Paul Dowswell


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Awards & Reviews
The page where we throw modesty to the wind with Historical Fiction and Information Books...

Historical Fiction

Bomber (2015) 

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cover - Bomber 

Shortlisted for: The Amazing Book Award 2016
Dutch de Jonge Jury award 2016

One of Paul Dowswell’s greatest strengths is his ability to tell a story from an unexpected perspective. (His) novel humanises the stark realities of war, making them all the more shocking. Prepare to be impressed, horrified and surprised.

The Scotsman

‘The Summer’s best children’s books’ Bomber is a great book filled with thrilling events… The Guardian Dowswell includes a veritable wealth of historical detail which adds real depth and flavour to his story. But the story itself is not at all weighed down by the careful research. Harry's story is genuinely gripping. . I know he's not real (!) but I actually found myself wishing he led a full and happy life after the war was over so Harry really did live and breathe for me.

Book Bag

Paul Dowswell brings the courage, the fear and above all the camaraderie of the young service personal engaged in the deadly missions of dropping bombs on Germany vividly to life.

Julia Eccleshare Lovereading, ‘Pick of the Month’

Paul Dowswell combines power and excitement with real historical facts. The perfect combination if you ask me…, The Netherlands

The descriptions of the crew and their reactions bring a touch of normality to this gripping and believable story…

Read Plus, Australia

Effortlessly transported back to WW2, the reader gets a real insight into the lives of the American airmen…

Historical Novel Review s Society

A brilliant book, full of the history of the times and the descriptions of bombing running deep over enemy territory are realistic and enthralling.

Wrexham Library Service


Red Shadow (2014) 

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cover - Red Shadow 

Shortlisted for: The 2015 Historical Association Young Quills Award
Sefton Super Reads 2015

Paul Dowswell’s historical novels are minutely researched but wear their knowledge lightly, never failing to entertain. This is no exception.

Jane Sandell, The Scotsman

…a highly attractive and beautifully written novel, with pages full of suspense and in-depth characters.

Avvenire (Italian daily newspaper)

In a nutshell, a brilliant novel that grips till the end.

Tribune (Indian daily newspaper)

Not only historically accurate but also gripping, this is historical fiction of the high standard we have come to expect from Paul Dowswell.

Jill Murphy, Book Bag

Having twice won the Historical Association Young Quills Book Award you know that Paul Dowswell’s novel will be impeccably researched, but more than that, you can expect a powerful and engrossing story and this is exactly what we get.

Joy Court, School Librarian magazine

The reader is drawn into a world of political intrigue, suspicion and treachery. …an exciting story with the potential to both entertain and enlighten young readers.

Ciara Ni Bhroin, INIS Children’s Books Ireland.

This is a brilliant book I can recommend to any parent as a teenager’s present. It is a fascinating education in man’s inhumanity and political misdirection... Red Shadow gives an accurate flavour of Moscow at war, with radical political viewpoints and intelligent arguments.

Historical Novels Society

The story seems so unreal and the main characters are fictional, but the events are not and that makes it so fascinating to read and sit with goosebumps.

Boekenbijlage, Netherlands

… the story is compelling, supported by Dowswell’s usual narrative rhythm that always impresses. (This is an) effective description of Soviet Russia, in all its greatness and miseries.

lettura candida blog, Italy

The atmosphere of fear and suspicion, the arrogance of power and terror, the looming war with Germany, everything is made to perfection… Dowswell is also an excellent storyteller, able to build beautiful and compelling stories.

Paper Blog, Italy

I was awake all night reading this book, knowing that if I put it down I would be eaten up with curiosity. I ended up going to school the next day feeling like a zombie, but it was worth it.

Book Enders, India (Blog)


Eleven Eleven (2012) 

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cover - Eleven Eleven 

Winner of: Historical Association Young Quills Award 2013
Shortlisted for:

The Trinity Schools Book Award 2015
The Coventry Inspiration Award 2013
Southampton Favourite Book Award 2013

There’s nothing like a ticking clock to add plenty of tension to a story, and the run-up to the Armistice – 11am on 11th November 1918 – was probably the most lethal countdown in history. Paul Dowswell’s utterly gripping, award-winning novel follows three young combatants in the last hours of the war, when survival could only be seconds away.

Tony Bradman, The Guardian, Best Great War novels for children and teens.

Paul Dowswell has crammed all the horror, fear, waste, cowardice and courage of that terrible time, into a powerful and meaningful read. ...It remains in the mind forever.


With every turn of the page mature readers will hold their breath, expecting the worst and hoping for the best. Paul Dowswell deals with war head on, leaving his readers in no doubt of its complexities and horrors.

The Scotsman

This is a sombre and bleak story of war which will sit well alongside the poetry and factual accounts of life in the trenches and in the air. It is a deep and sad story… made so poignant because it all takes place on the last morning, leading up to Eleven Eleven. A teenage book of the year.

The Independent.

The main thrust of this thrilling novel — the futility of war — is vividly portrayed through the actions and interaction of three sometimes puzzled and overwhelmed young men. 

The Irish Examiner

Dowswell is good at blending believable fictional characters with authentic historical details into a potent gripping narrative… there is a thrill and a truth that will keep readers hooked until the end. 

South China Morning Post

The story is brutal, violent and staggeringly effective… (its) powerful plot, characters and atmospheric descriptions are astonishingly vivid. This is a superb eye-opening book. It is especially welcome as an antidote to the proliferation of gung-ho militaristic adventure-story books for young adults of recent years.

School Library Magazine

This action-packed thriller combines historical detail with three very personal stories of courage, strength and tragedy, to produce a gripping and thought-provoking account of the final hours of a brutal conflict. This powerful page-turner is ideal for use in history teaching, as well as making compelling reading in its own right. 

Booktrust – ‘Books we like’

Paul Dowswell knows his stuff… War is not glorious deeds of derring-do; it’s a grim struggle for survival. Eleven Eleven will appeal to boys of 12 plus who want to know what life on the Western Front was really like. Recommended. 

Historical Novels Society

How can such a long and complicated piece of history be encapsulated into a short novel…? Paul Dowswell has performed something quite extraordinary in the way he took on this task. …this book succeeds admirably in bringing that extraordinary time back to life.


Amongst the many strengths of this story are the vivid action sequences and the very atmospheric settings… Most important of all is the way that the reader becomes caught up in the (story) and find themselves willing the three young men to survive those final hours of an awful conflict.

The Historical Association

Plenty of books about the First World War have been written for children but not many are as harrowing and gripping as this…


Page-turning as ever, Eleven Eleven lives and breathes exhausted countryside and exhausted men, kept barely alive by gallows humour, small kindnesses and impossible hope. I don’t recall ever reading a better children’s book about the Great War.

Young Readers West Six

As we approach the 100th Anniversary of the start of World War 1, we will begin to be inundated by books and stories… If they are all as good as this one then we will have a generation who understand the full horror of war and the terrible waste of lives not much older than theirs…

Reading Zone

Sektion 20 (2011) 

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cover - Sektion 20

Winner of:

Historical Association Young Quills Award 2012

Longlisted for: Carnegie Book Award, 2013
Shortlisted for: The Northern Ireland Book Award 2012
The Leeds Book Award 2012

A great thriller with a poignant historical background… terrific

The Bookseller September Highlights

Dowswell achieves a sense of balance between the fast paced action and adrenaline rush of a thriller and the detail and realism of a historical novel in this perfectly pitched hybrid novel which will keep readers gripped throughout.

Books for Keeps

The stifling atmosphere and fear pervading people’s lives in post war East Berlin are intensely felt… The author has created a thoroughly absorbing story within a real historical setting to great effect, appealing to teenage readers across the board.

The Book Trust 

Paul Dowswell writes very well constructed historical books which are never mere entertainment, rather, they offer kids the opportunity to immense themselves… in the important events of the past. (He) is a great writer that we should certainly recommend to our children.

Camilla Biagini,  Contatto News, Italy

Dowswell is increasingly well known for his detailed, thoughtful accounts of actual historic events and his enviable talent for presenting history in a fresh and accessible manner for his teenage audience.

The Truth About Books

We loved this one - it combines awesome, accurate research with genuine tension and sympathetic, well-rounded characters.

The Book Bag, August 2011

‘Sektion 20 is one of those rare books which can be used as an effective and enjoyable teaching resource.’

Viewpoint, University of Melbourne Graduate School of Education.

Sektion 20 is far and beyond one of the best accounts of post-War Eastern-Bloc Germany I have ever read

Book Angel Booktopia

The Cabinet of Curiosities (2010) 

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cover - The cabinet of Curiosities 

Shortlisted for: The Historical Association Young Quills Award 2011

A dark and chilling historical adventure that seamlessly combines fact and fiction.


The Cabinet of Curiosities is a gripping, thrilling adventure set against a fascinating historical backdrop. Dowswell is a key writer of historical fiction for teens and young adults - open the Cabinet and set off on an amazing, exhilarating literary adventure.

South China Morning Post

This gripping and dramatic story is well-placed to conquer any prejudice that teenage readers might have against historical novels.

School Librarian

This is one of the most enjoyable, breathtaking, historical books I have read and gives a real feel for the time period in which it is set. I recommend this book for teenagers and adults

South Wales Argus


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cover - Auslander 

Winner of: Hamelin Associazione Culturale Book Prize, Bologna, 2011
Portsmouth Book Award
The Essex Book Award
Calderdale Book of the Year
Cheshire Schools Book Award
We Read Book Award
Shortlisted for: 13 book awards including:
The French Tam Tam Book Prize
The Rome Book Festival Award
The Book Trust Book Award
The Red House Book Award
The Northern Ireland Book Award
The Independent Booksellers Book Award
The Catalyst Book Award
The North East Teenage Book Award
Red Book Award, Falkirk
The Angus Book Award
Longlisted for: The Carnegie Book award
Nominated for: 'Best Fiction for Young Adults’ award by the American Library Association
Selected for: 'The Best Children's Books of the Year’ by the Bank Street Book Committee, New York.

Ausländer ranks among the very best of wartime historical fiction.

Financial Times

John Boyne’s “The Boy in Stripped Pyjamas” is a bestseller in this genre, but Auslander is better.  

De Telegraaf. Netherlands.

This book has everything a book needs to have. Shocking, stunning, beautiful - these are just some of the adjectives that I could name. Never before has my heart beat faster with a book, and I’ve never read a book (where it was so difficult to) take a break.

 Neue Zürcher Zeitung Germany

A breakthrough into the top league for Dowswell, ...There will be many adults who will be sneakily borrowing this from their children.

The Bookseller ‘Ones to watch’ Top Title

Dowswell is one of the best new writers of historical fiction for children. [Ausländer] comes close to classics such as ‘The Silver Sword’.  

The Times

The Auslander is a powerful piece of young adult fiction that appeals just as comfortably to adult readers. Mr. Dowswell provides a wonderful character study of an average Polish boy searching for the resolve to fight Nazi propaganda and help victims of persecution. The Auslander will be remembered long after its covers are closed.

New York Journal of Books

Dowswell's compelling story is told without sentimentality…Believable characters wrestle with impossible choices as the writer opens a window into the true horror of the time…

Fiction Focus, Australia

Paul Dowswell’s name on the front of Ausländer is enough to overcome Nazi fiction fatigue, for he is a brilliant historical novelist… (He) shows us a side of Nazi Germany rarely seen.

Daily Telegraph

Dowswell's previous youth fiction novels have shown that he is a writer with a talent for using historical fact as a basis of thrilling fiction, and Auslander is an outstanding example of the grip novels like this can have on a reader…

South China Morning Post

Well constructed, morally complex and consistently engaging, this examination of a people's complicity with evil is revealing and important.

The Independent

The characters are rich and nuanced, flawed people caught up in a terrible time; the action is swift and suspenseful; and the juxtaposition of wartime nobility and wartime cruelty is timeless.

The Horn Book Magazine

Youth books on World War II are a dime a dozen, (but) Paul Dowswell’s novel stands out from the crowd… (Peter’s) change of heart from a follower to an active opponent of the regime (is depicted with) depth and authenticity… Certainly not cozy bedtime reading, but an impressive, sometimes depressing, realistic novel. Germany

Battle Fleet (2007)  

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cover - Battle Fleet 

an effective and totally riveting tale…

School Library Association ‘Boys into Books’ recommendations

Prison Ship (2006) 

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cover - Prison Ship

Shortlisted for: Shortlisted for the 2008 Warwickshire Book Award

(In Best children’s novels for 11+)
…this is a splendid book for 11+ boys, with a masterly climax as the boys struggle to escape from a cannibal comrade.

The Times November 22, 2006

PREPARE to have your timbers well and truly shivered by Paul Dowswell and his naval warfare novels… With detail that points to extensive research and a plot with more snap than a cat o' nine tails

The Scotsman November 12, 2006

Powder Monkey 

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cover - Powder Monkey 

Shortlisted for: The Trinity Schools Book Award (2016)


A thrilling tale, exceptionally well written and affecting

The Times  March 11, 2006

…more vivid than a Patrick O’Brian novel.

The Independent  October 21, 2005

Information Books

Before I started writing fiction for Bloomsbury I wrote scores of information books, mostly for Usborne Publishing. I still enjoy writing information books, although most of my time is now spent on fiction, and I was really pleased when my ‘Story of the Second World War’ was shortlisted for the School Library Association Information Book of the Year, 2013.

Here’s a selection of non-fiction reviews along with a few of the books that have won awards.


Introduction to the Second World War (Usborne 2005)
Paul Dowswell’s Introduction to the Second World War…is superb. It lays out information in clear, vivid paragraphs illustrated by dramatic period photographs. Highly recommended.
The Times, June 11, 2005
A fantastic book for young and old alike, and don't be put off if you're not usually interested in war books – this isn't one bit boring and it's not just for boys! One of my favourite books so far this year.
Waltham Forest Guardian, April 28, 2005
True Polar Adventures (Usborne Publishing)
This is an author who knows how to make you feel as if you're right there shivering!
Blue Peter. 2003
The Roman Record (Usborne Publishing)
…a work of genius, funny, informative and very entertaining.
Open Book. 1998
The Egyptian Echo (Usborne Publishing)
...highly imaginative and extremely funny.
The Guardian. 1997
Tales of Real Adventure (Usborne Publishing)
Exciting true stories of survival, heroism and escape that will keep any reader gripped to the very last page.
The Guardian. 1997
Tales of Real Survival (Usborne Publishing)  
Any book that keeps me, my 14-year-old son and my 75-year-old dad intrigued and entertained has got to be a winner.
Books for Keeps. 1995

Cover - The Roman Record   Introduction to the Second World War   Cover - The Egyption Echo

Book awards

The Story of the Second World War (Usborne 2012)
Shortlisted for the School Library Association’s ‘2013 Information Book of the Year’

True Polar Adventures (Usborne 2003)
Shortlisted for the 2003 Blue Peter Book Awards

True Stories of Heroes (Usborne 2002) 
Shortlisted for the 2002 Blue Peter Book Awards.

The Complete Book of the Microscope (Usborne 1998)
Winner of the 1999 Rhône-Poulenc Junior Prize for Science Books. 

The Medieval Messenger (Usborne 1996)
Shortlisted for the 1997 Times Educational Supplement Information Book Award.

The Usborne Geography Quizbook (Usborne 1992)
Geographical Association Highly Commended Award 1992.

Cover - Complete book of the Microscope  Cover - True stories of Heroes  The Story of World war II  cover - True Polar Stories


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