Picture Kelpies Series

The Picture Kelpies Series for 3-6 year old book lovers is going from strength to strength with Speed Bonnie Boat, Ollie and the Otter and The Island and the Bear.

Speed Bonnie Boat

This latest offering in a mini series based on traditional Scottish stories takes as its theme the famous Skye Boat Song. It’s an interesting idea for a story book. I wonder if the popularity of the Outlander series, which has this tune, set to Stevenson’s poem, as its theme song, has prompted its publication.

The lyrics were written by Sir Harold Boulton, 2nd Baronet, to an air collected in the 1870s by Anne Campbelle MacLeod. An old Gaelic rowing tune, Boulton added the Jacobite verses, with more details of the escape of Bonnie Prince Charlie following his defeat at Culloden.

It’s certainly a hauntingly beautiful waltz time tune and the lyrics tell no lies about history. However, as the series’ name suggests, the pictures are all important for this age group. The illustrations are bright, colourful and dramatic and Alfredo Belli manages to find links in the story to avoid the trap of every picture depicting a rowing boat en route to Skye.

Ollie and the Otter

I think this story must be set in Knapdale because, although the hero of the story is Ollie the Osprey, his best friend is a beaver called Rory. Poor Ollie is trying to win the heart of a female osprey called Isla by catching a fish and throwing it to her. Unfortunately he can catch fish well enough, but he can’t throw for, well, for love. Rory sets up a number of practice sessions, but nothing seems to help, so he gives Ollie some good advice.

“Maybe you’re trying too hard. Why don’t you stop practising and do the things you love instead? When I do the things I love, I feel better, and then I get better at everything.”

So Ollie does exactly that: he catches a fish, he swoops and dives and soars and, yes, along comes Isla, so he drops the fish and she catches it.
Presumably they live happily ever after in a secret location.

This is a lovely book in the Picture Kelpies series. Written by Emily Dodd (Auntie Emily) and illustrated in beautiful detail by Kirsteen

The Island and the Bear

The Island and the Bear is an unusual book in the Picture Kelpies Series. It’s based on the story of a performing bear called Hercules who got lost while filming on the island of Benbecula. Being accustomed to cooked food, he never once, during his 24 days of living wild, attacked any of the animals on the island. He was eventually found, tranquilised and returned to his owner, going on to live and work (as a film star!) for many years.

The story is told rather poetically by Louise Greig – there are some wonderful expressions such as “With the small of our island and the big of your bear, he’s bound to appear again somewhere.” The illustrations are by Vanya Nastanlieva, lovely rough sketches with clever shading. Sometimes the picture only shows half of the bear on the page.

This is a delightful story that doesn’t explain all the detail of how the bear came to arrive on the island – filming a Kleenex commercial – not
very romantic! It simply goes into the ideas behind the strangeness of the animal and the fear it inspires, until the islanders realise that it won’t harm them and is itself confused, lost and hungry.


Published by

Suse Coon

Suse Coon started life training to be an architect but ended up as a fashion buyer then civil servant. After some time out to bring up her family of three, she returned to what had been a hobby and entered the field of freelance journalism. After becoming regional correspondent, then editor of the orienteering magazine CompassSport, she formed Pages Editorial & Publishing Services. In this guise, West Lothian Life was launched, while Suse maintained a level of freelancing and wrote the award winning children's novel Richard's Castle. In 1999, Suse bought over CompassSport and found her time taken up pretty well exclusively with the two magazines. In 2004, West Lothian Life was expanded to form Lothian Life, however, the workload was too great. In 2006, CompassSport was sold and Suse concentrated on the web version of Lothian Life. Her hobbies include gardening, orienteering, sea kayaking and Tai Chi.

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