Charlotte Taylor interview

I am absolutely delighted that author Charlotte Taylor has taken the time to answer some questions for Unicorns and Kelpies. Charlotte’s debut, Broken Twigs: Farewell to Faerie Forest, was released earlier in the year and is the first in a series about a flawed little fairy named Twigs. It is a gorgeous, exciting tale and, I for one, cannot wait for the next instalment!

Charlotte Taylor Interview

1) Where did the inspiration for Twigs come from?

So…Twigs wasn’t planned at all! She appeared in my classroom 9 years ago when I had a particularly bubbly cohort, and from there, her magic spread. From starting out as the mischievous, classroom fairy, she soon became central to our ethos and identity. When children felt exceptionally sad or alone, she started to leave little gifts of sticks on their chairs to make them feel loved and valued. Since then, over the years, she has gifted these to many children, so making their days a little bit happier, if only for a few hours. The children quite often keep the sticks as little treasures; little reminders to them, when they are away from school, that their beloved fairy is thinking of them.

As she continued to become such an entity in my pupils’ lives, they began to ask more questions about her: where was she right now; who was she with; where did she live; how did she travel to see us? Hoping to inspire their young imaginations, I began to share with the class little anecdotes of her life. And so the book series was born!

2) Do you think that it is important for children’s books to have a message or moral at its core?

I think so, yes. It is fun to read books which aim to simply make us laugh, but I feel that the books that children eventually hold dear to their hearts are the ones which resonated with them the most: the ones where they saw themselves in the main character’s personality and the struggles they faced in the story; the ones where they could identify with a situation and then learn to solve it for themselves when reading about possible resolutions in the book; and, the ones where the moral or message helps them to understand themselves more easily.

With the Twigs books, the central theme throughout is to never give up hope. No matter how ‘dark’ life can become, or how alone children may feel, there is always someone out there who can help, if the child is brave enough to accept it. Twigs shares many, many lessons throughout the books, namely learning how to become the best version of herself that she can be through exploring different values, and I know this has resonated with a lot of my young (and older!) readers already.

3) Do you think that your experiences as a teacher have helped you in your writing journey?

Oh absolutely! In teaching children how to become the best writers they could be, I developed my own knowledge and understanding of the mechanics of grammar, whilst dusting off my own love for creative writing, which I established as a young girl. Being surrounded by so many young minds, and watching their imaginations take flight, I was inspired by the way children saw the world…something that we adults sometimes so easily forget with the stresses of modern life! Teaching gave me the confidence to write Twigs’ story down and to see value in my work. The children have supported me too, and they have been as excited about this journey as me!

4) I have loved following your journey to publication with Broken Twigs. Could you tell us a bit about how you got there?

Aww, thank you! It certainly has been a very surreal journey, and one which I have thoroughly enjoyed! I have connected with so many like-minded and supportive people (such as you, Kirsty!), who have helped to keep me harnessed to the path ahead during moments of self-doubt. I started writing Broken Twigs: Farewell to Faerie Forest in the Easter holidays of 2019. I signed with my publisher back in February of this year, and the last 9 months have been a fascinating experience as I worked alongside editors, proofreaders, layout designers and, of course, my amazing illustrator, Kezzia Crossley. The most memorable moment for me was seeing my characters come to life through her incredible artwork, and I am not sure I will ever find the words to describe that feeling!

Twigs has been so much a part of me for the last 9 years that it is phenomenal to be able to share her with the world and to see so many new children connect with her too. I am incredibly proud of her, and me, for keeping the faith!

5) What were your favourite books as a child?

Oh I had so many! Beatrix Potter’s books were my most loved when I was younger, and then Ursula Moray Williams’ Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat, Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising Series, Pat O’Shea’s The Hounds of the Morrigan and The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis when I was a bit older. Of course, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were also firm favourites as I entered my teenage years. I think it is safe to say that my love of fantasy fiction was truly ignited by Susan Cooper’s books (which my dad bought for me to read as we made our annual boat trip to Southern Ireland when I was 8) and then nurtured by so many other amazing authors in this genre. 

6) Who are your current favourite children’s authors and have you read any brilliant children’s books recently that you think everyone should read?

Again, there are soooooooo many! My girls and I have very recently enjoyed Wishtree by Katherine Applegate, Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone and Guardians of the Wild Unicorns by Lindsay Littleson, to name but a few. We are currently reading The Land of Green Ginger by Noel Langley. Next on our ‘to be read’ pile are the Sophie Anderson books, The Vanishing Trick by Jenni Spangler, Stephanie Burgis’ series about chocolate and dragons, and A. M. Howell’s The House of One Hundred Clocks. Struan Murray’s Orphans of the Tide is also on my list to share with my eldest daughter very soon! I am looking at my bookshelves as I type, and there are so many more I could mention!

For the younger reader, The Robot and the Bluebird is a gorgeous picture book by David Lucas. Oh, and I have to mention the Journey trilogy by Aaron Becker: these are picture books with no words, but, instead, the incredible stories are told through simply beautiful illustrations.

7) What advice would you give to aspiring authors, young and old?

To keep believing. I could have given up so many times when I was almost crippled with anxiety during my debut author journey. I have never been one to exude confidence in myself, so Imposter Syndrome quite often knocked on my door! But I kept going, and through the much appreciated support of my family, friends and new connections, I faced my fears and took the quantum leap of faith to share Twigs with the world.

I imagined my feisty little fairy sitting on my hand and chewing the inside of her cheek the night before publication. Erin Hanson’s poem came to mind, and I almost heard Twigs say to me, “What if I fall?” I had to be brave for her, and for me, so I gave her the now famous reply, “Oh but my darling, what if you fly?” We will never realise our dreams if we are too scared to leap, and who knows what the future brings.

Every author, I have since learned, has these feelings of great worry when they release their new book for others to enjoy, and the same doubts and insecurities surface: what if nobody likes it; what if people are mean about it; what if I am ridiculed for it? But. What if people love it? What if people are really positive about it? What if people celebrate you bringing it into existence? So, keep believing; believing in yourself and in your story. Also get that team of supporters around you who will help you to achieve your dream. They are invaluable!

8) Finally, when should we expect the next instalment of Twigs’ adventures?

So, Book 2 (Broken Twigs: Realm of the Thunderbird) is now in the final stages of my own editing, and it should be ready for publication in the first half of next year. I have also worked on the first drafts of Books 3 (Broken Twigs: Where Unicorns Roam) and 4 (Broken Twigs: The Twins and the Tokoloshe) of the series, so there are many adventures to come. Ideally, Book 3 will be out during the latter half of 2021. For those who don’t already know, this series will have a total of 12 books as Twigs tries to find her way back home to her beloved Faerie Forest.

Thank you so much to Charlotte for her wonderful responses. I hope Twigs continues to fly!

You can follow Twigs’ journey here:

Twitter: @BrokenTwigs2020



I am honoured to be a part of the Children’s Books North Autumn 2020 Blog Tour and delighted to be hosting the rather marvellous author, Philip Caveney. Enjoy!

Welcome to Children’s Books North’s Autumn Highlights – celebrating new books from CBN members with a tour of Northern and Scottish book blogs.

Children’s Books North aims to connect children’s book professionals living in the North West, North East, Yorkshire and Scotland. The network seeks to promote our members’ work, new books and events. Additionally, CBN is keen to bring focus on the importance of regional diversity in children’s books and the industry.

Philip Caveney writing as Danny Weston

Tell us about your new book

The new Danny Weston novel is called The Witching Stone. It’s a contemporary story based around a real-life historical character and takes a look at the subject of witchcraft. It’s suitably creepy for Hallow’een and features plenty of jumpy scares. It also has a vein of dark humour running through its core…

Share your favourite spread/passage from the book


Alfie opened his eyes to find that the room was in darkness and he lay for a moment, staring up at the ceiling, trying to recapture his shattered thoughts. He’d been dreaming about something, hadn’t he? It was something to do with walking through a forest, but try as he might, he couldn’t glue any of the pieces of it together. He turned his head towards the window and realised it must be really late as it was already fully dark outside.. He hadn’t bothered to draw the curtains when he’d come into the room, so he could see the rectangular outline of the window, a deep midnight blue against a wall of inky black.

And then something turned cold inside him as he realised what had woken him. 

A sound. 

A soft scratching sound, coming from the direction of the window. But . . . that didn’t make sense. He was up on the first floor, wasn’t he? In the silence that ensued, he lay there, holding his breath and listening carefully. Just when he thought he must have imagined it, the sound came again: an urgent scratching, as though something sharp was being dragged across a rough surface.

Slowly, Alfie pulled himself into a sitting position. He stared intently towards the window, aware now that the silhouette of it was not completely rectangular. Halfway along the bottom edge, there was a humped shape, as though something on the other side of the glass was crouched on the window ledge. Alfie felt around on the bedspread and after a few moments, his fingers located his phone. He switched on the torch and  turned the phone beam towards the window, illuminating it. The glare was reflected straight back by a pair of feral eyes, belonging to the creature that was sitting on the sill, staring in at him. The ginger cat.

Alfie very nearly yelled out loud but  managed to stifle the cry. He stared irritably at the visitor and it looked fearlessly back at him, once again dragging the extended claws of a front paw across the rough paint of the sill, producing a loud scratching noise.

‘Go away!’ hissed Alfie, not wanting his voice to be loud enough to wake Dad, next door. The cat ignored him. It clearly wanted access to the room and was not going to be easily deterred. Alfie steeled himself and slowly got up from the bed. ‘I don’t know how you found me,’ he whispered, ‘but you’re not welcome here.’ He moved closer to the window, keeping the torch beam fully on the creature’s angry looking face. ‘If you don’t clear off,’ he whispered, ‘I’ll push you off that sill.’

If the cat heard, it offered no reaction; so Alfie reached out to the catch of the window, levered it down and pushed it slightly open. The warm evening air gusted into the room, bringing with it an unfamiliar fragrance, a strange sulphurous smell, as though somebody had just struck a match. 

‘I’m warning you,’ whispered Alfie. ‘You’d better move.’

The cat glared back at him, undeterred.

‘Right,’ said Alfie. ‘You asked for it.’ 

He reached his hand through the gap, fingers extended to push the cat off the sill. But then, with heart-stopping suddenness, a hand closed tightly around his wrist.

What/who/where inspired this book? 

The book was inspired by a real-life person called Meg Shelton. An alleged witch, Meg was buried in 1705 in the grounds of St Anne’s church in the village of Woodplumpton, near Preston. A plaque still marks her resting place… but is it her final resting place? When young Alfie Travers dares to repeat a forbidden phrase three times whilst walking around Meg’s grave, he unwittingly summons her to follow him.

Nominate one children’s book by a northern or Scottish creative to read this winter. 

I’m really looking forward to reading The Spybrarian by Jon Mayhew, which will be released in January by UCLan Press. Jon wrote the brilliant Mortlock, but this looks like it will be in a much lighter vein than that dark and chilling tale. I’ve always had a soft spot for librarians – to me, they are the founts of all knowledge, and one features very prominently in The Witching Stone.

What books inspired you to read as a child and do you feel its important for children to see where they are from reflected in the books they read?

The first books I remember being inspired by were the works of Jules Verne. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was a particular favourite. I loved the idea of being transported into fantastic worlds where just about anything was possible, and of course he was writing about things that didn’t even exist in his own time. But the big book for me was Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. I read it when I was thirteen years old and it’s the book that made me think, for the very first time, that I wanted to be a writer too.

And yes, it’s really important for children to see themselves reflected in the books they read, even if the stories they choose take them to places they’ll never have the opportunity to visit in real life.


Cover art: Toni Murtaugh

Publisher: UCLan Publishing

broken twigs: farewell to faerie forest by charlotte taylor (Age 8+)

Who doesn’t love a tale of magic, mischief and fairies wrapped up in a snuggly cocoon of hope and optimism? Broken Twigs: Farewell to Faerie Forest is the much anticipated debut from teacher, Charlotte Taylor, that introduces us to Twigs, a little fairy with a dubious work ethic and an attitude that leaves a lot to be desired!

Over the past few weeks and months I have followed Twigs’ journey to publication and I was so excited this read this little gem of a story.

The hard-working fairies in the forest each have their own roles and duties that they carry out with diligience and determination. They know that together their efforts create a happy, thriving community where they can all live peacefully. All of them, except Twigs. Twigs is an unlikely hero; stubborn, work-shy and intransigent. The other fairies don’t much care for her but Twigs isn’t bothered. She is happy to get by on her own.

But when a grave error in judgement leaves Twigs alone and the other fairies in danger, Twigs begins to realise that she needs friends more than she thought.

I love stories with fairies and I love characters that break from the norm. Twigs is anything but your stereotypical fairy, but she has a vulnerability that lures you in and is the basis for this gorgeous tale of morality, responsiblity and kindness. I think we all have a little bit of the mischievious Twigs in us.

Broken Twigs is a beautifully told story by Charlotte Taylor that introduces us to the most wonderful characters. The illustrations from Kezzia Crossley are absolutely glorious and add to this simply stunning, magical, lyrical debut that will appeal to all ages. I cannot wait for the next installment to find out what lies in wait for Twigs. An absolute must read!

Keep up to date with the latest news on Twigs!


Twitter: @BrokenTwigs2020

The Girl Who Stole the Stars by Corrina Campbell

I am feeling positively spoiled with beautiful picture books recently and I was absolutely delighted when this one popped through the letterbox. The Girl who Stole the Stars is the gorgeous debut from Scottish author and illustrator, Corrina Campbell.

It is the tale of a wee girl who loves the looking up at the night sky and seeing all the sparkly stars. She then has a brainwave and decides that, because she loves the stars so much, she will write to Santa asking him for a ladder so that she can reach up and touch them!

But her plans start to go wrong as she starts to take the stars down from the night sky and keep them for herself.

The Girl who Stole the Stars is a truly stunning, sparkling and charming picture book, ideal for snuggling up with as the dark nights roll in and as Christmas time approaches. It is beautifully written and the illustrations are just glorious.

I absolutely adored this book and would recommend everyone goes and orders a copy to share with the children in your life.

Thank you to Little Door Books for the review copy.


Follow the author at @corrinacampbell

Follow the publishers at @littledoorbooks

The Humdrum Drum by Colin MacIntyre and illustrated by Catherine Thomann

Little Door Books are the most wonderful little publishers of gorgeous picture books and The Humdrum Drum was one that I just had to read! I mean how could anyone resist the little drum that graces the front cover of this gorgeous little picture book? The Humdrum Drum is a beautiful, enchanting tale about a little huffy drum and his orchestral friends.

One evening, as the orchestra is about to start their performance, Drum decides he no longer wanted to play. He is fed up of being banged and he longs to played the way some of the other instruments are played.

But as the next performance looms, Drum’s humdrum attitude starts to spread around the other instruments in the orchestra until none of them want to play, leaving the poor conductor very embarrassed indeed! The orchestra becomes a very unhappy family.

It is left to the musical notes to remind Drum and his friends that they all have their special role to play and they need to work together to create beautiful music.

The HumDrum Drum is a book that reminds us that we all unique and have our own special talents, and that it is when we recognise these, we can come together to make magical things happen.

It is a magical, special wee tale that is a feast for the ears and eyes. This will be a book that I will keep reading with my family again and again.

As a bonus, the book comes with an audio version of the book on CD that also includes some really fun songs that we really enjoyed!

Follow Little Door Books on Twitter at: @littledoorbooks

Follow the author on Twitter at: @colinmacintyre

Timothy (and Lucy) Mean and the Time Machine 2 by William AE Ford

Timothy is back and ready to take us on more time travelling adventures and, this time, his little sister Lucy is along for the ride too!

I adored Timothy’s first rhyming adventure through time so I was delighted to receive a copy of William Ford’s equally delightful and engaging sequel.

Join Timothy as, once more, he sets off an mission to escape his boredom by climbing aboard his trusty time machine. His journey takes him from the pyramids of Ancient Egypt to the middle of a gladiatorial battle in Rome; from a mammoth encounter in the Ice Age, to a lesson from Albert Einstein and much more! But when Timothy ventures into the future and encounters some rather unfriendly aliens, he discovers that he might need his little sister more than he thought.

Timothy (and Lucy) Mean and the Time Machine 2 is another fabulously exciting and fun adventure which reminds us of the importance of our families. It is full of vivid and descriptive rhymes and it completely engages the reader. The illustrations by Marcelo Simonetti are just gorgeous and filled with so much detail that there is always plenty to look at even after multiple reads!

This another exciting, fun and charming story that I will read over and over again with my children. Great fun!

Follow the author on twitter: @williamaeford


I am absolutely ecstatic to be hosting the first day of the blog tour for Jack’s Well by Alan McClure. A little over a year ago I had the pleasure of reading Alan’s debut novel, Callum and the Mountain, and it was the most wonderful experience. The word that stuck in my head about Alan’s writing was ‘unique’. And with Jack’s Well he has continued in the same vein. It is a book that is unlike anything I have ever read before. To be an authentic, original voice in a world of so many beautiful, amazing writers is quite a feet.

Jack’s Well follows a rather unusual narrative structure. I love the ‘throw the rule book out the window’ attitude and Alan McClure has very kindly shared a wee bit of insight into his thought process below.

“Beginning, middle and end. That’s how a story goes, isn’t it? It’s what I was taught in primary school, and I’ve suggested it to countless pupils over my ten years as a teacher. So I have to confess that any of my ex-pupils picking up Jack’s Well might find themselves a wee bit perplexed – they may even wonder if Mr. McClure has, quite literally, lost the plot! Because Jack’s Well doesn’t really work like that – it jumps around from present to past and back again and has at least three different narrative voices vying for your attention. It even, without giving too much away, sort of ends at the beginning. Or begins at the end. You’ll need to decide.

I have a few excuses for playing fast and loose with structure. The first, most important one, is that I really love books that play with their narratives. When I was about 17 I read a book called Lanark – a Life in Four Books by legendary Scottish author Alistair Gray and from the first page, where I discovered that it starts with Book 3, my mind was blown. After all, what fun are rules if they can’t be gleefully broken? Lanark massively widened my sense of what was possible in a book and is probably partly responsible for my becoming a writer.

Secondly, Jack Wilde, the hero of Jack’s Well, is having a really tough time when we meet him. He’s suffered a break from reality due to a number of huge pressures on him – bullying at school, the loss of his mum, and dealing with celebrity status – so his mind is jumping from one thing to another rather a lot, and I wanted to book to reflect that. Jack even warns you at the beginning – “There’s a danger of this journal being very disjointed because I’ve been very disjointed lately.” And it is, and he is, though I’m glad to say he gets better…

Thirdly, I just enjoy plittering about with narrative voice. In Jack’s Well, you do hear from Jack himself as he records his recovery journal: but you also get to read bits of books Jack’s dad has written, in which Jack stars as a 6-year-old fantasy hero. This let me invent a whole series of novels without actually having to write them all! Jack’s dad has achieved huge success with these stories, and that’s where Jack’s fame comes from, for better or for worse. We also read from an unauthorised biography called Jack: the Life Behind the Legend, which gives poor Jack yet another version of himself to deal with. I really enjoyed writing all these different voices and I hope I’ve succeeded in making them each distinctive and believable – a challenge to relish if you love playing with language.

Of course, the story does still have that all important beginning, middle and end – it’s just that the journey is more of a dance than a straightforward stroll. And while at times it might seem as if the threads in the story are all winding off in their own directions, bringing them all back together again for the finale is one of the things I’m proudest of in this book.

I hope that readers will find the journey as compelling as I did, and that, when they come to write their own novels (as everyone should!), they know they have near total freedom to plot it however they think will work best.”

Jack’s Well is one of the weirdest, mind twistingly glorious things I have ever read. Clever, powerful and utterly unique. This is not a book you should read, this is a book that you must read. Enjoy.


I am very excited for Unicorns and Kelpies to be hosting the ‘U’ stop on the alphabetty blog tour for the fabulous ‘Oi Aardvark!’.

We have loved the series of ‘Oi’ books. They are fun, colourful and funny and ‘Oi Aardvark’ is more of the same brilliance. Our favourite characters, Frog, Dog and Cat are back to lead us on a rhyming, whimsical animal tour from A to Z. This time Frog has decided to write a new alphabet book to tell new animals where they need to sit. He is full of confidence that he can get through the alphabet from A to Z, naming different animals AND finding them a place to sit that rhymes. Cat is a lot more skeptical and his endearing grumpy persona shines through as Frog proves him wrong!

‘Oi Aardvark’ is another fabulous, educational and entertaining book from the ‘Oi’ team. It is silly , fun and the rhymes are truly hilarious! Topped off with gorgeous expressive illustrations, this is another winner and an absolute must read picture book.

The Black Pennant Cover Reveal

The Black Pennant

I am so excited to be hosting the cover reveal for Joseph Lamb’s novel, The Black Pennant today. It looks and sounds amazing! Who doesn’t like a good pirate tale? Read more about The Black Pennant, published February 2021, below and get the date in your diary!

‘Based on true events, The Black Pennant by Joseph Lamb tells the story of the rise and fall of one of Scotland’s lesser-known pirates and a young boy’s struggle to save him. Released under Cranachan’s Pokey Hat imprint for 8-12s, The Black Pennant will be the first of four titles slated for publication by Cranachan in 2021.

‘Hoist the Black Pennant!’

A bitter taste rose in my throat and I thought I might be sick, as that hideous black flag crept to the top of the main mast.’

Stromness, Orkney, 1796: When orphan Innes is plucked from poverty by Captain John Fullarton, he is grateful to begin a new and better life at sea aboard The Finmurray. But when a storm destroys their ship, their fortunes change for the worse and Innes is suddenly—and unwillingly—thrust into a bloodthirsty life as a pirate, with no way to escape…’

978-1-911279-81-5           The Black Pennant           paperback

978-1-911279-82-2           The Black Pennant           ebook

Publication date: 25th February 2021

Thanks to Cranachan Books for letting my host this cover reveal.

Follow the publisher and author on twitter:



Wrecked/Gloves Off by Louisa Reid

If you follow me you will know that one of my highlights of lockdown was discovering the magic and beauty of the verse novel.  I have not looked back since the moment I was sucked in by the glorious front cover of Dean Atta’s The Black Flamingo.

It is a powerful medium, one where the writer must ensure that every word counts and, my goodness, that is exactly what these authors are doing.  These verse novel tales are beautiful, lyrical joys.   Stories that are accessible, yet honest and direct works of art.

Gloves Off

One of the books written in verse that I had the pleasure of reading over the summer was Gloves Off by Louisa Reid. Without a doubt, the story that I wish I had been able to read as a teenager, and one that I will look forward to putting into my children’s hands when they are a little bit older.

As she turns 16, Lily’s school life is unbearable as she is tormented by constant and vicious bullying. When the bullying takes a serious turn for the worse, her dad introduces to the world of boxing as a way of helping her regain her self-esteem and to defend herself.  There she finds herself on a different, but not easy, course.  A course that gives her hope for the future.

Gloves Off is a stunning, lyrical masterpiece that is full of hope, determination and self-worth.  It is about the power of taking control of your own destiny and following your own path.  It leaves you feeling empowered.


Having ranted and raved about Gloves Off, I felt honoured to receive an advance copy of Louisa’s next novel, Wrecked, another young adult novel in verse.  I was full of excitement and anticipation and I was not to be disappointed.

Wrecked is set against the background of a court case as teenager, Joe, faces accusations of killing a stranger after a drink-driving incident following a late night New Year’s Eve party.

Louisa masterfully dots back and forward in time as the details of the high school relationship between Joe and his girlfriend, Imogen, and the details surrounding the crash gradually come to light. It is a tragic set of circumstances and our emotions are tossed and turned as we are gradually make new discoveries.

For me, this is ultimately a story about how people, whatever their age, can be sucked into unhealthy relationships and their truth and reality can become blurred but it is also a story of hope and of finding oneself.  There was something very beautiful about the lack of judgement cast upon the characters.  The characters just are.   I would love to see the same story told in Imogen’s words.

When I read verse novels I find myself imagining it as a performance on stage, Wrecked particularly so.  It is genuinely one of the most wonderful, lyrical, creative and powerful books I have read and I would recommend it to every teen and adult out there.

Wrecked is published 3rd September by Guppy Books and Gloves Off is out now by the same publisher.

Follow the author and publisher on twitter at:








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