Callum and the Mountain by Alan McClure

Every so often a book comes along that is so intriguing and original that it simply blows you away. Callum and the Mountain is just such a novel. It is a beautiful and poetic piece of storytelling about our relationship with the spiritual and natural world with a mythical feel to it. It is told in such a way that it genuinely feels unlike anything I have read before.

Callum Maxwell lives in the small peaceful village of Skerrils in Scotland. It is a lovely wee place where not much happens. That is until the school unexpectantly explodes and Callum finds his life beginning to change forever as he meets various spirits and starts to see the world in a completely new way.  Throughout the book we see the development of the fascinating relationship between Callum and his Papa, a real connection between young and old. It always feels like we are inside Callum’s head and we live the story with him and even when I wasn’t reading it I still felt I was with him.

One of the things that I really love is how Alan McClure has included lots of Scots vocabulary, giving the characters a real authentic, believable feel. It has lots of wonderful examples of this beautiful language.

Callum and the Mountain is a beautifully crafted novel that has a magical, mysterious and almost ethereal feel to it. It is intriguing, mystifying and absolutely exquisite. It is one of the most interesting books I have read for a long time and I would absolutely recommend it!

Thanks to Alan McClure for the advance copy.

Callum and the Mountain is published by Beaten Track Publishing on 15th August. EBspYZqWwAAV-_c.jpeg


Pog by Padraig Kenny, provided for review by @BooksforTopics


Having read and loved Padraig Kenny’s debut novel Tin a few months ago, I was incredibly excited to read his new novel, Pog, and was not disappointed by this intriguing, heart-warming and emotional tale.

After recently losing their mum, David, Penny and their Dad decide to move to their family’s old house, situated in the heart of a somewhat mysterious forest. It is meant to be a fresh start after the death of their mum and an opportunity for the three of them to try and move on, but with each of them still trying to deal with their grief in their own way, relationships remain strained.

On top of this, the children begin to hear noises in the attic. On further investigation they discover a strange but friendly creature called Pog, who we discover is dealing with bereavement of his own and coping with an overwhelming sense of loneliness . As more creatures start to emerge from the forest and out from ‘The Necessary’ (a mysterious door leading to another realm), we quickly find that not all these creatures are as friendly as Pog and have some far more sinister intentions.

Pog is a brilliantly entertaining story of other-worldly beings that live side by side with humans, normally unheard and undiscovered. The fantastically rich and diverse characters make this a compelling and enjoyable read. However, at its heart, Pog is a story of a family coming to terms with the death of a loved one, dealing with their individual grief in their own ways and coming together again as a family. It is a warm, exciting and overwhelmingly uplifting and positive book that I absolutely loved.

Provided for review by Books for Topics and originally published here:

Rumblestar by Abi Elphinstone

Abi Elphinstone is the most exquisite storyteller I have ever come across.
My first introduction to Abi was the wonderfully enchanting Sky Song that I read last year. It was such a glorious adventure that I knew I would need to read everything that Abi went on to write.
When one of my favourite days of the year approached and the World Book Day offerings were announced I was delighted to see Abi and Everdark in there with some other outstanding authors . An introduction to The Unmapped Chronicles, Everdark is a gripping adventure which sets the scene for what is to come.
Rumblestar, therefore, was one of my most anticipated releases of the year and, I have to say, it was even better than I could have possibly hoped for.
Rumblestar is the story of two unlikely heroes – Casper Tock, an eleven year old boy whose life is dictated by bullies and his own need for rules and timetables – and Utterly Thankless, whose defient persona hides a troubled wee girl at heart.
The two embark on the most fantastical adventure through Rumblestar in an effort to defeat the evil harpy, Morg.
Abi Elphinstone has a sensational and awe-inspiring way of telling stories. She has created a world that is believable in its vulnerabilty, honesty and susceptibility to evil and I didn’t want to leave. I was a more than a little gutted when it was over.
At the heart of the story are two slightly awkward and insecure characters (3 if you include Arlo, the tiny smoke breathing dragon).
Watching their characters develop and the friendships grow is really what this story is about. But it is wrapped up in the most amazing magical adventure – a glorious world that you never want to leave.
As a teacher, I can’t help to think about the possibilities for learning and inspiration contained within this book.
Rumblestar is possibly the most magnificent and wonderful story I have ever read. Full of adventure, excitement and all sorts of twists and turns, it is an absolutely breath-taking work of brilliance. Loved it!


A wee plea for more original books in Scots and review of Nip Nebs by Susi Briggs, Illustrated by Ruthie Redden


I love reading and sharing books written in Scots and I believe it is vitally important that we continue to preserve, promote and enjoy the Scots language. It is such an expressive and beautiful language with a wonderfully rich vocabulary and it so enjoyable to read, speak and listen to.

There are lots and lots of brilliant Scots translations of children’s books which I love and have written about before. From David Walliams to JK Rowling to Julia Donaldson there is definitely a growing bank of children’s books in Scots, which shows the demand and interest is there.

However, what I have noticed is a distinct shortage of original children’s books written in Scots and some of the brilliant original books that are out there are out of print. (Some of Susan Rennie’s original  books spring to mind)

Within schools, early years settings and homes, we are crying out for some more original children’s  books in Scots whether that be picture books, short stories, novels, graphic novels or comics.

We need every child to have access to books that reflect the way they speak and use the vocabulary that they use to allow them to engage with and develop a love of books and reading from an early age. We need children to see that their culture and language are valued.

Which brings me on to the beautiful and fabulous Nib Nebs, an original, enchanting story about Jack Frost written in Scots, by Susi Briggs. It is an excellent rhyming story which conjures up images of winter, snow and cosying up with family . The language is so descriptive and the illustrations are utterly exquisite, providing lots of scope for discussion and reenactment. I particularly loved the opportunities to join in with actions – ‘strinkle, strinkle, strinkle’ -making it an ideal book to read with young children. There is also a helpful glossary at the back.

Nip Nebs is a brilliant wee book. It flows beautifully with wonderfully rich vocabulary and is perfectly illustrated. Let’s have more like it!

Boot by Shane Hegarty, Illustrated by Ben Mantle Age 7+


picked up Boot from the host of books on the shop shelf because I could not resist the bright inviting cover with the delightfully cheery little robot dancing along the street with a broken umbrella.  I do love a robot story and Boot is up there with the best.  This enchanting story of the little lost robot trying to make his way home is full of charm, adventure and humour and the brilliant illustrations top it off, making it an excellent and endearing story.

Boot is the tale of a little robot who wakes up in a scrapyard with only two-and-a-half memories. He is not sure where he is or why he is there but in his limited memory he knows that he belonged to a girl called Beth and that he must find his way back to her and back to his home, wherever that may be.

On his adventure he meets those who want to do him harm as well as a wonderful array of friends, all with their own personalities, strengths and quirks.  Boot soon comes to realise that he and his friends are not like other robots who blindly follow instructions. Somehow, they have developed the ability to feel emotion. I absolutely willed the group to succeed on their quest to find Beth and find their happy ending.  There are some real philosophical questions at the heart of Boot about the nature of home, family and friendship and about the development of Artificial Intelligence.

I absolutely loved Boot. It is a glorious story about friendship and belonging and I really adored the loveable central character who is perfectly depicted in the brilliant drawings.  I was genuinely upset to come to the end of the book, but overjoyed to discover that there are 2 more adventures coming in 2020!

Crime Squirrel Investigators: The Naughty Nut Thief by Emily Dodd Illustrated by Giulia Cregut


Crime Squirrel Investigators is a gloriously fun picture book with a clear message about the importance of telling the truth, even when that can be really difficult.

When Rosie discovers that someone has eaten her secret stash of hazelnuts, she is distraught and angry! Who would do such a thing? She enlists the help of her best friend Charlie to help solve the crime.  As they work their way through the suspects we discover some fascinating wee facts about each of them and their nut eating habits.  As we reach the surprising conclusion we are reminded of the powerful message that honesty is always the best policy and that the truth will always come out, but that we can always forgive and move on.

Crime Squirrel Investigators is a fantastic wee story with a really powerful message that will resonate with young children and their adults. The illustrations are just amazing and the characters are full of expression on every page.

This is a great picture book for young children that would sit well in any early years setting or as a perfect bedtime story.

For more information see:



Some Braw Scots Translations

I love reading books in Scots, whether that be for my own enjoyment, reading to my own children or to a class or group. It is a wonderfully expressive language and the vocabulary is just fantastic, making it a joy to read.
Given what a wonderful language it is, I though I would share some of my favourite Scots translations. These are just a few that are out there, there are loads more!
1. The Reiver Rat by Julia Donaldson, translated by James Robertson

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So many of Julia Donaldson’s wonderful rhyming picture books have been translated into Scots that it’s not really fair to pick just one! I love the various Gruffalo translations, Room on the Broom in Scots, The Troll and the Kist o Gowd and all the others. But I do have a soft spot for The Revier Rat. The Highway Rat is a fantastic wee story about the rat who learns that you reap what you sow. The Scots translation is full of wonderfully expressive vocabulary, making it a joy to read aloud. Perfect for young audiences.

2. Diary o a Wimpy Wean by Jeff Kinney, translated by Thomas Clark



I have made no secret about how much I love Diary o a Wimpy Wean. It is as hilarious as the original but with a Scots twist. The dialogue is so real and relatable that children can easily identify with the characters. Ideal for older primary children and upwards.

3. The Tale o the Wee Mowdie by Werner Holzwarth and Wolf Erlbruch, translated by Matthew Mackie



This is a book about poo. If that is not your thing, then this might not be for you! However, for everyone else this is a hilarious wee tale about the mole who goes in search of the creature that has keeched on his head. My 4 and 6 year old absolutely love this book and fall about laughing every time we read it. Brilliant for introducing Scots vocabulary as we go through meeting an array of animal suspects.

4. Harry Potter in Scots by JK Rowling, translated by Matthew Fitt


I was so excited when this was released a couple of years ago and I was not disappointed. I am going to confess, I have never been a big Harry Potter fan but the Scots edition blew me away. It has been expertly translated by Matthew Fitt and it is a really fantastic read. Great for expanding vocabulary -it introduced me to some new words (clishmaclaver has become one of my favourites!) It is pretty challenging, however. Definitely upper primary and older.

5. The Eejits by Roald Dahl, translated by Matthew Fitt


I love all of the Roald Dahl translations although some are quite challenging, like The GFG. The Eejits is one of the more accessible. Again, the vocabulary is brilliant and it is a great book for reading aloud.

6. We’re Gangin on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury, translated by Susan Rennie

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This is another great one for reading aloud and getting your audience to join in! Brilliant for encouraging younger readers to use Scots vocabulary and plenty of scope for actions and movement. A firm favourite!

7. Kidnappit by Robert Louis Stevenson, translated by Matthew Fitt and James Robertson

This graphic novel adaptation of the classic novel, Kidnapped, is a beautiful book and the Scots translation is brilliant. I am a big fan of graphic novels and this is a great one for older children.



8. Mr Mingin by David Walliams, translated by Matthew Fitt


I love David Walliams book. I think they are fun, accessible and entertaining and the Scots translations are no different. I think my favourite has to be Mr Mingin, the story of Chloe and her new best friend, Mr Mingin.  It is very funny and full of wonderful Scots vocabulary for readers to enjoy independently or to listen to.
9. The Adventurs o Tintin: The Derk Isle by Herge, translated by Susan Rennie


Who doesn’t love Tintin? Another brilliant graphic novel translated into Scots. It can sometimes feel a bit daunting to be faced with pages of unfamiliar looking text (in Scots or otherwise) and graphic novels feel a little less scary. Another one for older children to delve into.
10. The Teeger that Cam for his Tea by Judith Kerr, translated by Susan Rennie

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Everyone knows the story of The Tiger who Came to Tea which makes this a great book to explore some Scots vocabulary with. It is a beautifully illustrated book that is ideal for young readers. Again, scope for acting and recreating scenes. One of my favourites.

As I said there are loads of excellent children’s books in Scots, so go and explore what’s out there and enjoy!

Kirsty Crommie


Children's Book Reviews

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