We are always so pleased to feature author interviews on our blog and for this post we are joined by Lari Don, author of The Treasure of the Loch Ness Monster, published by Kelpies, an imprint of Floris Books with illustrations from Nataša Ilinčić.
This new story about the famous but elusive Nessie follows two cousins, Kenneth and Ishbel, as they try to think of ways to find money and food for their hungry family over the winter. Ishbel remembers a story about two hidden doors in Castle Urquhart on the banks of Loch Ness, one contains treasure whilst the other hides poison.
Ishbel is full of optimism, sure that the story is the answer to helping their family. Kenneth on the other hand is more skeptical, but with his cousin determined to head out to the castle he joins her in the search for the hidden treasure. They soon discover they aren’t the only ones who want that treasure with the monster of the Loch emerging from the deep water to stake her claim.
Lari Don’s narrative is evocative and totally engaging as she draws the reader in to this most mystical tale. The dreamlike illustrations from Nataša Ilinčić match the story perfectly, dark and fascinating against majestic landscapes. Kenneth and Ishbel’s story is wrapped up nicely at the end of the book but the appearance and actions of the Loch Ness Monster are as mysterious as her legend leaving the readers imagination free to dream up their own stories about her.
This book has become a firm favourite with my five-year-old who was completely absorbed in this story. We have read it over and over again, he has retold it to his grandparents and friends and is now desperate to visit Loch Ness to search for the monster and the treasure!
As part of the blog tour to celebrate the publication of this book we asked Lari Don to tell us some of her favourite foltakes that have inspired her writing:
Lari Don’s Favourite Folktales
I work with folktales and folklore all the time: traditional tales have inspired almostall of the books I’ve written so far, and I love telling tales out loud to children. AcornBooks asked me to list my favourite folktales, which is an almost impossible task, because I love hearing and reading and discovering old tales so much that I find a new favourite old story every week. But here are some of my current favourites:
The Tale of Tam Linn
A tale from the Scottish Borders about a boy who has been stolen by the fairy queen, and the bravery of the girl who rescues him. I love The Tale of Tam Linn so much that I’ve either retold it or based new fiction on it in four different books. So far. There might be more on the way!
There are stories from all over Scotland and much further afield about fairies swapping their own sickly babies for perfect human babies. Some have happy endings (the human baby is returned), some very much don’t. I find the not-happy-endings much more intriguing!
Another set of stories that I tell, retell and cheerfully borrow from in my own fiction. There are stories of child-eating shapeshifting water horses living in lochs and rivers all over Scotland, and each tale is very different. But despite growing up near a notoriously kelpie-filled river, I’ve never met one…
Hansel and Gretel
My favourite of the ‘classic’ fairy tales, mainly because it’s not about princesses and weddings, it’s about hunger and home and family. Also, Gretel’s anti-witch moves are fantastic!
Another anti-witch story. (I have written positive witch characters, honestly, but they are hard to find in the old tales…) I love this one because of the magic of the protagonist throwing objects behind them as they escape, and the small objects turning into large obstacles to stop the pursuer. Baba Yaga is a Russian story, but the same magic appears in stories from lots of other cultures. I recently found one from the Amazon rainforest.
One of my new favourites is a story about a Nigerian girl using magic to defeat a fire-breathing hippo. I’m always hunting for authentic traditional tales about strong girls defeating their own monsters and solving their own problems.
One of my favourite dragon stories, Ragnar Lodbrok is about a boy who defeats a dragon by creating armour out of ice. I love the universality of traditional tales (a monster to be defeated) and the differences in specific stories (this chap does thisusing sheepskins and winter weather.)
Another dragon story, from the north of England, with a happy ending for the dragon, who was originally a girl turned into a wyrm by her stepmother then saved by her brother.
A story about a woman who has to guess the name of a magical being in order to save her child. This Scottish story has similarities to the tale of Rumpelstiltskin, but it’s not about kings and spinning gold, it’s about a poor farming family and a sick pig. And I prefer folktales that feel down to earth, about hunger and home and family…
Why the bear lost his tail, why the crow has a croaky voice, why the robin has a redbreast
I love stories which explain ‘WHY’. Several of my favourites are Native American (like the bear who tried to catch fish with his tail on the advice from a tricky fox) but there are wonderful examples from all over the world.
I love all those stories, and hundreds more, but I’m also excited when I find fragments or glimpses of tales. Because as well as retelling old stories, I love creating new stories and much of my inspiration comes from tiny little snippets of old stories.
And that’s what the Loch Ness Monster has always been: a glimpse of a story. Does she exist? What is she? What does she look like? If you visit the loch, will you see her?
Then I found a glimpse of another Loch Ness story: an old tale about two magical doors under Castle Urquhart, one hiding treasure and the other hiding poison. So I wondered ‘what if Nessie cared about what was behind those doors?’
That’s where the first spark of the idea for The Treasure of the Loch Ness Monster came from. And because stories about hunger and home and family feel like some of the most basic and important folktales (possibly even more important than ones about defeating dragons) the book starts with a pair of hungry children, who also care about what’s behind those mysterious doors.
I’m always delighted to discover ‘new’ old stories, so please let us know about your favourite folktales!
Thank you so much Lari for sharing your favourite folk tales with us, I love the sound of Nana Miriam!
Be sure to check out the other posts from the blog tour: Discover Kelpies, BookBairn, Story Snug, Playing by the Book, Get Kids into Books and Delightful Book Reviews.
Lari Don grew up in the north-east of Scotland, and lives in Edinburgh. She has worked in politics and broadcasting, but is now a full-time writer and storyteller. Lari is the author of more than 30 books for children of all ages, including The Fabled Beast Chronicles and Spellchasers trilogy for middle grade readers, Mind Blind for young teens, and picture books The Tale of Tam Linn and The Secret of the Kelpie, and she regularly visits schools and libraries to share her stories. Almost all her books are inspired by her love of traditional tales, and absolutely all her manuscripts are covered in muddy paw prints from her helpful cats.
Nataša Ilinčić is an artist and illustrator originally from Croatia, now living and working in Edinburgh. Nataša was brought up on the foot of the Italian Alps where she spent much of her childhood befriending ancient trees and exploring ruins. Following her academic studies in Archaeology and Cultural Anthropology, she moved to Edinburgh to pursue a career in art and illustration, drawing inspiration from mythology and folklore. Her work has been shortlisted for the Folio Society Book Illustration Competition 2017, and has been exhibited invarious galleries, including the London House of Illustration.
Map My Monster Competition
The Discover Kelpies team are looking for young monster spotters to enter their Map My Monster art competition. To enter the competition for a chance to win a bundle of signed books by Lari Don just draw a picture of your local mythical monster on their special Map My Monster sheet. Don’t worry if you don’t have a local monster – you can borrow one from another place, or create your own! For more details visit https://discoverkelpies.co.uk/picture-kelpies/map-my-monster/
Many thanks to Kelpies for sending a copy of this book for review.