Summer holiday secrets win Kelpies Prize 2014!

by Discover Kelpies - August 15th, 2014

KP-logo-2014 emailThe wait is finally over! After months of reading and weeks of waiting, we’re so excited to tell you that the winner of the Kelpies Prize 2014 is… Lindsay Littleson, with her brilliant story, The Mixed-Up Summer of Lily McLean!

Lindsay attended the Kelpies Prize 2014 award ceremony on Thursday, along with her friends and family, where the winner was announced by awesome teen fiction author Claire McFall.  It was really difficult for the judges to choose between The Mixed-Up Summer of Lily McLean and the other shortlisted books, The Superpower Project, by Paul Bristow, and My Fake Brother, by Joan Pratt.

The judges loved all three books for their exciting and original storylines but there could only be one winner. Lindsay’s tale about shy Lily trying to juggle her mixed-up family, a summer holiday with Gran, and a very mysterious voice that keeps telling her NOT to go on holiday, stood out as a funny and sweet story.

We can’t wait for Lindsay’s book to make it into the shops next spring so that you can read it – The Mixed-Up Summer of Lily McLean really reminded us of Jacqueline Wilson’s great books so we know you’re going to love it!


Lindsay receiving her giant cheque from Claire McFall!

Posted by Nuria at DiscoverKelpies

#FlorisDesign Illustrator Questionnaire: Astrid Jaekel

by Discover Kelpies - August 13th, 2014

Astrid Header

Illustrator of…

dagger cover

Last summer Astrid became the very first winner of our very first Kelpies Design & Illustration Prize, and what a winner she was! Her awesome cover for The Sign of the Black Dagger blew the judges away and we’re thrilled that she’s agreed to give us a sneak peak into its creation.


Hi Astrid! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us today! So first things first, where did you look for inspiration when designing your prize-winning cover?

Well, Edinburgh is full of inspiration when it comes to stories with a slightly dark element. I love doing first-hand research so the first thing I did was to walk over to the Royal Mile and look at the old houses and the dark closes where the story takes place. But I also studied old photographs which helped me to understand what this part of town looked like a good 200 years ago.

What a great idea, Edinburgh certainly has its fill of spooky old houses and closes! So your original cover looked a little different to the one we see on our bookshelves, how did you end up with your final design?

original cover

Astrid’s original cover design


To start with, my cover design was a lot busier and even included figures. I then bit by bit boiled it down to a minimum, focusing on the parallel world featured in the story, and on the atmosphere created through the architecture, smoke and clouds. The final colours were worked on with Floris’ Design & Production Manager, Leah McDowell.

 Well we love the final result, and here it is in all its glory!

full dagger cover

The completed cover design

Now we always ask our illustrators this: what made you want to become an illustrator?

After a very basic art training I felt the urge to do something more applied and felt that illustration combined my interests in storytelling and art. It felt good to be able to use the skills I had acquired but in a more focused way, and to be working in collaboration. I’ve not regretted it so far!

We love working with other people here at #FlorisDesign too, especially all of our brilliant illustrators! Now your art style is very unique, do you prefer to work digitally or traditionally?

My work is always based on traditional techniques and involves a lot of hand-made processes, but I have found digital techniques to be very valuable in the completion of projects, for example to add colour or if I need to get a handmade design laser cut into a different material. I still think it’s amazing what you can achieve by combining traditional and digital techniques.

We agree, it’s always good to have lots of strings to your bow too! So we know you’re brilliant at drawing buildings, smoke and lampposts, but what are your favourite things to draw?

I like drawing interiors, landscapes, people, and funny scenes that I spot. I love to go out with my sketchbook and record whatever catches my eye, filling double page spreads with scenes I observe. Check out my blog and you will get a good impression of what this looks like.

We’ll be sure to check it out! So many of your favourite things to draw can only be found in the great outdoors, do you prefer to work inside or outside?

I’ve actually just moved into a shared flat that overlooks the Meadows in Edinburgh, and at the moment I like to work at one of the big windows. But I feel I can never work in one place for too long. Especially in the early stages of a project I feel that new impressions are very important to me in order to come up with fresh ideas. I like to create my first doodles on a train or sat in a park if the weather allows. But when it comes to the paper cutting bit, I need to return to a big desk. At the moment I’m looking for a new studio space so I do spend a lot of time working at home.

It’s good to be flexible with your workspace, although it’s nice to have a big desk too! So from time to time our illustrators will face the dreaded Illustrators Block, what do you do when you’re stuck on a project?

It always helps for me to have a change of scene. Sometimes a quick cycle down to Cramond or a run up Blackford Hill will do the job. I also find it very helpful to talk an idea through with a friend; it helps me to put rather vague ideas into something more real. I also always get a boost of motivation after visiting a good exhibition.

These are some great tips! Thanks again for talking to us today, Astrid!


Astrid earned her Bachelor’s in Fine Art and Art History in Germany before coming to Edinburgh to complete her Masters in Illustration at the ECA (Edinburgh College of Art). If you’d like to see more of her brilliant work you can visit her website, her blog or follow her on Twitter.

 Posted by: Clare at Discover Kelpies



#FlorisDesign Illustrator Interview: Kirsteen Harris-Jones

by Discover Kelpies - July 30th, 2014

#FlorisDesign Illustrator Interviw: Kirsteen Harris-Jones


Illustrator of…

No Such Thing as Nessie cover

Kirsteen illustrated her first Picture Kelpies book, No Such Thing as Nessie!, back in 2013 for none other than Chani at DiscoverKelpies! And since it’s one of this year’s Summer Reading Challenge books, we thought it would be great to find out a little more about its wonderful illustrator.


Hi Kirsteen, thanks for taking the time to talk with us today! No Such Thing as Nessie! is one of our favourite Picture Kelpies covers – where did you look for inspiration?

Hello! Well, I picked up a few brochures from my local travel agent about Scotland to get a feel for the landscape and Googled lots and lots of images of the castle, as I wanted to get it just right. I also looked online for lots of postcards of Nessie!

No Such Thing as Nessie! Illustrator Moodboard

No Such Thing as Nessie! Illustrator Moodboard


That must have been lots of fun! I bet there were plenty to choose from too. Now, as well as the cover, you had the whole book to illustrate – do you have a favourite page?

I love the last page of Nessie munching through her shortbread underwater!

last page of Nessie

We love it too! It makes us giggle every time – it must be good shortbread! We’ve been speaking with quite a few of our illustrators recently and they all seem to work in very different ways and in very different places; do you have a favourite spot to work in?

My office is in a corner of a spare room in my cottage in Shropshire, I have recently had a revamp of my room so I have more space as it gets over run with paper!! Mountains and mountains of paper – bet you didn’t know illustrating could be quite so dangerous?! I’m just about to move into a new office outdoors all to myself, where I can relax about making a mess!

workplace image

That sounds like the #FlorisDesign corner! Luckily we don’t mind a bit of mess! So what made you decide to become a children’s illustrator?

I have three children of my own and after reading the plethora of picture books out there, I thought it would be nice to put my Graphic design/illustration background to good use. I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember, so it just felt like a natural progression, to draw for children.

It must be lovely to think that your children might read the books you’ve illustrated! Now for another question we always like to ask: do you prefer to work digitally or traditionally?

I draw and paint traditionally but use Photoshop to clean and add to my work. I really prefer to work traditionally as I get a lot of satisfaction from the tactile hands-on quality it gives to a piece of work which you don’t get from digital artwork.

Initial pencil drawing of 'No Such Thing as Nessie!'

Pencil drawing of ‘No Such Thing as Nessie!’

Watercolour sample of 'No Such Thing as Nessie!'

Watercolour sample of ‘No Such Thing as Nessie!’

That’s really interesting, it’s something quite a few of our illustrator’s have said. So when you’re not illustrating for children, what’s your favourite thing to draw?

I love to draw a human figure and I try to go to life drawing as much as I can, as it really is so important to practice.

That’s great advice, practice makes perfect after all! Now, what do you do if you get illustrators block on a brief?

I usually walk my dogs and try to clear my head. We have lots of lovely calming walks as we live near the Shropshire canal network, it usually does the trick!

That sounds very relaxing. And finally, who is your favourite illustrator and why?

I really love Babette Cole as she isn’t afraid to tackle subjects that may appear to be taboo for children, an example being Mummy laid an Egg all about where babies come from! She uses simple language and lots of humour to get her story across and her illustrations are so beautifully loose, colourful and full of fun.

Thanks again for speaking with us today, Kirsteen! We’ve loved learning more about No Such Thing as Nessie! and we’re sure our readers will have too!

Kirsteen studied at the College of Art Design and Technology, North East Wales institute in the 1980s, and then later returned in 2005. To see more of her work you can visit her Bright Agency page or follow her on Twitter.

Who will win the Kelpies Prize 2014?

by Discover Kelpies - July 29th, 2014

KP-logo-2014 email

Yes, lovely readers, it’s that time of year again!

Every year at Floris, we look far and wide for the next book to join our brilliant collection of Kelpies Prize winners. If it’s Scottish and a cracking story, we want to read it. We’ve had loads of entries this year, and our judges have been busy picking three of the best for you.

If you’re a fan of a superhero adventure, look no further than The Superpower Project by Paul J. Bristow. When Megan’s gran dies (she exploded while waterskiing, but that’s not important), she leaves behind a mysterious map of Greenock. Megan and her best pal Cam think the map might help them work out what IS important. Like the superpowers they’ve suddenly developed…

And there are more mysterious goings on in Lindsay Littleson’s The Mixed-Up Summer of Lily McLean. Stuck in the middle of her big sister’s teenage tantrums and her younger brothers fighting over the TV remote, Lily’s baby sister Summer is the only one that seems to like spending time with her. She can’t wait to head off on holiday to Millport with Gran, just the two of them. But Lily keeps hearing a strange voice telling her not to go, telling her that safe, small, Millport is dangerous…

There’s something odd about Kamryn’s new foster brother, Ross. As if mum’s new boyfriend wasn’t enough to deal with she now has a fake brother who “does crazy things.” And then there’s the weird texts Kamryn’s been getting. They’re crazy too. Could everything be part of a bigger, crazier secret? Find out in Joan Pratt’s My Fake Brother.

Thrilling stuff, we’re sure you’ll agree! So which book do you think should win? Send us a quick email (or find us on Facebook) and let us know what you think.

Hurry though, because you’ve not got long – the secret will be out on Thursday 14th August 2014.

Posted by: Kirsten at Discover Kelpies

#FlorisDesign Illustrator Interview: Nicola L. Robinson

by Discover Kelpies - July 23rd, 2014

Nicola headerIllustrator of…

all covers

Nicola has been illustrating covers for our Kelpies range for the last 5 years and we’re thrilled that she’s agreed to give us a peak into her life as an illustrator! Read on for a look into her design process for Really Weird!


Hi Nicola! So today we’re talking about your awesome cover for Daniela Sacerdoti’s Really Weird, where did you look for inspiration?

I worked on the cover with Helena Waldron – the then Design & Production Manager at Floris Books. Helena sent me the synopsis of the book (which I loved) and then a very loose written brief describing the main characters and the initial idea of having the removals van on the cover with lots of things falling out of it. We knew the cover needed to be bright, fun and have monsters.

We love the story too, and you’re right about the monsters! So what did you do next?

Well, with this in mind I then read the full manuscript. I make a point of reading any manuscript I’m involved in illustrating wherever possible, it helps me get a feel for style and characters, their personalities, and other visual details from the author to draw from. (I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one!) The inspiration for the look came from my reaction to the text, and making little notes of colours, bits of clothing, and other details. I have a fairly extensive mental bank of monsters and they came from there, with a nod to Nessie and other aquatic beasties for the large mummy sea monster and baby.

A nod to Nessie is always good in our book! So how did you decide where to put the monsters?

I did a couple of rounds of development roughs (for any non-illustrators, these are sort of like first drafts!) for Really Weird before getting the final illustration approved. This is the first rough sketch I sent through to Helena…

rough sketch for cover


This looks great! I’m sure our readers will love to see how it all started out!

Thank you! It has similar elements – van, monsters – but a different angle and was agreed to be far too cluttered and busy… which isn’t unusual. I do find often it is easiest to start with a few too many things, like a visual brainstorm, before paring down to the essential core elements, which I think is what we did here.

So what was the next step?

It was all stripped back, losing the werewolf and mermaid’s tail, redesigning the baby sea monster to make him more aquatic and scaly looking, and most structurally the van turned to profile view to get a more striking composition with more movement.

It certainly has movement – the van looks like it’s about to go tearing off the side of the book! So, Really Weird has a wraparound cover (which means the illustrator has to consider both the front and the back of the book). How did you tackle this?

Well, since this is a wraparound cover I played around with the big sea monsters tail position for a while, with its bends and loops, always bearing in mind to leave space for other important elements to be added like the title, author name, blurb on the back, and barcodes! The stone fairies were also pared down. I see one has a dress on here, and another is wearing a crown and holding a spoon… they are much more gnarly and less fairylike in the final artwork.

full cover

Gnarly is definitely the word for them, they look pretty mischievous too! Now, the cover doesn’t just feature monsters, there’s children too – where did you look for inspiration for them?

It’s funny you should ask, because during the cover design and illustration process I became aware that one of the main characters (Luca) was named after the author’s little boy, so I was a little more concerned than usual to get him right! I drew Luca on the back cover holding a chubby little baby dragon. I’ve actually had the pleasure of meeting Daniela who tells me she is very happy with the final cover illustration, which makes me very happy too!

We’re not at all surprised, it’s a fantastic cover! But what’s your favourite element?

The big sea monster tail, I love how it sweeps around the cover and over the spine then back onto the cover again, I do enjoy drawing scaly things.

It is wonderfully scaly! So where do you bring all of your monsters to life?

I work depending on where the light is! Sometimes at my desk in my studio, other times at my dining table, sometimes cross-legged on the sofa with my wooden drawing board on my knees. As long as there is good light, music and somewhere to safely rest a cup of coffee, I’m happy.

Sounds like coffee and light are key, it’s not so different here in the #FlorisDesign department! So do you prefer to work digitally or traditionally?

Traditionally. My absolute favourite medium to work in is plain old fashioned pen and ink. Although it is necessary to have a good grasp of digital media too, pending project demands, and for editing and delivering artwork for print.

That’s great advice for any traditional illustrators. So you’ve been working as an illustrator for quite some time, what made you decide to become one?

A lifelong love of drawing and creating pictures, and a very active imagination!

And what’s your favourite thing to draw?

Monsters, dragons, animals and buildings, particularly old crooked ones with lots of windows and anything a little on the creepy/gothic side. I also love history, mythology and fairytales too so I enjoy drawing things related to those topics.

Lucky for us we’ve had plenty of mythological and monster-packed books for you to illustrate! So what do you do if you get stuck or illustrator’s block on a brief?

Just keep drawing… I’ve found this solves most visual problems.

Good advice! And finally, who’s your favourite illustrator and why?

There are lots, but one of my very favourites is American writer and artist Edward Gorey, I ‘discovered’ him and his work rather late, having spent a good many years drawing my own little crooked creations before a guest lecturer at university pointed his work out to me. Darkly comic and beautifully detailed, and all set within his own Victorian/Edwardian/theatrical universe, his illustrations and books really appeal to my sense of humour and love of the archaic/macabre. I have huge admiration for the sheer amount of work he produced and the detail in each piece, all in pen and ink too!

We can see why you love his work, it’s beautifully gothic!

Thanks again for chatting with us, Nicola! We’re sure the #SummerReadingChallenge readers will have loved learning about the Really Weird cover!

Nicola graduated with a degree in Fine Art from the Cardiff School of Art and Design in 2005. To see more of her fabulous work visit her website, blog and online shop. You can also follow her on Twitter!

Posted by: Clare at Discover Kelpies