An ABC – Aviemore, Books, Cairngorm

And I can go on from there – Drookit*, Energised, Fort William, Glencoe….

We’ve been in the Highlands for a week and as well as admiring the scenery when the weather allowed, I’ve been browsing the books available in the Visitor Centres.

funicularWe travelled in the funicular railway to the top of Cairngorm on a day when the rain stopped and the sun came out. As it’s sub-Arctic on the top, it was pretty cold, but well wrapped up, it didn’t feel too bad. Pity the tourists who hadn’t expected such conditions and were feeling the chill as they gazed at the magnificent views cairngormacross the hills and lochs before disappearing into the warmth of the restaurant where the ceilidh band from Tain Academy was playing. Tain Academy

In the Visitor Centre, among the cashmere scarves and warm clothing, were beautifully illustrated books showing the Cairngorms at their best as well as children’s books with a Scottish flavour. Mairi Hedderwick‘s Katie Morag series was there as was Lynley Dodd‘s Hairy Mclary books.

The Potting Shed in Aviemore had other attractions – delicious cakes and red squirrels, both of which we thoroughly squirrel

At Culloden, site of the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1746 at the hands of the Government forces, John Prebble’s book Culloden was to the forefront as was Maggie Craig’s Damn’ Rebel Bitches, the women of the 45, and Bare-Arsed Banditti, about the men who fought there.

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness had a well stocked book display of the usual titles but wouldn’t it be nice if all the visitor centres had a section purely for Scottish writers and promoted them as such? uruquhart castle

Glencoe was shrouded in mist, just the right atmosphere for Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books and associated merchandise while Harry Potter had a shelf although the Glenfinnan Viaduct where the Hogwarts Express steamed across on its way to Hogwarts is not that close.Glencoe

And I was delighted to see that Elizabeth McKay’s Wee Granny and the Ceilidh was prominent!

In one B&B we stayed in, another guest was heading to Sanday in the Orkney Islands.  I was able to tell her about Lin Anderson’s latest crime novel, None But The Dead, which is set on Sanday and she immediately downloaded it on to her kindle. Result!

Now if I could come up with a children’s story about the Loch Ness Monster, Bonnie Prince Charlie, a Highland Cow and haggis, I’m sure it would be a roaring success!

*drookit – good Scots word meaning absolutely soaked with the water dripping off you.


I LOVE reading young children’s books!

Once a reader, always a reader...

Once a reader, always a reader…

A few days ago I spent a glorious hour in my local bookshop talking about books for the under 7’s with the very knowledgeable Kirsty who is in charge of the children’s section. Over a coffee we looked at some of the most popular and interesting ones in the store and discussed why they were selling (girls love the books about the Fairytale Hairdresser!).

I had to buy Oi Frog by Kes Gray and Jim Field, a hilarious rhyming story about where animals sit. A very simple idea beautifully illustrated which kids of all ages will enjoy. As I said I couldn’t resist it either!

But picture books published several years ago are still selling: Judith Kerr, Martin Waddell, Sam McBratney, Nick Sharratt, Mairi Hedderwick and of course Julia Donaldson by the shelf-load. Roger Hargreaves’ Mr Men and Little Miss series are still popular as are Dr Seuss books and Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar. My copy of it is still on my bookshelf, somewhat battered now after being through the hands of my sons when they were young (which wasn’t exactly yesterday or the day before.)

For the 5-8 year olds, Roald Dahl and Michael Morpurgo are still there on the best-selling lists, now joined by David Walliams and the new children’s laureate, Chris Riddell. He’s also an illustrator which is such an advantage to a children’s writer as his drawings add so much to his wild, imaginative tales.

Kirsty introduced me to some newish writers that I hadn’t come across before like Dundee-based Pamela Butchart who writes about Wigglesworth Primary in a series of very funny, but nearly totally believable tales, and Jonny Duddle, whose name alone is enough to make you want to read his books.

I’ve now begun to try to sketch ideas for a story of my own as it’s been a while since I wrote for young children. When I was writing scripts for the BBC’s schools programmes, stories would regularly arrive in my head, ready to be written up. But my children’s writing muscle has atrophied in the face of competition from article and short story writing so I’ll have to limber it up and get it going again.

Next week, I’m visiting a friend who keeps a pile of books for her young grandchildren. I shall indulge myself in them in the absence of said children and hopefully glean a few more ideas and tips to help my writing on its way.

Watch this space!