Detail from Little Explorers: Scottish Castles showing an illustration of a siege at Urquhart Castle

History, at its heart, is all about stories. We tell stories about how people lived and where they travelled, stories about battles and sieges, stories about kings and queens, even stories about how the crown jewels ended up hidden in a toilet…

At Floris Books, we’re passionate about bringing the stories of Scotland’s history to life for young readers, so when Historic Environment Scotland told us they wanted to create a series of books for children to tell the stories of the castles and sites they look after, we jumped at the chance.

We’re incredibly proud of the first two books we’ve created together: Edinburgh Castle for Kids and Little Explorers: Scottish Castles. Read on to find out how these fantastic books came to be!

The front covers of Edinburgh Castle for Kids and Little Explorers: Scottish Castles. Both feature an illustration of a castle with various colourful characters inside.

Concept and planning

Where do you start when you have the whole of Scottish history to inspire you?

The first step inevitably involved narrowing down our options! We finally decided on a bright, activity-packed guide to Edinburgh Castle along with a chunky moving-parts board book featuring lots of different castles.

A group of seven people pose beside a large cannon on the battlements of Edinburgh Castle. The Firth of Forth can be seen in the background.

Once we had the concepts, it was time to start planning. After an inspirational research trip to Edinburgh Castle, the Floris team began pulling together sketches, diagrams and flatplans.

These helped us figure out how the moving parts in the board book could work, and what activities and facts would be most fun for kids.

Three pages of early diagrams imagining how the Scottish Castles pop-up book might look

Illustrations

One of the most important parts of creating books for children is finding the right illustrator for the age range.

The illustrations in the Edinburgh Castle guide needed to work doubly hard to engage children who may not speak English.

The Floris design team looked at portfolios from countless illustrators before asking their top choices to provide a sample illustration.

Illustrator samples of a Georgian-era soldier in red and yellow uniform, a kilted soldier with a sword and round shield and a banquet scene inside a Great Hall.

Louise Forshaw was chosen for her bold, characterful illustrations. They are perfect for board book age and simple enough to work with the moving parts.

Moreno Chiacchiera’s jam-packed architectural detail and lively characters were perfect for the 6-10 age range of the activity guide.

With detailed briefs, Louise and Moreno got cracking with their rough illustrations.

Initial drawings of a banquets featuring Mary Queen of Scots for use in a pop-up book.

Ask the experts

All the pictures and facts in our books need to be as true to history as possible. Luckily, we had experts from the HES Cultural Resources Team on hand!

They were able to help us figure out everything from what shade of purple Mary, Queen of Scots’ dress should be, to what would have been on the menu at a great feast, and how Urquhart Castle would have looked before its gatehouse was blown up!

Photographs of a dungeon in Edinburgh Castle alongside an illustration of a dungeon, showing how the photos influenced the artwork.

Photographs of the Royal Palace in Edinburgh Castle alongside an illustration of Mary Queen of Scots' room showing how the photos influenced the artwork.

Launch at the Castle

We felt honoured to launch the first two books in the partnership at a special drinks reception in the Edinburgh Castle gatehouse. We were joined by members of the HES team, as well as industry leaders from the book trade to help us send the books off into the world!

Two publishers posing in front of the entrance to Edinburgh Castle with copies of the new children's books

Let the Floris team know what you think of the books in the comments below or by tweeting @DiscoverKelpies.  

Little Explorers: Scottish Castles, and Edinburgh Castle for Kids are both available to purchase from the Historic Scotland online shop.


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From time to time we have guest posts from partners, visitors and friends of Historic Environment Scotland.