We recently went to one of our local farm shops that boasts a marvellous steak barn  for a family meal out and whilst we were waiting on ...

Isla and Pickle Blog Tour

Friday, June 22, 2018 BookBairn 4 Comments

We recently went to one of our local farm shops that boasts a marvellous steak barn for a family meal out and whilst we were waiting on our food we went over the the field to take a look at the highland cows, which BookBairn sweetly renamed the 'wighland cows'. These beautiful beasts have fascinated me for a long time with their shaggy orange coats and their incredible horns, which provide a mythical element that I love. And have you ever seen a baby highland cow? They are super cute! It's one of those things that I love about living in Scotland! And we love a story set in Scotland starring creatures, flora and fauna that we recognise from our walks, journeys and local environment!

It won't surprise you that we are big fans of the Isla and Pickle stories that star a feisty wild ginger-haired little girl and her adorably naughty Shetland pony. This time they are off on an adventure to the Highland Games (which are held this weekend in Edinburgh though lots of local towns hold their own, including our little town!). We unfortunately missed the ones held locally due to other plans but we did make the Fife Show which is an annual event with similar animal competitions, though none of the caber tossing and athletic events. BookBairn thinks that in this story Isla and Pickle are off to the Fife Show because so much of the story is similar to the things we saw there so we talk about that as we read too - it's a great way for us to make text to real life connections!

In 'Isla & Pickle: The Highland Show' by Kate McLelland, Isla can't wait to show off Pickle in the Perfect Pony Competition at the Highland Show. In Isla's eyes, Pickle is the perfect pony but when Isla sees her friend Rosie's pony, Belle, with her perfectly groomed coat and poise, she's not so sure that Pickle stands a chance. So they get into training and daily grooming but naughty Pickle just can't stay out of trouble! On the day of the show, he just can't stay away from the highland cows, and gets in an awful mess. There's no chance of him winning the Perfect Pony prize now. But maybe life isn't all about being perfect? Maybe there's a better prize? This is a delightful story about friendship and enjoying life - messy or not! The illustrations are delightful and packed full of humour and you are bound to fall in love with little Pickle and his loyal friend Isla. We love it!

As part of our stop on the Isla and Pickle Blog Tour we got the opportunity to ask Kate McLelland, the author and illustrator of the story some questions!

Mummy's Questions:

Isla is a lovely and fun little girl - is she inspired by someone you know?

Pickle is based on my sister, Emma, but Isla was inspired by an idea, rather than a personality. Most children have a dream of wanting a best friend and they imagine what a brilliant friend they would be in return. Isla really represents that - the loyal and loving friend we all hope we are.

What made you want to write stories that would appeal in particular to Scottish bairns? (Though personally I think Isla and Pickle would appeal widely!)

In many of the stories we read to our children we find well-known and wonderful characters such as knights, princesses, witches, wizards and talking animals. These characters inhabit fantastical worlds where anything can happen. These stories are wonderful and inspire our children to dream. However, I have always wanted to create stories set in a more familiar world - that is still fantastical, bright and colourful. My children are Scottish and I hoped they would read my stories and think ‘this could actually happen to me, anything is possible!’.  

You also illustrated one of our favourite Scots books - There Was a Wee Lassie Who Swallowed a Midgie - what was you favourite Scots creature to draw?

Although it’s not the easiest, my favourite is the Highland Cow. I have always loved them and have such fond and funny memories of picnics in Scotland amongst herds of cows! My favourite drawing in Wee Lassie is the one where the cow is sliding down the pole.

On the blog we have we have a ‘Favourites Shelf’ feature of our favourite stories, which picture books would you have on your Favourites Shelf at the moment?

We are big readers and I have a bit of an out-of-control book-buying habit and we visit our local library! So, our favourites shelf can move about a lot. Our current favourites include Big Baby by Jon Ward and Claudio Munoz. This was one from my childhood. Both my 5 and 3 year old love the Oi Frog! series, by Kes Gray and Jim Field. Quick Quack Quentin is by the same duo and it’s a brilliant way to get kids thinking about how words are formed as well as being fun to read. My daughter and I have just read Dogs Don’t Do Ballet and it’s both funny and lovely - Sara Ogilvie is an incredible artist! 

I’m sure there are illustrators who have inspired you, can you tell us a few that you like the most?

Eric Carle is probably one of the first mixed-media illustrators children are introduced to. Nurseries love setting projects to recreate his way of making art and I think he was the first artists to inspire me. Beatrix Potter’s style is very different, watercolour and pencil were used to create the world of Peter Rabbit. I was inspired by Beatrix Potter and author illustrator Ruth Brown, as they both created detailed worlds that kept you looking at the picture long after you had finished reading the words. There are many illustrators working today that I admire, including Sara Ogilvie (mentioned above), Benji Davies, Jim Field and Helen Stephens. These illustrators work in a totally different way to me, but perhaps that is why I find them so inspiring.

If you could choose any book or traditional Scottish story/rhyme to create new illustrations for, which would you choose?

I would love to illustrate a scottish picture book version of Peter Pan, JM Barrie. My parents lived in a building where he wrote some of the novel, and it has always been a favourite of mine. I imagine neverland to be an idyllic scottish island, with tartan mermaids! 

BookBairn's Questions:

"I like Pickle - he is a funny pony. He likes to get messy. Does Isla have to brush him lots?"

She tries to brush him every day, but Pickle doesn’t like his hair brushed because it gets tangled and sometimes it stings when the brush gets caught.

"I saw horsies at the Fife Show. Was Pickle there?"

He didn’t make it - but he will be at the Highland Show in a few weeks time and he’s VERY excited! Isla has promised him a treat.

“Orange is my colour. What’s your best colour?”

I like just about all the colours. My absolute favourites are blue/green, orange and yellow.

“I like a lion best. What’s your favourite animal?”

When I was little, my favourite animal was a tiger. I adopted one and raised money for tiger charities. I drew tiger pictures and put them on my walls and I had a giant soft toy tiger, that was almost as big as me. Now that I am bigger, I like a lot of different animals - shetland ponies, highland cows, foxes, red squirrels and Narwhals are amazing! Have you seen one? They look like sea unicorns!

“I like to draw snails. What are you drawing?”

Today I am drawing lots of different things that live in the sea, like crabs, fish, whales and even mermaids.

Thank you so much Kate for answering our questions! It was lovely to have you, Isla and Pickle on the blog! To check out more of the blog tour you can find all the details in the banner below!

Happy Reading,
Mummy, BookBairn and The Wee Page Turner xx

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DISCLAIMER: We were sent this book for free as part of our participation in the blog tour. Words and opinions are as always our own.


  1. I love the sound of Isla and Pickle and what great illustrations. It’s funny that Pickle, and not Isla, is based on Kate’s sister. What animal could be based on BookBairn? I bet she’d say “a lion”.

    1. I thought that too - had to re-read the sentence a few times to make sure I had got it right! Definitely a lion.

  2. The illustrations are adorable and great interview too. Love the sound of tartan mermaids! Xx