Children aged between 11 and 14 from every school in Bolton are eagerly poring over a selection of eight books to pick the winner of the Bolton Children's Book Award.

The books were revealed to the young bookworms at the launch of the fourth annual awards at the University of Bolton today.

The stories range from a modern-day Titanic tale and a Dickensian-style fantasy to the tragedy of a promising young swimmer.

The full shortlist is Titanic 2020 by Colin Bateman, The Geek, the Greek and the Pimpernel by Will Gatti, The Cat Kin by Nick Green, The Black Book of Secrets by F.E Higgins, Deeper than Blue by Jill Hucklesbury, Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy, Finding Violet Park by Jenny Valentine, Wild Magic by Cat Weatherill.

Youngsters say they cannot wait to start debating with friends which is the best.

Elizabeth Bradley, aged 12, from Canon Slade School in Bradshaw, whose previous favourite book was Private Peaceful by Michael Morpungo, said: "The book which appeals to me is Deeper than Blue, because it is about an everyday person who experiences a change. I want to know what that change is. It sounds very exciting."

Kerry Coope, aged 12, from Westhoughton School, added: "The secret to a good book is simple, it has to be unputdownable'.

"My favourite books have fantasy and mystery theme."

Fellow classmate Michael Flanagan, aged 13, said events like this would encourage more boys to read.

He said: "Literature which would appeal to boys should be promoted more because some boys think it is boring. I am looking forward to reading Black Book of Secrets, because the extract which was read out at the launch made it sound really good."

Melissa Guest, aged 11, also from Westhoughton School, added: "It is great fun giving young people a chance to read and judge books.

"The books which have been given to us are very different, so it will be very interesting to read all of them."

The event has been organised by Bolton Council Schools' Library Service, secondary school librarians, Bolton Literacy Trust and the University of Bolton.

Executive member for culture and community services, Councillor Ismail Ibrahim, said: "It's a great way of encouraging young people to develop a passion for reading and a lovely opportunity for us to show our appreciation of such great writers."

Sam Johnston, director of the University of Bolton's School for Arts, Media and Education, added: "Encouraging young people to embrace reading and be excited by what books offer them is a pleasure for the university."

The university will run workshops to help the children explore the text of the chosen books more fully.

The most popular read will be announced at a glittering ceremony in Bolton Town Hall on June 21.