#ScotlandinKidsBooks – A Tour Around Scotland in 50 Children’s Books

Read your way around Scotland. This list is by no means exhaustive, but wherever you’re travelling, there is a kids’ book set there 🙂

Happy travels!

  1. Ceannabeinne near Durness, setting of Highland Clearances story Fir for Luck (ages 9-13) which is based on true events in 1814 and 1841.
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Fir for Luck
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Ceannabeinne, Sutherland

2. Tarbat Ness and Portmahomack, setting of The Beast on the Broch, a Pictish adventure by John Fulton (age 8-12).

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The Beast on the Broch
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Tarbat Ness

3. The fictional Isle of Skelsay in kids’ eco-thriller Wilderness Wars is based on the landscape of Harris and Taransay in the Outer Hebrides (age 8-13). Beautiful Harris is also the setting for Sam Wilding’s eco-thriller Windscape (8-12).

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Wilderness Wars
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Harris
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Taransay
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4. Aberdeen is the setting of The Attack of the Giant Robot Chickens, a pun-heavy, fun adventure by Alex McCall (age 8-12).

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The Attack of the Giant Robot Chickens
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Aberdeen

5. Inverness is the setting of the Victorian adventure story Punch, a tense adventure with a backdrop of travelling entertainers, puppetry and even a dancing bear. Based on true events in 1889 and shortlisted for the Crystal Kite Award (age 8-13).

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Punch
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Inverness

6. Edinburgh and the Lothians are the settings for Annemarie Allan’s war-time refugee story Charlie’s Promise (8-12).

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Charlie’s Promise
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Edinburgh

7. Dundee is the setting for two excellent WW1 books: The Wreck of the Argyll by John Fulton and The God of All Small Boys by Joseph Lamb (Both 8-12). It is also the setting of my favourite picture book: The Fourth Bonniest baby in Dundee by Michelle Sloan.

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The Fourth Bonniest Baby in Dundee Picture Kelpies: Amazon.co.uk ...
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Dundee

8. Dumfries and the Solway Firth is where the Robert-Burns-related smuggling novella Black Water takes place. Based on real events in 1791 (8-12).

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Black Water
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Solway Firth
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Dumfries

9. Paisley is the setting for Lindsay Littleson’s Victorian novel A Pattern of Secrets (8-12).

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A Pattern of Secrets
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10. Caerlaverock Castle is the setting for medieval adventure The Siege of Caerlaverock. It is based on a real life siege in July 1300 when 60+ castle dwellers attempted to hold out against the King of England and his 3000 knights and soldiers. Out 6th August 2020 (8-12).

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Caerlaverock Castle today

11. North Berwick is the setting of Annemarie Allan’s eco-adventure Breaker (8-12).

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North Berwick and Bass Rock

12. Skara Brae in Orkney is the setting of time travel and stone age teen novel Silver Skin by Joan Lennon (12-16).

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Me at Skara Brae just before a huge soaking

13. West Lothian is the setting of Laura Guthrie’s teen novel Anna, an uplifting account of a girl with Aspergers tackling life’s serious challenges with stubborn positivity (12-16).

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14. The Isle of Skye (and a fictional island off it) features in Kerr Thomson’s The Rise of Wolves (10-14).

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Skye

15. St. Kilda is the dramatic setting for Geraldine McCaughrean’s Carnegie winner Where the World Ends (10-14).

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16. Stirling is the setting for Ross Sayers Scots YA novel Sonny and Me (12-16).

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Stirling

17. Victoria Williamson sets her topical refugee novel Fox Girl and the White Gazelle in Glasgow (8-12).

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Glasgow

18. Perthshire is the setting for Elizabeth Wein’s atmospheric The Pearl Thief. This book regularly wins ‘best opening’ in my pupil surveys! (10-14)

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Perthshire

19. Loch Ness is the setting for Lari Don’s The Treasure of the Loch Ness Monster (7-11) and also Pauline Mackay’s popular Wee MacNessie (3-5) series.

Wee MacNessie: Amazon.co.uk: Mackay, Pauline, Mackay, Shelley ...
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Loch Ness

20. Mairi Hedderwick’s Katie Morag stories are set on the fictional island of Struay which is based on the Isle of Coll (5-10).

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Coll

21. The Borders are the setting for Janis Mackay’s The Accidental Time Traveller trilogy (8-12) and also for Theresa Breslin’s Remembrance (12-16), as well as the fantastic Tiger Skin Rug by Joan Haig (8-12).

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Tiger Skin Rug by Joan Haig – Get Kids into Books
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22. Shetland features in Michelle Sloan’s War and present day story The Revenge of Tirpitz (9-13) as well as Tumbling by Kim Karam (10-13).

Tumbling: A Novel eBook: Kim Karam: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store
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Shetland

23. Moray is the setting for Mary Rosambeau’s war-time thriller Secrets and Spies.

Secrets and Spies: A Scottish Wartime Mystery eBook: Rosambeau ...
Burghead Property For Rent. Lettings in Burghead, Moray
Burghead, Moray

24. If you like your non-fiction set all over Scotland, try Kimberlie Hamilton’s Scotland’s Animal Superstars (7-12).

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25. Aviemore and the Cairngorms are the setting of Can’t Dance Cameron by Emily Dodd (3-6).

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Aviemore

26. Who wouldn’t recognise Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, setting of The Tobermory Cat by Debi Gliori (3-6).

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Tobermory

27. The Falkirk Wheel is a popular tourist attraction – and the setting for Hamish McHaggis and the Wonderful Water Wheel (5-7).

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The Falkirk Wheel

28. Back to Edinburgh and a certain young detective called Artie Conan Doyle by Bob Harris (8-12). Edinburgh is also the last setting for Wojtek, War Hero Bear by Jenny Robertson, and there is a statue of the bear in Princes Street Gardens!

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The Artie Conan Doyle Mysteries
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War Hero Bear: Amazon.co.uk: Jenny Robertson, Tim Archbold ...
Wojtek "the Soldier Bear" Statue, Edinburgh - Tripadvisor
The Wojtek Statue

29. Beautiful and historic Ayr is the setting for the new Tam O’Shanter graphic novel by Richmond Clements and Inko (8-12).

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Ayr

30. Gorgeous Galloway is the setting of Gill Stewart’s Galloway Girls series, including first instalment Lily’s Just Fine (12-16).

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Galloway

31. Balmoral Castle in Royal Deeside is one of the memorable settings of Justin Davies’ funny Help! I Smell a Monster (7-11).

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Balmoral Castle

32. Sherrifmuir near Stirling is the bleak and atmospheric setting for Alex Nye’s kids’ horror novel Chill (8-12).

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Sherrifmuir

33. Argyll is the evocative backdrop to Alan McClure’s Callum and the Mountain (8-12).

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34. A Scottish seaside village like Eyemouth is exactly the type of fishing village to feature in Captain Crankie and Seadog Steve by Vivien French (3-6).

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Eyemouth

35. Coo Clayton’s cute picture book Maggie’s Mittens takes you on a wee tour of the whole of Scotland (3-6). The same is true for Katie in Scotland by James Mayhew.

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Katie in Scotland: Amazon.co.uk: Mayhew, James: Books

36. Historic Glenfinnan is the setting for Linda Strachan’s The Dangerous Lives of the Jacobites (6-10).

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Glenfinnan Viaduct

37. Edinburgh is the setting for Mike Nicholson’s Catscape (8-12).

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The Museum of Edinburgh on the Royal Mile

38. The Isle of Cumbrae is the setting for Kelpies Prize winner The Mixed Up Summer of Lily McLean by Lindsay Littleson (8-12).

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Cumbrae

39. The Isle of Arran is the setting for witchy fun in A.H. Proctor’s Thumble Tumble series (7-11). The island is also home to the Corrie’s Capers series by Alison Page, including the cute The Westie Fest.

The Westie Fest: Corrie's Capers: Amazon.co.uk: Alison Page ...
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Arran

40. Tattiebogle Town where Alan Dapre’s Porridge the Tartan Cat lives is actually based on West Kilbride in Ayrshire (6-10).

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41. The atmospheric Callanish Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis provide the setting for Gaelic story Granaidh Afraga by Morag Anna MacNeill.

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42. Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh is an iconic tourist destination – and the setting of A Fast and Funny Guide to Mary Queen of Scots by Philip Ardagh.

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43. One of my favourite places in the world: The Isle of Iona, setting of Allan Burnett’s Columba and All That (6-10). The island is also the setting for Edith Robson’s The Secret of the Stones which was suggested by a blog reader.

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The Secret of the Stones: Amazon.co.uk: Robson, Edith: Books
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Iona Abbey

44. St. Andrews is the setting of Slug Boy Saves the World by Mark A. Smith.

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St Andrews

45. The Isle of Lewis is the setting of this gorgeous picture book, An Island’s Tail by Steven Tod.

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46. Fife is the setting of Moira McPartlin’s amazingly topical teen book The Incomers (14+). It is also the setting for the real-life-inspired Bertie the Buffalo by Wendy Jones (3-6).

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Bertie The Buffalo: Amazon.co.uk: Wendy H. Jones, Barry Diaper ...
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A Fife village

47. Smoo Cave near Durness features in a dramatic scene in Storm Singing and Other Musical Mishaps by Lari Don, my favourite book in her Fabled Beast Chronicles.

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Smoo Cave

48. Edinburgh Statues take centre stage in The Calling by Philip Caveney.

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49. The Edinburgh Tattoo at the castle is famous – and also the setting for The Tattoo Fox and its sequel by Alasdair Hutton.

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Edinburgh Castle

50. Finally, we return to Loch Ness with Sara and Molly Sheridan’s picture book Monsters Unite, illustrated by Iain Carroll. Underground tunnels for monsters? I’m in!

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Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness

I know I will have missed out some fantastic books and authors, and I’m sorry for that. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll sit down again and get to 100.

But for now, this will do. Happy reading. Where will you go?

COVER REVEAL The Siege of Caerlaverock!

I am so excited that I get to tell you about a NEW BOOK! The Siege of Caerlaverock is a medieval David-and-Goliath tale based on real events at Caerlaverock Castle in Dumfries and Galloway – and here is the gorgeous cover!

The Siege of Caerlaverock ebook cover3

It is a stunner, I think – designed by Cranachan Publishing’s Anne Glennie who felt very strongly about using the image of the actual castle, not just any other medieval stronghold.

It took a little while to arrive at the final product, an image of the castle ruin (albeit well-preserved) as it is now, overlaid with the dramatic events which unfolded there in July 1300 when the King of England, Edward Longshanks, surrounded and besieged the castle with an army over 3000 strong, while those inside numbered only sixty or so men. Certainly, some of those inside were women – and this opened up the brilliant possibility of writing a knights-and-castles, Wars-of-Independence story for kids, but with a female point of view character. My main source was a contemporary heraldic poem.

THE STORY:

12-year-old Ada is a laundress of little consequence, but the new castle commander Brian de Berclay has his evil eye on her. Perhaps she shouldn’t have fed the young prisoner in the tower.

But when the King of England crosses the border with an army over 3000 strong, Ada, her friend Godfrey and all at Caerlaverock suddenly find themselves under attack, with only 60 men for protection. Soon, rocks and flaming arrows rain from the sky over Castle Caerlaverock – and Ada has a dangerous choice to make.

THE COVER IMAGE:

Our early discussions centred on the building itself. The castle definitely had to be featured in the cover image, right? If you have a real-life location which people can still visit, it seems a waste not to capitalise on this. It is Scotland’s only triangular castle and a popular filming location. The name itself means ‘fort of the skylark’ (from caer meaning fort; and the old English laewerce meaning lark). Gorgeous and evocative, and perfect for a story!

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The problem was that a lot of castle images looked very peaceful, not at all the dramatic, fast-moving adventure which would reflect the manuscript!

Back to the Drawing Board. Anne and I brainstormed and I wondered if the real location could be featured in the cover by way of a map? We hunted down some old-fashioned maps, and attempted to show the female heroine in front of the castle, alongside some birds to reflect the skylark connection.However, although the building looked great, the map graphics only made the overall effect less clear, and the atmosphere still lacked threat. I did love the font though!

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I left it in Anne’s capable hands, and as always, she delivered. Just look at the progress in our next step! We had the threatening atmosphere at last! Night-time wanderings, the female at the centre of the story, being watched by the Commander from on high. We also wondered about the title and discussed it at length: Ada is a girl under siege. There are enemies outside, but she is also being hunted within the castle walls.

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Still, the Castle was a character in itself and needed to be in the title. And the figure of the girl did not quite have the impact we were looking for. We wanted to get across the movement and the drama that happened here somehow. Knights galloping their chargers around the besieged fortress, the drawing of weapons, the clanging of armour, the whistling of fiery missiles through the air…

The solution came by superimposing one image onto another. Wish I could claim credit for it, but it is all Anne’s doing! What you see is the castle ruin as it is now, but seen through a lens of an event which happened there 720 years ago. Shadows of the past in the misty murk of the present.

There is a bit of me which gets goosebumps every time I think of that, the memory of stones…

I love the cover!

LOVE IT!

And I can’t wait to hear what you all think!

The Siege of Caerlaverock ebook cover3

Some Recent Reads

I am lucky! Since beginning to write a book column in North of Scotland newspapers, I have been sent books! Actual, physical, lovely review copies, all in exchange for an honest opinion.

So I thought I’d round up a few faves from the last month or so. I genuinely enjoyed these. Check them out (if you’re that way minded):

Lily’s Just Fine, due for release July

Lily's Just Fine (Galloway Girls, #1)

Lily is a fabulous character. FABULOUS, I say, and exactly what Scotland needs. The author demonstrates very clearly that a small canvas of small town politics and hierarchies (rather than monsters, dragons, disasters and dystopian apocalypses which normally dominate teenage fiction) can be as vivid and memorable as a sweeping saga.
The key to its success is Lily: successful, pretty, confident, irreverent and utterly compelling. The genre might be romance, but there is plenty to occupy readers’ minds here: bigotry, materialism, chronic illness, mental health and school pressures are all explored. Alternating narrators can be predictable, but chapter transitions were handled with fluency and speed, just like thrillingly speedy racket exchanges over a net.
I very much look forward to the next Galloway Girls instalment. And I hope Lily’s voice takes centre-stage again!

Sonny and Me

Sonny and Me by Ross Sayers

I can’t think of another book like Sonny and Me. I spent decades teaching teenage boys in Scottish secondary schools and let me tell you: yes, this is how many of them speak, think and behave . Apart from the fact that this is authentic, funny and warm, it gives voice to those who may not always have a voice, certainly not in books. The friendship between the main characters is spot on and propelled me through the book from start to finish. Irreverent and provocative enough to appeal to teenagers, with enough issues /meaty topics to appeal to a more general readership. Fantastic follow up to Mary’s the Name. I’ll certainly be reading whatever Sayers writes next!

The Titanic Detective Agency

The Titanic Detective Agency
This is my favourite Lindsay Littleson book so far.
Even as a child, I had a mild fascination with the Titanic, reading and re-reading contemporary accounts, so it was a welcome surprise that the characters we most care about on the ship are based on real people, with photographs to inspect at the end of the book.
Bertha feels like the kind of kid you want to be friends with: opinionated, interested, charismatic and full of fun. She does, however, feel ‘real’ too, with her impatience with adult talk and church services lasting too long. The greatest strength of this novel is that Bertha’s childlike concerns are front and centre throughout. The horror of the sinking is not brushed over in any way, but the lingering memory of this read is of riddles and mysteries, chases and secrets – in short, of Berth’s concerns.
For any fellow teacher who may be concerned, this is a very sensitively handled account, with Bertha facing up to the horror of the sinking, but experiencing it from a distance in her lifeboat.
The period detail is meticulously researched, the characters utterly compelling and not a word is wasted.
This is the kind of children’s novel that would have got me into reading if I was a kid all over again. 🙂
Enjoy!

 

BRAND-NEW FREE Kidlit Quiz for Teachers – with a Scottish Round!

Book Week Scotland is nearly upon us!kidlit quiz

TEACHERS!

Looking for an easy, ready-to-run kidlit quiz (PPT) with solutions (Word Doc)

It’s ideal for upper primary or even S1 and features questions on classic and contemporary children’s books, from picture books to motion picture adaptations.

This one has ten slides per round. I trialled it with 28 kids, split into groups of four. The full thing may take up to 1.5 or 2 hours, depending how much thinking time you allow. They really enjoyed it!

Here you go!

Kidlit Quiz 2018

Kidlit Quiz 2018 Solutions

How to run it:

  • A plain sheet with group name, round name and numbers down the side will suffice, and a clipboard definitely makes things easier.
  • I have found that kids stay most engaged if you give some answers throughout, rather than leaving a huge info-dump till the end. So, ask Rounds 1 and 2, offer answers/scores for Round 1, run Round 3, offer scores for Round 2 etc. But up to you really.
  • I think a break somewhere at the halfway stage helps!

 

 

The Ultimate Kidlit Quiz

Stuck for what to do with youngsters during #BookWeekScotland?

I devised this QUIZ (suitable for upper primary/lower secondary school) based on classic and recent children’s titles.

It takes around an hour and a half to run (it helps to have another adult in the room to help with marking!). From The Hungry Caterpillar to The Hunger Games, this quiz should be accessible to all, while still challenging the most devoted of bookworms! The quiz itself is in Powerpoint format, while the solutions are a simple Word document.

The Ultimate Kidlit Quiz

Ultimate Kidlit Quiz Solutions

There are eight rounds, with ten questions each.

I’d suggest handing each team of 4 pupils a sheet for each round. Get groups to think up a group name and nominate a scribe. After each round, collect them in and run through the answers (your helpers can mark the sheets) before issuing the paper for the next round. 

Have fun!

 

 

Merryn Glover’s India Books for Kids

When an author I greatly admire, Merryn Glover, talked about putting together a blog tour around the anniversary of the India/Pakistan partition, I jumped at the chance to be part of it. Some first hand recommendations of India books for kids? Yes please! Here is what she says:

I grew up in Nepal, India and Pakistan, so it was always important to me that my children – brought up in Scotland – had an understanding of that part of the world.  Along with my memories, photos, films and two special visits, I shared my love for those countries through books.  As August 15th this year marks the 70th Anniversary of India’s Independence, Barbara suggested I write a post about my favourite India books for kids and teens.  There are squillions of great titles out there, but these are the much-enjoyed books still on our shelves and available in the UK.  Listed roughly in order of reading age.

 

Image result for mangoes and bananas bookMangoes & Bananas, The Sacred Banana Leaf & The Great Race: Nathan Kumar Scott

Nathan Kumar Scott (http://www.nathankumarscott.com/my-books) is an old school friend who has written a series of picture books based on Indian folk tales, each title drawing from a different form of folk art.  The results are exquisite books with enchanting stories.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mangoes-Bananas-Nathan-Kumar-Scott/dp/8186211063/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1501848817&sr=1-3&keywords=nathan+kumar+scott

 

Image result for One grain of riceOne Grain of Rice: Demi

This book was a gift to my sons from a former teacher of mine and is sub-titled “A Mathematical Folktale”.  It’s an adaptation of a traditional Indian story that uses a girl’s clever plan to explore both maths and morals.  It’s also beautifully illustrated in a style drawn from Moghul art.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/One-Grain-Rice-Mathematical-1997-03-01/dp/B01K13KL6I/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1501847985&sr=1-1&keywords=one+grain+of+rice

 

Ancient Civilisations – Indian Myths: Shahrukh Husain & Bee Willey  This is a collection of tales from India’s rich store of mythology with vivid pictures and a helpful glossary.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Indian-Myths-Stories-Ancient-Civilisations/dp/0237533766

 

Indian Tales, A Barefoot Collection: Shenaaz Nanji & Christopher Corr  “The trip of a lifetime!” the book announces and so it is, with brightly coloured maps, stories and information from eight regions in India and a long list of sources at the back.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Indian-Tales-Collection-Shenaaz-Nanji/dp/1846860822/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1501848238&sr=1-1&keywords=indian+tales+barefoot+collection

Image result for Amazon the jungle books by rudyard kiplingThe Jungle Books: Rudyard Kipling – We all know the wonderful Disney film, but how many of us have ventured with Mowgli and his animal friends through the pages of Kipling’s books?  I can guarantee a wild time!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Jungle-Rudyard-Kipling/1856132536/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1501848677&sr=1-4&keywords=the+jungle+book

 

The Village by the Sea, Anita Desai  I taught this poignant story of poverty and courage to my S1 English class in India many moons ago and fell in love with it.  By a Booker prize-winning author, it is strong writing that will draw readers close to the characters and the dilemmas of their lives.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Village-Sea-Puffin-Anita-Desai/0141359765/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1501848616&sr=1-1&keywords=village+by+the+sea

 

The Wheel of Surya, Jamila Gavin This is the first of a trilogy that begins with a brother and sister in India when their lives are splintered by Partition in 1947 and they end up on a boat to England.  I read it to my sons on a visit to India when they were 12 and 10, and we were captivated.  The other books in the series are The Eye of the Horse and The Track of the Wind

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wheel-Surya-Trilogy-Jamila-Gavin/dp/0749747447/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1501848901&sr=1-1&keywords=the+wheel+of+surya

 

Malgudi Days, R K Narayan  I first discovered this glorious little collection of stories when I taught S4 pupils in Kathmandu and have returned to it many times since.  Short and deceptively simple, they are full of wisdom, humour and deep humanity.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Malgudi-Days-Astrologers-Lawleyroad-Classics/dp/0143039652/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1501848739&sr=1-1&keywords=R+K+Narayan+Malgudi+Days

 

Narayan said of India that ‘the writer has only to look out of the window to pick up a character and thereby a story.’  Which is good news for us, as we need only to dip into one of the many brilliant books from India to meet those characters and enter their stories.  Join me there!

 

Image result for a house called askival

Merryn Glover is a writer of fiction and plays with work widely anthologised and broadcast  on Radio Scotland and Radio 4.  She has also worked as an English, drama and dance teacher and currently spends two days a week in a high school library, loving the magic of bringing books and kids together. 

Her novel for adults (and intelligent older teens), A House Called Askival, is set in north India and spans 70 years of history, including the cataclysmic events of Independence and Partition.

Links: A House Called Askival http://www.merrynglover.com/askival-2/

Website www.merrynglover.com