responsible son and a dedicated runner but, because his trainers don’t fit and he isn’t able to say so, he appears to be disinterested and unreliable. At one point, he decides to be ‘the kid who hates sport’ when in fact running is one of the most important things in his life.

Despite the issues AJ is dealing with, he is a resilient character who can swing between crushing embarrassment and supreme self-confidence in an instant. I really hope readers find him quirky, relatable and hopeful. He is a boy who will never give up and he was a pleasure to write.

A huge thank you to Sue for sharing this with us. 'Running on Empty' is a fabulous book; you can read our review of it here.

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