Features for Teachers: The First World War

If you’re a teacher with a First World War project coming up, we’ve got some ideas and resources that might help! There are so many different aspects of the Great War that you could focus on, but here are just a few ideas that could help bring this period of history alive for your students.


A Secret Diary of the First World War is inspired by the real-life diary of Scottish boy soldier James Marchbank. Each easy-to-read chapter mixes James’s story with timelines, letters, diagrams and illustrations to create a fact-tastic account of the First World War, which is both fun and emotionally engaging for younger readers (recommended for ages 7 to 10).




The Reluctant Time Traveller is a fictional novel set in the Scottish borders in 1914, just before the onset of the First World War. Saul and Agnes have time-travelled from the twenty-first century and encounter the realities of life on what will soon be the home front. The book introduces children aged roughly 8 to 12 to the fascinating detail of life in 1914, but it does it through the eyes of modern children who your pupils can relate to and engage with.





Soldier’s Game offers a great way to engage football fans in your class with the Great War because it brings the two subjects together into a gripping fictional novel for 8 to 12 year olds. The book interweaves the present day life of an ordinary football-mad boy with a story of young men who volunteered for war. The author focuses on the friendships that develop as the lads play football and learn to become soldiers together, making this remarkable story enjoyable and really accessible for young people.




First World War Activity Sheets

Packed full of ideas for class and individual activities, our activity sheets offer fresh approaches to bringing the First World War to life in your classroom. Visit our Features for Teachers page for a full list of classroom resources.

First World War Codebreaker worksheet

Author Visits

Gill Arbuthnott (A Secret Diary of the First World War), Janis Mackay (The Reluctant Time Traveller) and James Killgore (Soldier’s Game) are extremely experienced presenters and have done many engaging primary-school visits. They can all talk to your students confidently and knowledgeably about the First World War, drawing on aspects that are featured in their books.

Find out more about how to invite an author to your school or library on our author events page.

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Kelpies Illustration Prize 2018: Find out our winner!

The day is finally here! We’re so excited to announce the winner of the Kelpies Illustration Prize 2018.

The Kelpies Illustration Prize 2018 challenged illustrators and designers based in Scotland to create a new cover for Soldier’s Game by Jim Killgore. Soldier’s Game is a remarkable novel of war, football and loyalty, based on the true story of Edinburgh’s ‘Hearts Battalion’. The book was chosen to commemorate the centenary of the First World War armistice.

The inimitable Vivian French joined us to announce the prize. In 2016, Vivian was awarded an MBE for services to literature, literacy, illustration, and the arts. And, the Scottish Book Trust presented her with an Outstanding Achievement Award just last month!

So, without further ado, find out our winners here…

Our judging panel looked for covers that would appeal to the book’s target audience of children aged 8-12. They were also looking for bold and earnest designs that clearly communicated the football and First World War themes of the book.

The winning design impressed the judges with its striking and sensitive representation of the protagonists, the skilful illustration of First World War motifs, and a well-considered design for the full book cover. The active feel of our Highly Commended entry would really appeal to the age group. Both Vivian French and our judges loved  the consideration of typography as part of the design. And the public loved the empathetic and engaging representation of the protagonist in our People’s Choice Winner.

Massive congratulations to our winners!

Download our press release here.

More about the Kelpies Illustration Prize 2018

The Kelpies Illustration Prize invites illustrators and designers based in Scotland to create a book cover. Each year, we choose a Kelpies children’s novel that we think will inspire creatives to come up with brilliant designs.

See our full shortlist for the Kelpies Illustration Prize 2018 here. Or, take a look at our past winners.

So, what do you think of our winners? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #KIP2018.

Are you a Scotland-based illustrator or designer? Keep an eye on our website for details of next year’s prize!


The 2012 Scottish Children’s Book Awards Ceremony

On World Book Day, 7 March, the Discover Kelpies team set out for Dundee to attend the 2012 Scottish Children’s Book Awards Ceremony. It was a very special day for us, as one of our favourite Kelpies books, Soldier’s Game by James Killgore, was shortlisted for the award in the Younger Readers category, along with Jonathan Meres with The World According to Norm and Cathy McPhail’s Out of the Depths.

James on stage

James on stage in the Caird Hall

The ceremony took place in the stunning Caird Hall, filled with over 1000 school pupils (that’s a lot!) as well as other guests, coming to cheer on the authors. James had a lot of fun chatting to fans and signing copies of Soldier’s Game before the ceremony started and then we were in for a real treat. Pupils from St. Joseph’s Primary in Bonnybridge performed a short dramatisation of the three books in the Younger Readers category. The actors were all fantastic and all three plays were really fun to watch. For the Soldier’s Game performance, they even played a bit of football!

For the Bookbugs category there was even more entertainment! Julia Donaldson and her husband Malcolm did a musical version of Jack and the Flumflum Tree and everyone joined in on the very catchy chorus! When Catherine Rayner read Solomon Crocodile, a massive crocodile (cardbord, not real!) crept around on stage. John Fardell got great help from the audience to write a new book on stage, with the same storyline as The Day Louis Got Eaten.

James Killgore with shortlisted diploma

James Killgore with shortlisted diploma

The authors in the Older Readers category were interviewed on stage. We found out that Barry Hutchison’s favourite pie is horsemeat pie (yum?), Elizabeth Laird loves travelling and Elizabeth Wein is very good at dancing Gangnam Style (she even showed us)!

The nailbiting moment when the winners were announced arrived! The whole of Caird Hall held their breath as the envelopes where opened and the names of the winners read out, to much applause. The winners were (drum roll please!) John Fardell and The Day Louis got Eaten, Jonathan Meres with The World of Norm and Barry Hutchison and his book The 13th Horseman!

Massive congratulations to all the winners and the shortlisted authors and a very well done to all the pupils who read and voted for the books!

If you would like to find out more about the awards, the shortlisted authors and the winners, you can visit the Scottish Book Trust website.

Posted by Benedicte at Discover Kelpies.

Kelpies get ready for Edinburgh International Book Festival

Have you heard of Edinburgh International Book Festival? Every August, authors, poets and illustrator (to name a few) from all over the world can be found in tents in Edinburgh for a few weeks packed with book events.

Kelpies authors are doing lots of exciting events at the festival this year. Lynne Rickards will be entertaining with her picture book Lewis Clowns Around, about Lewis the puffin who flies off to join the circus, and has lots of adventures as a clown. We can’t promise that Lynne will do any cartwheels, but Lewis and his circus friends are sure to be entertaining for little ones.

Calling all cat lovers: Margaret Forrester will introduce Mac the stripy cat from her books The Cat Who Decided and My Cat Mac. Mac is looking for a new home and a family to love him, will he find it in a tall house in Edinburgh?

If you’re a ballet dancer, or any kind of dancer, we know the perfect event for you! Enter the world of Cloudberry Castle, an old castle made into a ballet school, where you can dance all day. Katie Mackenzie is delighted when her parents open Cloudberry School of Ballet, and with ghosts, auditions and ponies, there’s never a dull moment! The Cloudberry Castle books are written by Janey Louise Jones who writes Princess Poppy.

If it’s adventure you’re after, we’ve got just the ticket. Lari Don will be giving a taste of the last adventure in her First Aid for Fairies series: Maze Running and Other Magical Missions. Helen and the fabled beasts must race against time to find magical healing tokens to save the life of one of their friends. Come and hear Lari talk about the series in an event full of twists, turns, and a dragon or two. Lari will also be reading her latest picture book Orange Juice Peas to P1s, 2s and 3s in a fun-filled event packed with surprises.

Is your class visiting the festival? Some authors, like Gill Arbuthnott, will be part of the Schools Programme. Gill takes a trip to Edinburgh Zoo with her new picture book Lost at the Zoo. Wee mouse Rory is lost and asks the animals for help to find his owner. Will he ever be found? Gill promises a lively event full of great animal surprises!

Go back in time with James Killgore as he talks about football, friendship and war. His book Soldier’s Game tells the story of football mad Ross, who discovers that his grandfather Jack played for Heart of Midlothian FC before going off to war in 1914.

And last, but by no means least, Theresa Breslin promises an enchanting event, with her new book An Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Folk and Fairy Tales. Theresa will read some of Scotland’s best-loved folk tales about selkies, kelpies, stoorworms and brownies.

Maybe we’ll see you in August!

Posted by Benedicte at Discover Kelpies.


Soldier’s Game Shortlisted for a Scottish Children’s Book Award

Soldier's Game cover We’re thrilled to announce that Soldier’s Game by James Killgore has been shortlisted for the 8 – 11 category of the Scottish Children’s Book Award 2012!

The nine shortlisted authors were announced on Monday by Scottish Book Trust in their lovely offices off the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. There are three books shortlisted in each category.

Shortlisted alongside Soldier’s Game in the 8 – 11 years category are Out of the Depths by Cathy MacPhail and The World of Norm: May Contain Nuts by Jonathan Meres.

Winners of this award are decided by primary school children in Scotland, so if your school isn’t already signed up then why not ask your teacher if you can take part. You can find out about how to get registered by visiting the Scottish Book Trust website. But you’ve got plenty of time because the winners are not announced until World Book Day next year. We can’t wait!

Posted by Chani at Discover Kelpies



James Killgore — Soldier’s Game — Author Interview

In case you missed it, here is the Book of the Month author interview with James Killgore. James released is book Soldier’s Game earlier this year.

Q: What inspired you to write Soldier’s Game?
James Killgore [JK]: It started out as a story that I made up for my footballing daughter about a young boy who sneaks into his granny’s attic and finds a pair of boots that belonged to his great-grandfather who was a professional footballer. When he wears them he finds he’s magically transformed into a champion striker.

That might have made a good story on it’s own but around the same time I picked up a book called McCrae’s Battalion by an historian called Jack Alexander. It was about a battalion of soldiers from Edinburgh who fought in World War I. Many were fans and players from the Heart of Midlothian football club. After that the two stories sort of merged in my head and the magical element just melted away against the grim truth of what happened to those soldiers.

Q: Why do you think that the story of the Hearts Battalion is important?
JK: I think it’s a very personal story. It’s easy to get caught up in tactics and statistics and weapons when studying major historical events like WWI. True stories like those from the Hearts Battalion bring home the sad consequences of war – right to our doorsteps. Sometimes as I walk across the Union Canal I imagine those young footballers – Harry Wattie, Jimmy Speedie, Pat Crossan – treading the same pavements, feeling the sun on their faces, unaware of what’s coming.

Q: Was it difficult mixing history and imagination in your book?
JK: Not as difficult probably as working straight from imagination. The great thing about writing historical novels is that much of the drama is ready made. You only have to bring it alive through characters – real and imagined.

Q: Did you have to change any of the historical facts to make sure that Soldier’s Game was a good story?
JK: I invented quite a few characters to tell the story but I tried hard not to change anything fundamental – just small facts. All of history is made up of countless small stories and most of those go unrecorded; that’s what makes personal diaries so valuable to researchers. Historical fiction allows you to imagine some of those missing stories.

Q: Which book would you advise all children to read before they grow up?
JK: I think Roald Dahl is just the best. I hadn’t read any of his books until I was a father and I think I enjoyed reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and George’s Marvellous Medicine as much as my kids did listening.

Q: Do you play football?
JK: Where I grew up the sport was American football – though now soccer (what they call football in America) is huge among kids in the States. I have kicked a ball about with friends but I don’t think anybody would call it real football! I do enjoy watching though.

Q: What’s the best thing about being an author?
JK: I suppose for me it’s a kind of grown-up version of make believe. You only get to live one life but in being a writer you spend a lot of time inventing and inhabiting other lives. I also like to read and research history and when you have a project like a book it gives direction to that. You feel you have a stake in it. In a sense you become part of the history just in writing about it.

Thanks, James!

Posted by Benedicte at Discover Kelpies