The 2018 Highland Book Prize was presented this weekend (Sat 11) at the Ullapool Book Festival. The award is a celebration of published work that recognises the rich landscape and cultural diversity of the Highlands.
Seeing the grown-up stories of our region valued in this way got us thinking about how many brilliant children’s books there are featuring, or inspired by, the Highlands and Islands.
So…we’ve collated a quick list of our own favourite Highland children’s books published last year (or early this year, so we could squeeze some in extras that we loved).
There are no prizes, and we haven’t been too precise with our geography (to allow us to include fictional settings that ‘feel’ like the Highlands).
We’d love to know your thoughts on these titles and any other Highlandy/Islandy kids books that you love.
Wilderness Wars, by Barbara Henderson (Cranachan)
Set on a previously uninhabited Hebridean island, this story is about what happens when nature fights back. Em’s parents are among the construction workers sent to complete a big build on a remote island, but the wildlife that lives there will do anything to stop them – though only the children recognise the danger. This is a thrilling book that really captures the wild spirit of our remote and windswept islands. Here’s our review.
Guardians of the Wild Unicorns, by Lindsay Littleson (Kelpies)
The action in this story centres on a school trip to the Highlands, where you can go abseiling, get dangerously lost, and the wilderness is so mystical that anything can happen – even an encounter with a wild unicorn. When best friends Lewis and Rhona come across the world’s last herd, they resolve to protect them, despite the risks. A wonderful, magical adventure story – but not the sparkly kind. Here’s our review
The Children of Castle Rock, by Natasha Farrant (Faber & Faber)
When Alice is shipped off to an unconventional boarding school in a hidden Highland valley, her life is transformed – then her dad gets in touch with a strange request, and she and her new friends embark on a dangerous journey. This is a cracking adventure/detective story, that relishes the challenges of Scotland’s outdoors and vividly recreates Highland sites and experiences (like getting off the sleeper train to find yourself in the middle of nowhere).
Where the World Ends, by Geraldine McCaughrean
This Carnegie medal-winning book is inspired by the true story of a group of boys from the island of St Kilda who, after the annual gugha (young gannet) hunt, found themselves stranded on a sea stac – for months. It is a powerful survival story that gives a rich insight into the history and lifestyle of the now uninhabited islands, and its hero Quill is a truly inspiring character who puts the adults around him in the shade.
For younger readers…
The Treasure of the Loch Ness Monster, Lari Don & Nataša Ilinčić (Kelpies)
This beautifully illustrated picture book has the feel of a classic, weaving together folklore about two of the Highland’s oldest icons, and putting children at the heart of the story.
Ishbel and Kenneth are hungry local children, who set out for Urquhart castle in the hope of discovering treasure. Along the way they encounter magic, grave danger, and Loch Ness’s most famous resident. An eventful adventure and a celebration of its Highland roots and striking setting.
Monsters Unite, by Sara Sheridan, Molly Sheridan and Iain Carroll (Little Door)
Nessie is fed up with fame and jealous of the travels her fishy friends enjoy, so when she discovers a map showing an underwater network of tunnels, she decides to leave her litter-filled Loch Ness home and heads off exploring. An original and optimistic picture book that delivers an important message with a light touch. Here’s our review.
Maggie’s Monsters, by Coo Clayton and Alison Soye (Black and White)
It’s a bit cheeky including this, as it’s at the top of our ‘to be read’ list, but we have seen great reviews which say that it’s a perfect, interactive introduction to Scotland’s landmarks and animals, including the Highland ones. The second in the series, it joins Maggie and her mum on a monster-spotting trip, using her binoculars to identify strange creatures which may, or may not, be monsters. We’re looking forward to joining the adventure for ourselves.
Animal Adventure Club: the Baby Deer Rescue, by Michelle Sloan (Kelpies)
This enjoyable first chapter book is about a group of children who volunteer at a nature reserve. It is the first in a series that is set to become a family favourite.
We loved it, partly because the rural setting and the characters felt so familiar. There’s lots to learn about relationships and it’s a fantastic introduction to Scottish wildlife. Here’s our review