Bath Children’s Novel Award 2021

The Bath Children’s Novel Award 2021 | Joint Winners | £3,000

Speculative Adventure | Older Middle Grade

Family fairy tale | Younger Middle Grade

“I was utterly divided on this brilliant shortlist. Every one was exceptional in some way. I managed to whittle it down to two but found I could go no further! Two deserved to win, so two have won. The Doll’s House Mouse feels like a classic; sweet, funny, tender, moving and brilliantly written – I really fell for this gorgeous story.   Dreamdogs was very different to Doll’s House Mouse but equally well written. It’s scary and exciting and moving and highly original. Both books were a joy to read and both books should have publishers all over them..” 

– Sam Copeland, 2021 Judge, Director RCW Literary Agency

A. E. DALY lives and works in Edinburgh.  She has a background in art history and computer science and loves comic books, ghost stories, vintage cameras and abandoned buildings.  She received a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award in 2018.  Her previous novel, unpublished YA time travel mystery Devil-Glass, was longlisted for the 2020 Mslexia Children’s & YA Novel Competition and she has also been shortlisted for the 2020 Kelpies Prize for Writing. 

Of Dreamdogs, she writes: “The earliest seed for the book came years ago when my eldest son, then quite small, had a dream about brightly-coloured dogs.  I’d wanted to write a middle-grade adventure story for a while, and the mental image of these ‘dream dogs’ set me thinking.  The story also became a fictional love letter to the North York Moors of my childhood – I liked the apparent contradiction of setting a technological thriller in a remote and beautiful rural landscape.”

The Junior Judges said: Dreamdogs is about five kids and their dogs who have 24 hours to save everyone in their villages from a sleeping sickness. It’s a pageturner with a sinister atmosphere, real sense of mystery and was thrilling to read.

Interview with AE Daly

Read the opening of Dreamdogs

RACHEL DARWIN grew up in the Wiltshire and Somerset countryside. At eighteen, she moved to London, where she became a professional singer, performing for ten years. Nowadays, as well as being a writer, Rachel is a singing teacher. She has a master’s degree in Creative and Life Writing from Goldsmith’s University and writes a column for Rock n Roll Bride Magazine. Rachel lives with her husband in southwest London.

The Doll’s House Mouse was written in 2021, after Rachel lost her beloved grandma and grandpa during the pandemic. The year before they both passed away, Rachel renovated the doll’s house her grandpa had built for her fifth birthday, to help him remember this wonderful thing he had done for her. The last time Rachel saw her grandpa— before COVID restricted any possible visits to care homes— she showed him pictures of the renovated doll’s house. He twinkled at her, more present in the room than she had seen him in years, and asked if she wanted him to build some new furniture. It was a magical moment.

This book is Rachel’s way of keeping her grandparents alive through their stories, as versions of many of their own anecdotes have been weaved into the book (as well as some of Rachel’s parents’ stories). It is an acknowledgement of the importance of allowing yourself to grieve, to take time to heal and put yourself back together again piece by piece, however you might need to, after losing someone you love. It is a reminder to all those who read it that we have the power to keep our loved ones with us, even after they’re gone. All we have to do is remember them, to talk about them, to keep on telling their stories.

The Junior Judges said: The Doll’s House Mouse is about a girl called Lottie and a little mouse her grandpa made before he died. Lottie is going through a very sad time but it is also a story of hope, repairing things and made me feel cosy and Christmassy.

Interview with Rachel Darwin

Read the opening of The Doll’s House Mouse

Bath Children’s Novel Award 2021 Shortlisted:

Katja Kaine for EVOLANDIA
Fantasy | Older Middle Grade 

KATJA KAINE is half Singaporean and half German and lives in a decrepit mansion in Yorkshire with her partner, “two microhumans, two small fluffballs of yowling and one large bark machine.” She does yoga at ungodly hours and walks through ancient forest every day.

Evolandia was born from her fascination with the natural world and the absurdness of reality when you start to think about it too hard. It is inspired and informed by the legendary David Attenborough, and her microscope, where she gets an adrenaline rush from spying on water fleas and teeny weeny whizzing worms.

The Junior Judges said: Evolandia is the exciting eco story of Luca who is living her life in the shadows of her sister Zoe. Until one night an argument begins to stir then everything comes to a halt when Luca shouts “I WISH YOU’D NEVER BEEN BORN!” and a swarm of butterflies drags her sister away, into what seems to be another universe…

Read the opening of Evolandia

Bath Children’s Novel Award 2021 Shortlisted:
Magic Realism | Older Middle Grade

SOPHIE STEWART has been a Secondary English and Drama teacher for 25 years, the last 18 of which have been at a special school in Brighton. Storytelling plays a large part in her teaching, as well as writing plays and films for her students. When she’s not teaching or writing, she likes to sing and walk and read and go to the theatre. She also likes to make things, and has made puppets of her book characters.
Secrets of the Volterre was inspired by regular trips to visit family in the French Alps, close to the Swiss border. The central character, Merle, is thrown into sinister circumstances when she’s sent to stay in the snowy mountains with her grandparents. Once there, she finds nothing  quite as she expects it to be: Grandma is just not Grandma any more, her grandpa is kidnapped and there’s a bulge-eyed raven peering in the window. Merle, and her new friend Otto, have to unravel the mysteries of Corbeau-sur-rive in time to save her grandparents. It is a tale of feathered witches, magical mechanical music and baffling birds. But also of friendship and family, and learning that sometimes rules just have to be broken. 

Bath Children’s Novel Award 2021 Shortlisted

Annabel Robertson for THE BIRD SEA

Fantasy | YA 


ANNABEL ROBERTSON is a 22-year-old Australian university student. Having recently graduated with a BA, she is now studying a Masters degree exploring the world of digital storytelling.  

The idea for The Bird Sea came to her while she was standing in a paddock watching the twilight — what if something extraordinary flew over the crest of the shadowed trees beyond?  The seed planted, Annabel decided to write a story deeply rooted in nature that spoke to her love for wild creatures, thrilling adventures, and the transformative power of music. The result was The Bird Sea — an early version of which was listed as a Kid Readers’ Favourite in the 2021 WriteMentor Children’s Novel Award. Several drafts later, Annabel is delighted to have now been shortlisted in this year’s Bath Children’s Novel Award.  

When she’s not studying or writing, Annabel provides English tutoring to school students and enjoys trekking through the Australian bush.

The Junior Judges said: The Bird Sea is thrilling, seamless and original. With a war looming, nowhere is safe from The Magnificence and Clover’s mountain village is closing off from the outside world a little more each day. Meanwhile Arkyn must escape the World City on a voyage across the ocean, never to return.  The two are inextricably tied through magical visions and a powerful inheritance.

Read the opening of The Bird Sea

The Cornerstones Literary Consultancy Prize is awarded to the most promising Bath Children’s Novel Award longlisted manuscript
2021 Recipient:
Adventure | Upper Middle Grade
Prize: the online course Edit Your Novel the Professional Way


Aldwych and the Winston Wallace Zoo
for Extraordinary Animals
B.G. Gorsky
Bea Bellerose and the Case of the Missing Picasso
Jo Beckett-King
Broken Beads of Glass
Kathy Hurst
A. E. Daly
Katja Kaine
Melanie Fordham
Nevern Cove
Josie O'Reilly
Secrets of the Volterre
Sophie Stewart
Southern Belles
Emily Charlotte Ould
Stargran: Attack of the Alien Grandmas
Mario Ambrosi
The Bird Sea
Annabel Robertson
The Doll's House Mouse
Rachel Darwin
The Jigsaw of Light
Jason Button
The Lost Crown
Jasmine Brady
The Lost SongBean Sawyer
The Time Heist
Fiona Spence-Arnold
The Winter at the End of the World
Amanda Davenport
Tommy Tootington & The World
Trumping Championships

Graham Bridgewood
Warnings of Gales
Maddy Woosnam

Bath Children’s Novel Award 2021 Shortlist Announcement

Bath Children’s Novel Award 2021 Longlist Announcement

Bath Children’s Novel Award 2021 Judge

Now open for adult novel submissions