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Running On Empty

Running On Empty

Author S. E. Durrant
Illustrator Rob Biddulph




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AJ’s grandfather has always been the one to keep his unusual family together, so when he dies things start to unravel at the edges.

AJ is worried about his parents but they don’t really seem to notice. In order to deal with his grief and to keep his anxiety at bay, AJ does what he and his grandfather did best: running. Round and round the Olympic Park, aiming for the cross country trials, running to escape, AJ only seems to be heading ever closer to disaster. Running On Empty is a beautiful book about false starts and emotional journeys, with hope as the ultimate finishing line.

From the author of Little Bits of Sky.

Cover illustration by Rob Biddulph.

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What the Critics Said

“Lyrical, moving and realistic, SE Durrant’s Running on Empty is about the struggle of an 11-year-old carer who is starting secondary school and wants to run like Usain Bolt. With a rich and diverse cast, it sings.”

 The Sunday Times

“Running On Empty is one of the best children’s novels of the year.”

The Express 

“Convincing, uplifting and immensely readable.”


“A light-hearted, tender book, as warm and funny as AJ himself.”

The Official Jacqueline Wilson Magazine

“It’s double times better than lots of other books I’ve read.”

– Olivia, for The Official Jacqueline Wilson Magazine

“Running on Empty is one of my favourite books now! It has a truly inspirational message – you should always follow your dreams.”

– Lauren, for The Official Jacqueline Wilson Magazine

“Running on Empty, an emotional story of family (and trainers!), will have you hooked until the end. Overall, it’s a booktastic story which is fun, gripping and I would recommend it to anyone who loves reading.”

– Lia, for The Official Jacqueline Wilson Magazine

“A story that should make us sit up and take note of what happens in our society. A tough topic, sensitively handled; a determined boy who doesn’t give up; heartfelt and touching and very definitely worth reading.”

Parents in Touch

“A remarkable, revealing and realistic read that was every bit as brilliant as I hoped… this one will run and run.”

The Reader Teacher, blog

“It is remarkable- moving, real, touching, funny and long lasting. Running On Empty is one of the best books I have read this new year.”


“A beautifully written and moving book.”

The Scotsman

“Incredibly emotional and powerful storytelling… a truly compelling read.”

Research Rich Pedagogies

“It’s likely to resonate with a wide variety of readers”


“AJ is imperfect, kindhearted, loving, earnest, and entirely delightful.”

– Kirkus Reviews

“A story full of love- and about the importance of following your dreams. It is beautifully written and thought provoking. A really special book.”

– North Somerset Teachers’ Book Award

Rights Sold

Chinese (simplified), Japanese

Listen to the first chapter

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