Kelpies for Christmas

On the hunt for the ideal Kelpie to gift at Christmas this year? The season has well and truly landed here at Kelpies HQ (the tree’s up and everything), and if you’re anything like us you’ve still got more buying to do than you’d like to admit.

Fear not, though – the Kelpies team is here to help! We’ve put together our very own top Christmas picks for 2018 to help ease you through the rest of your shopping and soothe your seasonal stress. You can thank us later!


Top-Secret Grandad and Me: Death by Soup – David MacPhail & Laura Aviñó
Recommended by Leah McDowell – Art & Production Director

If the title of MacPhail’s comedic murder mystery doesn’t intrigue you, then Aviñó’s hilarious illustrations will! This book will have you laughing your noodle off.




An Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Folk and Fairy Tales – Theresa Breslin & Kate Leiper
Recommended by Kirsten Graham – Sales & Marketing Executive

The only thing better than a good fairy tale is a good fairy tale accompanied by Kate Leiper’s stunning artwork. This is a book that will take pride of place on your children’s bookshelves for many years to come!



The Elsewhere Emporium – Ross MacKenzie
Recommended by Jennie Skinner – Assistant Editor

With spectacular dark magic and fantastical twists and turns, this dazzling sequel to The Nowhere Emporium will pull you into a world so full of wonders you won’t ever want to leave. Pure magic!




Wee Granny’s Magic Bag and the Pirates – Elizabeth McKay & Maria Bogade
Recommended by Elaine Reid – Community Marketing Manager

Your granny always seems to have exactly what you need in her bag, but this Wee Granny’s bag is better still; it’s magic! An exciting adventure awaits with pirates and treasure ahead. This story will keep wee ones (and big ones!) entertained to the end.



Three CrawsMelanie Mitchell
Recommended by Karyn McMurray – Editor

Kids will love cuddling up on your knee and singing along to this adorable version of much-loved Scots rhyme Three Craws. With delightful illustrations and lots of flaps to lift, this is a wonderful book to share.



Porridge the Tartan Cat and the Pet Show Show-OffAlan Dapré & Yuliya Somina
Recommended by Suzanne Kennedy – Deputy Sales & Marketing Director

You can never have enough Porridge in your life and given my children’s desire for a pet (not getting) I’m going to plump for Porridge’s latest adventure: Porridge the Tartan Cat and the Pet Show Show-Off. Puns a-plenty mean bedtime snorts and giggles.


Museum Mystery Squad and the Case of the Vanishing VikingMike Nicholson & Mike Phillips
Recommended by Eleanor Collins – Editorial Director

Everyone loves a good mystery, especially with a Nordic twist, and this one includes jokes and fun activities! Museum Mystery Squad and the Case of the Vanishing Viking is a fab gift for any 6-to-9-year-old detectives.



Isla and Pickle: The Highland Show – Kate McLelland
Recommended by Ali Begg – Sales & Marketing Assistant

Ideal for younger children (particularly pony fans and mini equestrians) this super-cute story sees Isla and her best friend, Pickle the Shetland pony, try their luck at the Highland Show’s Perfect Pony competition! Full of fun, colourful illustrations and giggles aplenty, it will delight wee ones aged 2 to 5.


The Treasure of the Loch Ness MonsterLari Don & Nataša Ilinčić
Recommended by Chani McBain – Sales & Marketing Director

There’s nothing better than sharing a Scottish legend on a cold winter’s evening. And there is no better Scottish legend than that of the famous Loch Ness Monster. Stunning illustrations of the fabulous beast meld with lyrical words to create a perfect story for sharing.




Rowan the Red Squirrel Lynne Rickards & Jon Mitchell
Recommended by Richard Wainman – Designer

Rowan the red squirrel and his little sister Hazel have left their drey to explore for the very first time. But there are dangers out there in the world – will they be brave enough to find their way home? A charming rhyming tale, beautiful illustrations of the Scottish landscape – and of course two adorable baby squirrels – make this a lovely Christmas gift for younger readers.


Artie Conan Doyle and the Vanishing Dragon ­– Robert J. Harris 
Recommended by Jenny Skivington– Junior Designer

All the mystery and adventure of Sherlock Holmes – but for kids! Follow a young Arthur Conan Doyle (and his friend Ham) on their adventures through 19th century Edinburgh. Ideal for readers aged 18 – 12.




The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle – Victoria Williamson
Recommended by Sally Polson – Editorial Director

Book-loving readers of 10+ will be swept up by the uplifting, moving story of Caylin, a bully on a Glasgow council estate, and Reema, a Syrian refugee. This extraordinary debut from Victoria Williamson launches a talented new voice in children’s fiction.



Need more ideas?

Pet Show Show-Off: Introducing Slomo the sloth!

Huge congratulations to Jill Bennett, winner of our Porridge the Tartan Cat ‘Name A Character’ competition! Jill’s suggested name of Slomo was the favourite entry chosen by author Alan Dapre and the Kelpies team. We think Slomo fits in purr-fectly to the book and (of course) we all love the alliteration. Jill’s winning name will appear in Porridge the Tartan Cat and the Pet Show Show-Off, the grand finale of the series.Pet Show Show-Off - introducing Slomo

In our ‘Name A Character’ competition, we asked readers to pick a name for the sloth that appears as part of the Best Pet in Scotland Pet Show.

We had LOTS of suggested names in our competition. So, extra congratulations to our three runners up! We could tell that all of our entrants were huge Porridge the Tartan Cat fans – we spotted so many paw-fect names for the series.

Karen Taggart suggested Shona – a solid Scottish name, picking up on a braw Porridge theme. Kieron Murphy thought Lightning was a great, cheeky name fitting with Porridge’s tongue-in -cheek tone (and we did too)! And Lynne suggested Slowly the sloth – perfect alliteration that would’ve worked perfectly with Dino Dad, Groovy Gran and the Dug O’ Doom.

As well as Slomo appearing in the final book, Jill wins an art print of our super-slow sloth AND a full set of the Porridge the Tartan Catseries. That’s SIX a-MEOW-zing books. Our three runners up win a copy of the brand new Porridge the Tartan Cat and the Pet-Show Show Off.

More about Porridge the Tartan Cat and the Pet Show Show-Off

In this zany series from Alan Dapré, Porridge purrfectly CAT-a-logs the McFun family’s hilarious adventures. Meow-some illustrations are provided by Yuliya Somina.

You can get your paws on Porridge the Tartan Cat and the Pet Show Show-Off this June. Or, catch up on Porridge’s other adventures in the Brawsome Bagpipes…the Bash-Crash-Ding…the Kittycat Kidnap…the Loch Ness Mess, and …the Unfair Funfair

Want to know the latest Porridge the Tartan Cat news? Like us on Facebook, or follow us Twitter and Instagram!

Guest post: Alan Dapre on what makes a funny book

What makes a funny book? Making a book laugh-out-loud (or even just quietly-giggling) funny is a huge challenge. But it’s something that Alan Dapré does PURR-fectly in his Porridge the Tartan Cat series.

In this guest post, Alan tells us how he doesn’t set out to BE FUNNY!, and gives us some top tips for amazingly a-MEOW-sing stories.

What makes a funny book


These two ominous words were written in large letters at the top of one of my TV scripts. Two words guaranteed to make me freeze. My writing usually incorporates some humour but I never set out to BE FUNNY! I simply write and see what happens.

If you want a masterclass in comic writing, why not read Winnie the Pooh? First published in 1926, each story features outstandingly inventive wordplay and dry humour from A. A. Milne. Sometimes he takes the commonplace and riffs on it:

“There’s a South Pole,” said Christopher Robin, “and I expect there’s an East Pole and a West Pole, though people don’t like talking about them.” 

Other times, A. A. Milne has fun with repetition and reduces things down to an absurd yet logical point:

“Two days later, there was Pooh, sitting on his branch, dangling his legs, and there, beside him, were four pots of honey….Three days later, there was Pooh, sitting on his branch, dangling his legs, and there beside him, was one pot of honey. Four days later, there was Pooh…”

Children love following an idea to its absurdly comic conclusion. That’s why I’ve used exaggeration in my books, at least a million and seven times. (Top tip: apparently odd numbers are funnier than even ones.)

What Makes a Funny Book - Snail

In my own writing, the comedy comes from my quirky characters and the surprising situations that they find themselves in:

Ross sprouted a snout and whiskers too. His teeth became fangs and big paws grew. His eyes became orange, no longer blue. He howled at the moon like scary wolves do. “Graagghh!”

“Aarggghh!” I roared back, reusing the same letters because it’s good to recycle.

When Ross is turned into a hairy Scarewolf at the Unfair Funfair, his sister Isla has to courageously find a way to change him back. Children can learn valuable life lessons reading about the comically unpredictable predicaments of characters.

I love to use puns. Many authors tend to shy away from them but puns appear fresh and funny to young children – mainly because they have never heard them before. In Porridge the Tartan Cat and the Bash-Crash-Ding, the characters go to the Crystal Cave ‘at the foot of Ben Tankle’. Me-groan.

What makes a funny book - Crystal Cave

Children also enjoy reading made-up words, and they’re fun to write too:

“Rossssssssss! Don’t touch that lever or I’ll tell Dad!” Isla shouted. But the beastly boy-wolf couldn’t hear. His eyes were glazed (like the yucky cherries that children pick off cakes, so they can just eat the icing and the sponge bit). He walked like a mummy and a zombie mixed together – a mumbie! Or was it a zommy?’

If authors are going to BE FUNNY it’s best to draw on tried and tested comic techniques. My favourite one is a type of misdirection where a sentence is given a quirky twist: “Windy Wendy spent all morning feeding the animals. She was feeding the grasshoppers to the lizards and the lizards to the buzzards when something unexpected happened…”

Humorous books are invariably full of surprises, inventiveness and fun. They reflect a child’s natural energy and playfulness. A funny book can make kids feel better.  Comedy is the flipside of sorrow and sadness. It’s a brilliant thing to share. When I was a teacher, I’d stand in the school playground and listen to pupils telling jokes. I’d hear old jokes that I’d told when I was their age!  They loved to make themselves laugh – and adults too. Comedy bridges generations. We all benefit from a good giggle.

Making children laugh isn’t easy… So, play with quirky characters, zany situations, unusual words and off-beat timing. Don’t strive to BE FUNNY!, just play with the words until things feel right. If you’re struggling, try thinking outside the box  – and the book. Perhaps go for surprising meta-humour that never fails to capture children’s attention and make them laugh:

It was Windy Wendy the pet shop owner! Who is she? Tell us more, I hear you whisper because it’s probably late at night & you’re meant to be asleep, but you like this book so much you can’t put it down, so you’re reading it under the covers & turning the pages very quietly.

When children experience the ‘I get it!’ moment – you’ll know the penny has dropped.

Or the Porridge…

What makes a funny book - Boat

More about Alan Dapré

What makes a funny book - Porridge the Tartan Cat Unfair Funfair coverAlan Dapré is the author of the Porridge the Tartan Cat series. In this zany new series for young readers, Porridge purrfectly CAT-a-logs the McFun family’s hilarious adventures from a cat’s-eye perspective. Meow-some illustrations are provided by Yuliya Somina.

Porridge the Tartan Cat and the Unfair Funfair, the latest book in the series, is available now! Other Porridge adventures include …the Brawsome Bagpipes…the Bash-Crash-Ding…the Kittycat Kidnap, and …the Loch Ness Mess.

Grand finale to the series, Porridge the Tartan Cat and the Pet Show Show-Off, is coming soon!

What do you think makes a funny book? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!

Kathleen Fidler – Author Perspectives

Author of over 80 books, Kathleen Fidler remains a titan of children’s literature. Whilst she was born and raised in England and Wales, she spent the majority of her life living in Scotland, a country that held a special place in her heart. The Scottish landscape and people feature heavily in many of her books and at Kelpies HQ we continue to publish her work as part of the Kelpies Classics collection. The latest novels to get a fresh makeover are Flash the Sheep Dog and Haki the Shetland Pony, two classic Scottish stories; one set in Shetland, the other in the Scottish Borders. First published in the ‘60s and ‘80s, they’ve continued to capture the hearts and minds of young readers and their parents for decades. Now a new generation can discover and enjoy these timeless tales of bravery and friendship between humans and animals.

In today’s blog post some of our Kelpies authors offer their perspective on the work of Kathleen Fidler. Read on to find out who she helped inspire to read and write!


Kathleen Fidler

Alex Nye loves Kathleen Fidler’s ability to bring Scottish history to life


Kathleen Fidler’s books have inspired me since I read them to my children when I first moved to Scotland more than 20 years ago. Often read in cottages by the sea when on holiday, I loved the themes she writes about, bringing Scottish history to life – the Highland Clearances, for example. She inspires me as both a reader and a writer. Her books are classics for children, which deserve to be remembered and cherished.

Books by Alex Nye: Chill, Shiver.


Kathleen Fidler

Lindsay Littleson is a big fan of ‘The Desperate Journey’


Kathleen Fidler’s novel The Desperate Journey was published in 1964 and is still a popular read in Scottish primary schools. I find that incredibly inspirational and would love to write a historical novel with that kind of lasting impact.

Books by Lindsay Littleson: The Mixed-up Summer of Lily McLean, The Awkward Autumn of Lily McLean.

Kathleen Fidler

Alan Dapré has a soft spot for ‘Haki the Shetland Pony’


Kathleen Fidler was my first introduction to Shetland ponies! I first came across Haki the Shetland Pony years ago when I was a kid and I remember liking the idea of ‘running off and joining the circus’. I was in a children’s home at the time! This book – with a talented travelling animal character – reminded me of Gobbolino The Witch’s Cat and had a great warmth to it. Classic stories stay in print and Kathleen Fidler’s books will be enjoyed by future generations of readers who want thoughtful narratives about resolute characters. I also came across some of her books while teaching. Indeed, I gather that Kathleen was a teacher too. Clearly a person of many talents. It would have been lovely to meet her.

Books by Alan Dapré: Alan is the author of the Porridge the Tartan Cat series.

Kathleen Fidler

Theresa Breslin’s first book won the Fidler Award


Kathleen Fidler was an accessible writer who legitimised and vivified Scottish stories. Her work in this area was groundbreaking; covering various genres and appealing to a wide range of interests and ages. I probably owe a large part of my life-long love of history to Kathleen Fidler. However, her major influence on me was when my very first book won the Fidler Award. Life-changing, encouraging, enabling – this prize set me on course to fulfil my dreams to be a writer. Thank you, Kathleen Fidler.

Books by Theresa Breslin: An Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Mythical Creatures, An Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Folk and Fairy Tales.




Flash the Sheep Dog

As London orphan Tom struggles to adjust to his new life in the Scottish Borders he finds an unexpected ally in Flash the sheep dog puppy. Their friendship blossoms and Tom’s determined to make Flash a sheep dog champion! Will they succeed?

Adapted for the big screen in 1966, Flash the Sheep Dog remains an unrivalled portrait of rural Scotland and is perfect for fans of Lassie and Babe the Sheep-pig.

Haki the Shetland Pony

When Adam and Haki are forced to leave their home on Shetland and find work on the mainland, they become the lead acts of a travelling circus. Yet Adam and Haki’s future is in jeopardy as jealous feelings arise amongst the circus folk. Will the stars of the circus somersault to success or stumble and fall?

An exciting adventure, this heartwarming story is perfect for pony lovers everywhere.

Flash the Sheep Dog and Haki the Shetland Pony are out now.

Enter our Name A Character competition!

In Porridge the Tartan Cat and the Pet Show Show-Off, our favourite cat meets an array of animals competing to win the Best Pet Prize! One of Porridge’s new furry friends is a super-slow sloth, who sets off around the obstacle course at “zero miles per hour”. But what is the sloth called? We’re giving you the chance to choose! Enter our Name A Character competition to tell us the perfect name.

Basil the elephant popped out like a cork! Followed by a stork. And almost every animal you can think of (except a slow sloth who was still at the start of the race)! Name A Character Competition - sloth image

Remember to send us your entries by Monday 30th April.

We’ll announce a shortlist of names on Tuesday 1st May. Then, we’ll announce the overall winner of our Name A Character competition on Monday 21st May.

We’ll include the lucky winner’s suggested name in Porridge the Tartan Cat and the Pet Show Show-Off. They’ll also win an art print of our super-slow sloth AND a full set of the Porridge the Tartan Cat series. That’s SIX a-MEOW-zing books.

Our shortlisted runners-up will win a copy of the brand new Porridge the Tartan Cat and the Pet-Show Show Off.

So, what are you waiting for? Get thinking of a name for our sloth, and enter our Name A Character competition to win!

Name A Character Competition - Porridge the Tartan Cat and the Pet Show Show-Off coverMore about Porridge the Tartan Cat

In this zany new series from Alan Dapré, Porridge purrfectly CAT-a-logs the McFun family’s hilarious adventures. Meow-some illustrations are provided by Yuliya Somina.

You can get your paws on Porridge the Tartan Cat and the Pet Show Show-Off this June. Or, catch up on Porridge’s other adventures in the Brawsome Bagpipes…the Bash-Crash-Ding…the Kittycat Kidnap…the Loch Ness Mess, and …the Unfair Funfair

Want to know the latest Porridge the Tartan Cat news? Like us on Facebook, or follow us Twitter and Instagram!


Competition Terms and Conditions
• Entries will only be counted if submitted via the form accessed via this blog post.
• Entrants must submit their suggested name by Monday 30th April 2018.
• Floris Books staff and Alan Dapré will decide on the final winner
• The winner announcement will appear on the DiscoverKelpies website on Monday 21st May 2018.
• The winning name will appear in Porridge the Tartan Cat and the Pet Show Show-Off. The winner will 
receive a bundle of all six titles in the Porridge the Tartan Cat series and an artwork print of the sloth. 
• Runners up will receive a copy of Porridge the Tartan Cat and the Pet Show Show-Off
• Prizes are not exchangeable

Features for Teachers: Porridge the Tartan Cat

Are you looking for some MOG-nificent classroom activities? Ones that will make your pupils say Me-WOW? Then look no further than the Porridge the Tartan Cat and the Brawsome Bagpipes Learning Resource Pack.Porridge the Tartan Cat and the Brawsome Bagpipes

Created by author Alan Dapré, the pack brings together a range of activities to help literacy, creativity, problem solving and more. Alan is a former Deputy Headteacher and Literacy Co-ordinator, Alan is purr-fectly placed to create engaging, entertaining guides for teachers. All of the activities are closely linked to Curriculum for Excellence Outcomes.

Your pupils can try their hand at:

  • Exploring homophones and tongue twisters
  • Inventing with Gadget Grandad
  • Becoming one of the McFun family through character creation
  • Creating their own Porridge adventure

Plus, pupils can learn more about the books themselves by thinking about book covers, titles and the illustrations, created by Yuliya Somina.

Download the Porridge the Tartan Cat and the Brawsome Bagpipes Resource Pack.



More about Porridge the Tartan Cat

Porridge the Tartan Cat and the Brawsome Bagpipes from Alan Dapré is available now! Other books in Alan Dapré’s Porridge the Tartan Cat series include …the Bash-Crash-Ding, …the Kittycat Kidnap, …the Loch Ness Mess and …the Unfair Funfair.

We can offer special deals on class sets. If you’d like more information, please get in touch.

Also available: this a-MEOW-zing Porridge the Tartan Cat Word Play poster. Click on the image to download, or email us to get a poster for your classroom.

Find out the latest Porridge news – follow DiscoverKelpies on Twitter!

Would you like a Learning Resource Pack for another Kelpies book? Do you have a resource pack you’d like to share? Please let us know! We’d love to hear from you.

Peg and Uan, and other Kelpies pets

In Peg and Uan: Making Friends, these two cute Kelpies characters meet for the first time. But did you know that the adorable Peg the Little Sheepdog and Uan the Lamb were based on illustrator Sandra Klaassen’s real pets?

Peg and Uan - Porridge the Tartan CatLots of our other Kelpies characters are pets too, so we thought we’d share some of our favourites with you!

Porridge the Tartan Cat

We all know that Porridge isn’t really a pet – he’s the boss of the McFun family and is there to lend a paw when things go wrong. He’s always getting himself into bagpipe-blasting, balloon-riding, baddie-busting adventures. But he also loves getting spoiled with a fishy biscuit or two.

Colin the hamster

As well as being a gifted acrobat, Colin the hamster is an essential member of the Museum Mystery Squad. Despite not being able to talk (or type), Colin gives Kennedy, Nabster and Laurie bright ideas to help them crack their cases. Some even think he’s the smartest member of the team!


When Isla asks her dad for a pet, he suggests a guinea pig, a goldfish and even a rabbit instead. But Isla knows that Pickle the Shetland pony would make the best pet of all. He’s great at cutting the grass, playing knights and unicorns, and even helping Isla eat up all her vegetables. Pickle isn’t just a pet, he’s a best friend.


What’s a witch without her cat? Much like Porridge, Vronsky isn’t exactly a pet – he’s the familiar for Ruby McCracken and her family. But since familiars are magical creatures, odd things can happen, especially if they have to move into the world of the Ords. (That’s the Ordinaries to you and me.) How will Vronsky cope with being tragic without magic?


Let us know your favourite Kelpies pet on Twitter or Facebook. You can find us @DiscoverKelpies!

About the books

Peg and UanPeg and Uan: Making Friends, illustrated by Sandra Klaassen, is available now.

Want to find out more about our favourite pets? You can read all about them in these Kelpies books.

Porridge the Tartan Cat cat-alogues the McFun family’s meow-nificent story in this zany series for young readers.

Join the Museum Mystery Squad as they investigate Moving Mammoths, Curious Coins and more.

Meet a feisty wee girl and her cheeky pet pony in Isla & Pickle: Best Friends.

Find out what happens to Vronsky the familiar in Ruby McCracken: Tragic Without Magic.

Author Interview: Alan Dapré

Alan Dapré is the author of over fifty books for children. He has also written over one hundred television scripts, transmitted home and abroad. His plays have been on BBC Radio 4 and published for use in schools worldwide.

Now, he’s embarking on a new chapter in his journey as an author with his Porridge the Tartan Cat series for young and reluctant readers. We spoke to Alan about how he became a professional writer, including tips and tricks for overcoming writers block, the challenges of writing for children and the joy of seeing your own work on the bookshop shelves.

Alan Dapré Author Interview

Alan Dapré

Hi Alan, thanks for talking to us today. Can you tell us a bit about your career so far?

I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. My passion for words stems from my childhood. Whilst I loved being outdoors climbing trees, building dens and exploring coastlines I also enjoyed sitting in a corner, chilling out with a book. The stories that captivated me most were full of adventure, humour and resourceful characters. As a teenager I spent hours on my Corona typewriter creating short stories and poems for my own amusement. However, it was only when I was studying on my Creative Arts degree that I began to think seriously about becoming a professional writer. Not long after I graduated, my play Comeback was performed at Nottingham Playhouse. This was followed by a radio play Kenny – broadcast as part of a BBC Young Playwrights’ Festival.

I trained as a primary school teacher, writing more plays and stories in my spare time. I also compiled anthologies, writing a teachers’ handbook for literacy lessons. Things came to a head when I was offered two jobs at the same time: the role of Literacy Consultant for Nottinghamshire and a job writing for children’s television. I chose TV and spent seven busy years as a ‘creative’ – working on shows including Brum & Boohbah. It was a busy time writing to deadlines, with lots of self-editing and having to think fast on my feet…keyboard!

When I got married I left my job to become a full-time dad and writing was put on hold for a while. When my daughter entered nursery school, I had more time to write again. I think living with a young child really helps to spark interesting ideas as before long Pearson were publishing both my playscript, The Finders, and a book of short stories, Mixed-up Myths.

What does your day as an author look like?

It varies a lot. Inevitably there’s the school run and a dog walk on the beach; I often work out my plots and stories while I’m out and about. Back at home, I’ll brew a half-decent coffee and get on with drafting my latest story. I’ll scrawl plot points on sticky notes, placing them in the pages of my notebook until I get the story working nicely. Sometimes I’ll be at my computer, drafting and re-drafting until I get it right. The key is to write the whole story before editing too deeply. Once the story is firmed up, I’ll edit more precisely to set the tone, humour and pace. I like to walk to my daughter’s school and pick her up. We chat en route home and I’ll write some more while Isla chills with her pals. I work well at night and sometimes don’t finish work until late.

Author Interview Alan Dapré

Show don’t tell

How does writing books differ from writing for television?

Not as much as people might think. Television is a visual medium and it benefits from a ‘show don’t tell’ approach. Writing children’s books is the same. Young viewers and readers prefer action and energy. Not too much hanging around. The worst thing a writer can do in either medium is to laboriously describe a plot point.

Illustrations really help children’s authors. They help to reinforce an idea that would otherwise take a lot of words to explain. I enjoy writing books because at the end of the process my creative vision and authorial voice are very much in evidence.

Author Interview Alan Dapré

Alan has plenty of writing tips and tricks with a little help from Porridge the Tartan Cat

Do you have any tricks in your bag for when you get writer’s block?

The trick is to get yourself writing. Something that will trigger this will often help. Here are some that work for me.

  • Write a note for your character – the sort you’d find left on a fridge. Make it funny.
  • Pick up a book and read the first line. Write what happens next. Make it completely different to what is already written.
  • Think of opposites. If your characters are too dull, then write a short piece where you get them to do incredibly interesting things. Go over the top. Aim for the moon – literally.
  • Use rhyme. Think of an object and rhyme something else with it. Cow – Plough – Row. Then write something that joins these new words.

Where did you get the idea for Porridge the Tartan Cat?

I was keen to write a series based on an adventurous family. I wanted each person to ‘star’ in their own book, where their secret would be revealed or a quirky thing happen to them (Gran was once in a groovy band, Dad a…well you’ll have to read Porridge the Tartan Cat and the Loch Ness Mess to find out).

Now I that live in Scotland a Scottish theme felt appropriate. I knew the books needed a narrator to hold them together; a laconic, quirky, all-seeing, barely-doing cataloguer of events. So I came up with Porridge the Tartan Cat. It felt immediately right. He’d toppled into a tin of tartan paint. Then it was a case of finding his voice and turning him into the reluctant hero who saves the day.

Author Interview Alan Dapré

Isla and Ross in a scene from Kittycat Kidnap, the third Porridge the Tartan Cat novel from Alan Dapré.

Your daughter Isla plays a starring role in the Porridge books – what does she think about being in the series?

Isla is delighted. I’d originally written Isla’s name as a placeholder but had considered retaining it. I tend to give my main characters short names, as they are easy to read and don’t slow the pace. She is easily recognisable in the books (I sent the publisher some photos of her and a brief description – ‘hair bobbed, with glasses and a big smile.’) Yuliya Somina’s illustrations look just like Isla and definitely capture her spirit and energy. My daughter calls herself ‘Real Isla’ to differentiate herself from ‘Drawn Isla’. She can’t wait to read the sixth book in the series all about ‘Invisible Isla’. It’s a lovely feeling for me as an author (and dad) to see my child grinning back at me in my books.

Are there any other authors that inspire you?

Ursula Le Guin who wrote the fantastic Earthsea books, Alf Prøysen of Mrs Pepperpot fame, Norman Hunter, creator of Professor Branestawm. I also find Roald Dahl, Philip Pullman, Babette Cole and Susan Hill inspiring. All of them create credible characters – sometimes incredible. They captivate their readers with imaginative flair, always leaving you wanting more.

Alan Dapré Author Interview

Porridge inspired by fish and fishy biscuits MeYum!


More about Alan Dapré

Porridge the Tartan Cat and the Loch Ness Mess, the brand new book from Alan Dapré, is available now!

Other books in Alan Dapré’s Porridge the Tartan Cat series include …the Brawsome Bagpipes, …the Bash-Crash-Ding, and …the Kittycat Kidnap.

Find out the latest Porridge the Tartan Cat news – follow DiscoverKelpies on Twitter!







Loch Ness Mess Twitter competition

Enter our competition to celebrate the latest adventure in the Porridge the Tartan Cat series! We’re giving a lucky reader the chance to win a copy of Porridge the Tartan Cat and the Loch Ness Mess.

To enter, simply retweet one of our Porridge the Tartan Cat and the Loch Ness Mess competition tweets. Our competition deadline is midnight on Wednesday 19th July.

We’ll announce the lucky winner on our DiscoverKelpies Twitter account on the book’s publication date of Thursday 20th July.

In the latest meownificient story from Alan Dapré, Porridge the Tartan Cat (it’s a long story involving a tin of tartan paint!) and the twins, Isla and Ross, have been dragged to Loch Ness where Dino Dad is hoping to dig up some pre-historic bones. But when a magic wishing bone transforms Dino Dad into a real-life dinosaur, he’s mistaken for the Loch Ness Monster. Then, he’s captured by a Nessie-hunter, me-yikes!

Can’t wait to read the whole book? Take a a sneak peek here.

Porridge the Tartan Cat and the Loch Ness MessAbout the book

When Porridge was a wee kitten he toppled into a tin of tartan paint — which is easy to do and not so easy to say.

Now he lives by Loch Loch with the quirky McFun family: Gadget Grandad, Groovy Gran, Dino Dad, Mini Mum and the twins, Roaring Ross and Invisible Isla. Everyone has a super secret — or two — and Porridge is always there to lend a helping paw when things go awry. If there’s a fishy biscuit in it for him…

Discover the adventures of Porridge the Tartan Cat in …the Brawsome Bagpipes, …the Bash-Crash-Ding, …the Kittycat Kidnap, and brand new book …the Loch Ness Mess.

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  1. Entrants must retweet a designated Porridge the Tartan Cat and the Loch Ness Mess competition tweet.
  2. To enter, you must retweet by midnight GMT on Wednesday 19th July 2017.
  3. One entry per Twitter account.
  4. We will select the winner at random.
  5. We will announce the winner via DiscoverKelpies social media channels on Thursday 20th July 2017.
  6. The prize is not exchangeable.

Guest post: Writing for girls and boys

Alan Dapré is the author of more than 60 books for children, including the hilarious Porridge the Tartan Cat series.

In this guest blog post, he reflects on his daughter’s attitudes to gendered books and toys, and how he loves writing for girls and boys.

Recently, I was browsing in a well-known superstore with my young daughter. She found pink pyjamas decorated with rainbows – ‘For Girls age 7-8’. Then a set of dinosaur pyjamas. Isla turned to me with a frustrated look and said, “I really want those dinosaur ones, but it says ‘For Boys age 7-8’.”

Then a similar thing happened when we walked through a local discount store. The toy aisles were clearly segregated by colour and gender – pink for girls and blue for boys. Isla picked up a blue skateboard then put it down. “They make me think I can’t have it. Why can’t girls and boys share the toys?”

Why indeed?

As I write this blog at home, I am surrounded by Lego models. Some sets are obviously packaged for boys, others for girls. My daughter chose all of them, regardless. “I think boy stuff is cooler than girl stuff. They get to have ferocious dragons and knights and ninjas. Girls just get pretty rainbows and unicorns and lots of pink. Some girls might want to have different colours and have adventures.”

One of my favourite childhood books was The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler by Gene Kemp. Tyke takes on the school establishment in an action-packed tale. It was quite a shock to discover the eponymous protagonist was Theodora Tiler. Most of the books I had read up until then featured boys doing all the exciting stuff.

Being adventurous is a vital part of growing up for all children, not just boys. Books should reflect that. My books are funny, fast-moving, action packed adventures that anyone can read.

Twins Isla (named after my daughter, Real Isla) and Ross McFun feature in every book of the Porridge the Tartan Cat series and star in two. Both characters are go-getting children, with enquiring minds who courageously work together to solve tricky problems. I chose non-identical twins because I wanted female and male characters who are equal but different. Children with the confidence and freedom to express and exchange ideas. In each book, they take turns to explore, to question and to lead. I’m not writing for girls or boys. I’m writing for girls and boys.

My wife is an engineer – and a great role model for our daughter. Together we encourage Isla to try new things and believe in herself. Anything is possible. Last month she scuba-dived in a cage at Deep Sea World and loved every moment. Not every child gets a chance to do that. Or to be in a book like Real Isla. But all children should see characters with identifiable traits, and read reassuring books that show them it’s okay to be themselves. Books that nourish, sustain and empower children to be the best they can be.

By the way, Isla loves wearing her dinosaur pyjamas. And I love that she loves them, too.


Alan Dapre on writing for girls and boys

When Porridge was a wee kitten he toppled into a tin of tartan paint – which is easy to do and not so easy to say. Now he lives by Loch Loch with the quirky McFun family: Gadget Grandad, Groovy Gran, Dino Dad, Mini Mum and the twins, Roaring Ross and Invisible Isla. Everyone has a super secret – or two – and Porridge is always there to lend a helping paw when things go awry. If there’s a fishy biscuit in it for him…

Discover more about Isla, Ross, and the rest of the McFun family in the Porridge the Tartan Cat series.