Catch a Kelpie at Edinburgh International Book Festival!

The sun is shining here in beautiful Edinburgh, and already the streets are beginning to look busier and more vibrant as visitors from all over the world arrive to experience the city in festival season. Of course we’re a little biased, but here at Kelpies HQ it’s all about the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Set in a tented village in the beautiful Charlotte Square gardens, it’s a place where readers and writers come together once a year for inspiration and entertainment. There are events for every age and interest, and whether you’re an avid reader or just dipping your toe into the literary waters, you’ll still be spoilt for choice.

Many of our Kelpies authors are EIBF regulars, and we’ve put together this handy guide to help you catch a Kelpie this August!

Kelpies Events

Mary, Queen of Scots: Escape from Lochleven Castle Sat 11 2pm   Historic Women with Theresa Breslin and Holly Webb
A Secret Diary of the First World War Mon 13 10.30am The Boy Who Went to War with Gill Arbuthnott and Darren Gate
The Treasure of the Loch Ness Monster Tue 14 10.30am The Legend of Loch Ness with Lari Don
The Spellchasers series Sat 18 12.15pm Freedom to Read, Freedom to Write with Lari Don, Candy Courlay and Elizabeth Wein
It's Only the End of the World Thu 23 5.30pm Unusual Thrillers with J. A. Henderson and Alex Bell
Museum Mystery Squad Fri 24 5pm Mysterious Museums with Mike Nicholson
This Bonny Baby Mon 27 10am Pick up a Pencil with Kasia Matyjaszek
Rowan the Red Squirrel Mon 27 11.45am Rowan the Red Squirrel with Lynne Rickards

Events for Schools

Some of our authors are also participating in the Baillie Gifford Schools Programme. For more information, including how to book tickets for a school group, visit the Edinburgh International Book Festival Learning website.

#FlorisDesign meets Kasia Matyjaszek

Kasia Matyjaszek is the illustrator of The Fourth Bonniest Baby in Dundee, which has just been shortlisted the Bookbug Picture Book Prize 2018! We love Kasia’s illustrations so much that we’ve just asked her to introduce us to lots of new wee ones in This Bonny Baby.

We caught up with Kasia to find out more about her life as an illustrator.

Hi Kasia, thanks for talking to us today. Congratulations on making the shortlist of the Bookbug Picture Book Prize! How does it feel?

Hello! Thank you for having me!

Obviously I am very excited about the shortlist. I am also very happy that The Fourth Bonniest Baby in Dundee will be included in the Bookbug Primary 1 Family Bag, and all the P1 pupils in Scotland will receive a copy. This is such a brilliant initiative and I feel very honoured that our book will be part of it this year.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your career so far?

My first degree was in architecture and it involved quite a lot of drawing and painting. I can now draw buildings and perspective with my eyes closed!

When I realised that I didn’t really want to be an architect, I give up my job and went on to study MA in Illustration at Edinburgh College of Art.Many people I knew didn’t understand my decision and advised me against it. But this turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!

I graduated in 2010 and a few months later I was commissioned for my first picture book project. It was a great experience but I wasn’t really happy with my illustration style back then.

It took me a while to discover the way of working that suited me better and then establish myself as a picture book illustrator. Submitting artwork for competitions helped a lot. I was lucky to be one of the finalists of the first edition of the Picture Hooks mentoring scheme. I was also shortlisted in the Clairvoyants picture book competition organised by Polish independent publishers Dwie Siostry, which lead to a picture book contract.

And then more picture books happened.


What made you decide to become a children’s book illustrator?

It was more of a process. I’ve always enjoyed drawing. This is all I remember from preschool – all the cool girls would play with the dolls and I just sat at a table and made pictures. My mum kept most of the drawings and I love looking though them when I visit home. In school I would always scribble things in my notebooks. Once the teacher sent a note to my parents and it said something like: “Kasia did not listen during class. She drew silly drawings in her notebook and laughed at them”.

And now I make silly drawings that make me laugh a lot and this is how I make living!

Is working as an illustrator what you expected?

It actually turned out to be much better than I expected. Before I started I wasn’t aware that such a large part of the job is promoting the books and meeting with the audience in schools, libraries and at the festivals. And I love it! Illustrating can be such a lonely process and you spend most of the time with imaginary characters. It is great to get out of the studio from time to time and work with real people!

Can you tell us a bit about your illustration process and methods?

I like to experiment with various media, tools and ways of making marks. This is usually a fun and messy process. For example for both Bonny Baby books I had to make a lot of paint splats and it involved standing on my desk and dropping ink onto a piece paper on the floor. I missed a few times before I came up with perfect splats!

I finish my illustrations using digital methods and this is a bit like tidying up after all the messy fun.

What are your favourite things to illustrate?

Crocodiles, dragons and confident girls.

Where do you get your inspiration? Do you have any favourite illustrators or designers?

I work with children a lot running creative workshops or visiting schools and festivals with my books and it is always such an inspiring experience. I love watching the children play, interact with each other and make art. Even the questions they ask during the events are always so brilliant and could easily become a starting point for a new picture book.This Bonny Baby illustrated by Kasia Matyjaszek

In terms of art and style I am inspired by naïve art, social realism, mid-century design and drawings made by 5 year olds.

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

The good thing about illustrating picture books is that you work on a sequence of illustrations. When I get stuck on a spread, I just move on to a different one and then return to the problematic spread when I am ready.

And when I am really stuck, it usually means that I need a break so I take a day off, go for a walk or for a long cycle, ideally somewhere close to the sea. I wonder if this is because all of the good ideas are somewhere at the bottom of the sea, just waiting there to be discovered!

Do you have any tips for budding illustrators?

Don’t listen to other people’s advice. It has worked for me!

What did you enjoy most about working on The Fourth Bonniest Baby in Dundee and This Bonny Baby?

The Fourth Bonniest Baby is set in very specific places in Dundee and as a part of research for the book I visited the city to do some on-location drawing and gather reference material, and later include various landmarks in my illustrations. I very much enjoyed the process.

And with This Bonny Baby, it was such a joy drawing messy babies covered in mud, paint and food. I like making mess and I like illustrating it even more!


More about Kasia Matyjaszek

Kasia Matyjaszek - This Bonny Baby coverKasia Matyjaszek is an Edinburgh-based freelance illustrator. The Fourth Bonniest Baby in Dundee by Michelle Sloan and Kasia Matyjaszek is available now.

Meet more bonny babies who love having fun and getting messy in This Bonny Baby, also illustrated by Kasia Matyjaszek.


Author Interview: Michelle Sloan

Michelle Sloan was born and brought up in Edinburgh but now lives with her family in sunny Broughty Ferry near Dundee. She trained as a primary school teacher and has also studied drama and arts journalism. Her debut book, The Fourth Bonniest Baby in Dundee has just been shortlisted for this year’s Bookbug Picture Book Prize.

We caught up with Michelle to find out more about her writing and her brilliant bonnie baby book.

Hi Michelle, thanks for talking to us today. Many of our authors have been avid readers and writers since they were children. Have you always been a writer?Michelle Sloan

An avid reader, yes, but not quite so much when it comes to writing. I suppose I always wanted to be a writer but in my earlier years whenever I wrote something, I couldn’t bear to read it! I had no confidence in my own work. After I returned to university in my late twenties, I was taught a little about scriptwriting and theatre critiquing. As well as learning both these skills, I also had to read over my work meticulously and share it in a (thankfully) kind, supportive environment!  It was a real learning curve and it gave me the confidence to get going.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process?

I work in fits and starts. I can have an incredibly creative burst where I write and write and write. And then there are other points when family life intervenes and there’s simply no time. A large part of my writing process is thinking. I do a lot of thinking whilst walking the dog, cleaning the house etc. Thinking is crucial to my process and having the peace to do it – that’s the tricky part when you have three young children and two dogs!

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

Research, going for a walk, cleaning out the fridge. You just need time. Give the mind some space and often the ideas begin to flow…

Where did you get the idea for The Fourth Bonniest Baby in Dundee?

My son! When he was around six months old I entered him in a Bonnie Baby competition in my home town of Broughty Ferry during the annual gala week. I thought it would be fun, and it really was. Needless to say he came fourth!

What does your wee boy think about being in the book?

He’s four now and doesn’t quite understand that it’s really about him – but he likes the story thankfully! He likes the puppet too. I visited his nursery last year to read the story to his class and he took it all very seriously!

The Fourth Bonniest Baby in Dundee has just been chosen for this year’s Bookbug Family Pack. How does that feel?

Oh, it’s just amazing! I am truly over the moon! I couldn’t have predicted such a fantastic honour. And it’s just so lovely to share it with Kasia who is hugely talented and brought my ideas to life on the page with her wonderful illustrations. I am delighted too that children all over Scotland will get the book and to have it translated into Gaelic is wonderful. What an absolute thrill!

Are there any other authors that inspire you?

So many! I read lots of books to my children so I’m constantly inspired. As a child myself some of my favourites were Enid Blyton, Jill Murphy, C.S. Lewis, Frances Hodgson Burnett and John Masefield. Now, as a parent I can revisit all of these with, of course, the addition of some wonderful new authors – many of whom are published by DiscoverKelpies!

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

  • Make time to do it (don’t procrastinate)
  • Don’t be put off when you read back your work – learn to embrace your own style
  • Write what you want to write – what interests you; what challenges you; what excites you
  • Experiment! Try poetry, short stories, flash fiction, picture books, ghost stories!
  • Never be despondent if your work is rejected; believe me, we’ve all been there – many, many times
  • View it as a constant learning process
  • And finally and frankly most most importantly… never give up

What’s next for Michelle Sloan?

More writing when I can squeeze it in! As well as The Fourth Bonniest Baby in Dundee, I have an adventure thriller published for children aged 12 upwards called The Revenge of Tirpitz, but I would like to have a go at something for a slightly younger age range. It would be a new challenge! So watch this space.


The Fourth Bonniest Baby in Dundee by Michelle Sloan and Kasia MatyjaszekMore about Michelle Sloan

The contest for the Bonniest Baby in Dundee is here, and one very grubby baby brother is scrubbed, dressed, combed and taken by his mum and big sister to charm the judges. By the time they arrive, their bonnie baby is sticky, claggie and clarty. His chances of winning are dashed – especially when he blows a raspberry in the judge’s face! Or are they…?

With lively, bouncing rhyme from Michelle Sloan and bright, fun illustrations from Kasia Matyjaszek, cheeky picture book The Fourth Bonniest Baby in Dundee will have mums, dads and kids chortling every time.

Follow Michelle Sloan on Twitter @michlsloan or like her Facebook page.

The Fourth Bonniest Baby in… Scotland

We’re so delighted that The Fourth Bonniest Baby in Dundee has been shortlisted for this year’s Bookbug Picture Book Prize. Congratulations to author Michelle Sloan and illustrator Kasia Matyjaszek!

With bouncing rhymes by first-time author Michelle and quirky, colourful illustrations from Kasia, The Fourth Bonniest Baby in Dundee tells a cheeky and comical tale of a big sister and her wee brother, and a bonnie baby contest. This bright Picture Kelpie will be included this year’s Bookbug P1 Family Bag, gifted to all new Primary 1 children as part of Book Week Scotland. The Fourth Bonniest Baby in Dundee illustration

Of course, both Michelle and Kasia are elated about the nomination!

“I am thrilled and honoured that our book The Fourth Bonniest Baby in Dundee has been shortlisted! To think that Bonnie Baby will be read all over Scotland is so exciting!” – Michelle

“I am super excited about the shortlist! I am also very happy that our book will be included in the Bookbug P1 Bag – it was such a fun story to illustrate and I hope the children will enjoy it too.” – Kasia

Congratulations too to fellow Bookbug Picture Book Prize shortlisters Little Owl’s Egg (Debi Gliori and Alison Brown) and Gorilla Loves Vanilla (Chae Strathie and Nicola O’Byrne). After they receive their Bookbug bag, all children have the chance to vote for their favourite book.

This year’s Book Week Scotland will take place from 27th November to 3rd December. The Scottish Book Trust create Bookbug Family Bags in partnership with Education Scotland and the Scottish Government. They support literacy for children in Primary 1-3 as part of the the Read, Write, Count campaign.

You can download the full press release here, and find out more about Bookbug from the Scottish Book Trust.

More about The Fourth Bonniest Baby in Dundee

The contest for the Bonniest Baby in Dundee is here, and one very grubby baby brother is scrubbed, dressed, combed and taken by his mum and big sister to charm the judges. But by the time they arrive, their bonnie baby is sticky, claggie and clarty. Are his chances of winning dashed? Maybe, when he blows a raspberry in the judge’s face!

The Fourth Bonniest Baby in Dundee by Michelle Sloan and Kasia Matyjaszek is available now.

Wee ones can meet This Bonny Baby too, in our brand new board book with a peekaboo mirror! Coming September 2017.