Isla & Pickle Activity Pack

Get to know our favourite Shetland pony with some creative and crafty activities.

Dive in this summer with the Isla & Pickle Summer Fun Activity Book! Created by Kate McLelland to accompany the Isla & Pickle picture books, Kate’s activity pack is free and easy to download. You can learn how to draw Pickle the pony, with colouring in, maze searches, maths puzzles and more fun things to do over the summer holidays.

Isla & Pickle Activity Pack - Kate McLelland

Activity Pack - Isla & Pickle - Kate McLelland


How to Draw Pickle

Find out how Kate draws the cheeky Shetland pony in this fantastic video! Kate shows you how she starts by building up basic shapes, then uses this as a guide to create a fully-formed Pickle!


Missed the Isla & Pickle blog tour action? Fear not! Read our latest #FlorisDesign interview here. Kate shares her love of folk music, ice cream, her sister and explains why Pickle really is the perfect pony.


Isla & Pickle: The Highland Show

About Isla & Pickle

Isla & Pickle: The Highland Show is the second picture book in a new series about a feisty little girl, a cheeky Shetland pony and their adventures. Led by Pickle the pony, they get up to all sorts of mischief. Pickle loves escaping from his field and getting very messy! Perfect for any children with a penchant for ponies, this book is full of fun in the great outdoors. Bright, humorous illustrations are sure to make grown-ups smile and give wee ones the giggles.

Isla & Pickle

About the Author

Kate McLelland is an accomplished illustrator and printmaker. She trained in illustration at Edinburgh College of Art. She is the illustrator of bestselling picture book There Was a Wee Lassie Who Swallowed a Midgie and the My First Scottish board book collection.

Join #PickleOnTour with Kate McLelland

It’s official – our favourite Shetland pony is back! Today is the first stop on Kate McLelland’s blog tour, which is celebrating the return of Isla and her adorable miniature Shetland pony, Pickle, to our bookshelves in a brand new adventure – Isla & Pickle: the Highland Show. In today’s interview Kate chats about how she loves folk music, ice cream, her sister and why Pickle really is the perfect pony!

Hi Kate – thanks for visiting our blog today. We’re delighted to be reunited with Isla and Pickle on a brand new adventure. Can you tell us a bit about your inspiration behind the new story?

The idea of a talent show or best in show was something I really wanted to explore with Isla and Pickle. Isla is so proud to be Pickle’s best friend and she thinks of him as the best pony in the world – but will everyone else see it the same way? Most of us have taken part in competitions and it’s just as important to learn how to lose as it is to win. My children have just had sports day, so it’s something we have been talking about at home. Also, for me, being kind and being a great friend are two of the best qualities anyone can have and I wanted Isla and Pickle to get this message across, whilst not taking themselves too seriously!

We’ve heard that Pickle is inspired by someone close to you. Any clues who that might be?

Pickle is my pet name for my little sister Emma. I say little, she is in fact only 3 years younger than me and works in London. Emma has been my best friend since we were young children, although I wasn’t keen on her for the first 2 years! Just like Pickle, Emma is kind, fun, cheeky and loyal . . . in fact the best friend anyone could wish for. She also inspired Pickle’s long unruly blonde hair!

PS – my sister is finally happy to be compared to a Shetland pony!

We love the Highland Show setting! Have you been to a Highland Show before?

I have been to a few smaller shows as well as The Royal Highland Show. I think they are absolutely wonderful. They celebrate Scottish rural culture and provide hours of fun for every age. Last year we visited with my sister (aka Pickle) and my two children. They loved climbing the tractors and counting sheep, the Scottish dairy ice cream and dancing to folk music. I tried to put all the things we love about highland shows in this book – my greatest highlight being the highland cows!

#FlorisDesign meets Kate McLelland - Isla and Pickle: The Highland Show

Pickle gets up close and personal with the Highland cows!

We love the different textures you create in your artwork. Can you tell us a bit more about how you achieve these effects?

I have always loved printmaking, everything from screen printing and wood block to carving little rubber stamps. So I will create textures and details through printmaking as well as using rubbings from rocks, trees, leaves etc and then I combine all of these textures digitally to create a final composition.

What was the best thing about revisiting Isla & Pickle?

Long walks in the countryside and putting on my folk music all day – because I HAD to feel inspired (at least that is what I told my family). I also looked through the family photos of the Skye holidays.

What is it about the Isle of Skye, and Shetland ponies, you love so much?

Skye was our annual family holiday. Sometimes we visited with friends and sometimes with family. There was no technology and car room dictated only a few toys – we mostly brought our sketchbooks and pencils. So, for a week we would be cut off from the world in a magical, dramatic, awe-inspiring setting. Even as an adult, whenever I go I feel a little lighter, freer and more creative.

We currently live just outside of Edinburgh near to several fields which are home to Shetland ponies. I have watched my kids chat to them and wave to them daily. Shetlands are notoriously grumpy – which is hilarious because they are adorable to look at! However, I have had the pleasure to spend a few days with Shetland ponies and their owners and they were gorgeous. Their characters remind me of toddlers and young children, which makes them so much fun to illustrate.

What was the main challenge you faced whilst working on Book 2?

I hope that my work evolves and ultimately improves over time – but consistency is key when working on a book series. So, sometimes I had an idea for how to create a particular spread and then it jarred with the previous book. I had to keep comparing the artwork to make sure I was being true to Isla and Pickle.

#FlorisDesign meets Kate McLelland - Isla and Pickle: The Highland Show

Staying true to the characters is really important

He doesn’t win the competition, but in your eyes is Pickle the perfect pony?

Without a doubt! Although I was lucky enough to have to have my sister, we both longed for an animal. I loved horses and ponies so Pickle would have been a dream. Also, if I was to get a pet for my kids I would value a kind nature above shiny fur any day!

Finally, if you had one tip for illustrators working on a series what would it be?

I think the characters are the most important. All the characters in Isla & Pickle have a back story and they feel a little like friends. I didn’t consciously set out to do that, but the more I thought about Isla and Pickle’s home and their life on the island, the more filled-out everything became. If the story isn’t the illustrator’s own, I still think getting the characters right is the starting point. Beyond this is consistency again, making sure the books in the series relate and work with each other visually.

Join #PickleOnTour

Thanks for joining the first stop on the #PickleOnTour Blog Tour! Stay tuned for more blog tour action, book chat and surprises this week with Kate as she visits some of our favourite picture book bloggers.


Isla and Pickle: The Highland Show

About the Book

Isla and Pickle: The Highland Show is the second picture book in a new series about a feisty little girl, a cheeky Shetland pony and their adventures. They live on a Scottish island where they get up to all sorts of mischief, led by Pickle the pony, who enjoys escaping from his field and getting very messy! Perfect for any children with a penchant for ponies, this book is full of fun in the great outdoors, with bright, humourous illustrations that are sure to make grown-ups smile and give wee ones the giggles.

#FlorisDesign meets Kate McLelland

From wee lassies to midgies and nessies, Kate McLelland has illustrated many Kelpies books. Now she’s launching a new picture book series about a cheeky Shetland pony and his best friend, Isla, a feisty wee girl with a penchant for ponies and yellow knitwear. In the latest #FlorisDesign interview Kate chats scallop shells, her sister and the Isle of Skye as we find out about her inspiration behind her latest book, Isla and Pickle: Best Friends.


Hi Kate, thanks for talking to us today. Firstly, could you tell us a bit about how you became a children’s book illustrator?

I have always been passionate about children’s literature and have collected picture books for years. However, every time someone suggested I start working on one I dismissed the idea, as I thought it was a fantasy job – people couldn’t possibly do that for a living. When I became pregnant with my first child, I was completing my MFA in Illustration, and decided how much I wanted to make a book for my baby. I showed the book at the degree show and was delighted and surprised people liked it. Things took off from there.

Isla and Pickle Kate McLelland

Pickle playing with Baby Harris!

Did you undertake any formal training in illustration or design?

My first degree was a BA Hons in design for stage and screen, so I learnt storyboarding, character design and set design. I think these skills have really helped with picture books. I then worked as a book designer for several years before completing my MFA. This was instrumental for my development. It was a scary process, as I had to let go of previous ways of picture making and I experimented for the best part of two years. I now appreciate how wonderful and invaluable that time was.


What was your inspiration for adorable Pickle, the Shetland pony in the book?

Well, Pickle, despite being a colt, is based on my best pal and little sister Emma. Isla and Pickle’s adventures are loosely based on our childhood adventures and our relationship. My little sister is very funny. She’s had a mop of bright blonde unruly hair since she was a toddler, something I felt important Pickle should have too! Like Pickle she is loving and kind, a little cheeky, loyal and ultimately the best friend anyone could ask for (aww).

Kate McLelland - Isla and Pickle

Isla and Pickle splashing around!


Are you an avid rider? Have you ever owned a pony like Pickle?

I was a pony mad teen at one point who loved horse riding. We lived in a rural village, surrounded by sheep, cows and horses. I always imagined living on one of the farms and looking after the animals – it is something I still think about. Now I live opposite a field of shetland ponies, and have been lucky enough to meet with owners who have shared their experiences with me. I haven’t ridden a horse for many years and wouldn’t consider owning one. I think looking after animals is not to be taken lightly and for the foreseeable future my priority is my family and work. You can dream though . . . or make a book about them!


Do you work using traditional methods or digital methods or both?

I think computers are simply a tool and I think they can benefit most artists in some way so I use both. I start with rough sketches on paper, then I scan them and play about with composition on screen – it’s such a fast way to discover if something works, or sometimes you accidentally find something that does. Once I know how I want a final piece of artwork to look I make textures and details for the page. I usually finish my bringing everything together in photoshop. An average illustration can contain stamps, paper-cutting, gouache, crayon, basically whatever I think is needed to get the effect I am after.

Isla and Pickle Kate McLelland

A helping hand in the garden…


What sorts of things do you most enjoy drawing?

If you asked me five years ago I would have said birds, four years ago it was highland coos and seals, then tigers . . . in fact for a long time animals. However, the more I draw children the more I love it. Practice is key, so I was incredibly rusty after years of only drawing animals, foliage and buildings. The most satisfying thing to draw is character, capturing personality – whether it be a Shetland Pony or a little girl. It is the hardest thing, one teeny tiny alteration and they go from puzzled to needing the toilet. I suspect I will never perfect it, but I look forward to lots of practice.


What was your inspiration behind the location and setting of Isla and Pickle?

Almost every year my family would travel from North East England to the Isle of Skye. It is one of my favourite places in the world. It has it all, dramatic mountains, peaceful glades, long beaches, little woods and babbling burns. I am so fortunate to have such happy childhood memories. When working on Isla and Pickle I think of picnics on damp tartan blankets, walking for miles in the sunshine in sloshy wellies, crossing fields trying not to get the attention of the bull and hours of combing beaches for the perfect scallop shell. Working on the book enabled me to revisit happy childhood memories and think of ways I can share them with children.

Kate McLelland Isla and Pickle

On the beach.

Do you have any tricks in your bag for when you get stuck on a brief?

Sometimes I just try, try and try again and if that fails I go for a walk on my own.


We absolutely LOVE your Isla and Pickle toys! Where are they from?

I’m really passionate about people who craft beautiful handmade toys. I approached two toymakers for Isla and Pickle. Ksenia Dunaeva made the lovely Isla Waldorf doll and Lynne, aka Laurel Designs made the adorable Pickle. I had been watching Lynne’s work for a while, she makes stunning horses and hobbyhorses.

Kate McLelland Isla and Pickle

The gorgeous Isla and Pickle replicas, by Ksenia Dunaeva and Laurel Designs.


Is working as an author/illustrator what you expected?

It is everything I had hoped for and more. It’s certainly not the best path if you are after fame and fortune, but if you love making stories and art for children, you enjoy time on your own and deciding how you manage your time, then it is the best. I am very lucky.


Do you have any author/illustrators that you consider to be your favourites?

Oh this comes up a lot and there are so many. I’m often drawn to illustrators who have a very different approach to me – that way I can admire whilst never directly comparing or falling into the trap of mimicking. I love my friend’s work, Emily MacKenzie – we worked together as book designers, she gets so much humour into her colourful characters. Helen Stephens is an incredible draftswoman and I love her children characters. Sara Ogilvie works lots of brilliants details in, you can spend a long time pouring over a single spread, all stunningly drawn as well.

Some of my all-time favourites are Beatrix Potter, who I am a proud super fan of, and Shirley Hughes – I am still reading My Naughty Little Sister stories.


About the Book

Isla and Pickle, the adorable miniature Shetland pony, are best friends. Can Isla convince Dad Pickle should be her pet? The first adventure for the cheeky pair who live on a Scottish island. Full of fun and mischief with bright, humourous illustrations.

Kate McLelland Isla and PickleIsla and Pickle is available now.