Peebles schoolgirl Emily Wright is the winner of a highly unusual competition which asked children from across Scotland to suggest a real-life location to be used in a forthcoming book by award-winning children’s author Lari Don.
Emily, who is in primary six at Priorsford, suggested Traquair House and its maze as a great place to set Lari’s new novel.
The Edinburgh-based writer launched the competition in June, at the same time as the third book in her popular First Aid for Fairies fantasy series – Storm Singing and Other Tangled Tasks – was published. Children were invited to suggest the perfect Scottish location to be used in the fourth, and final book of series.
Traquair House will be visited by one, or more, of the fabled beasts, which include a centaur, a selkie, a fairy and a dragon, in the new adventure due to be published next year.
“So far I’ve used locations I already knew for the first three books, but I thought there must be bits of the country that I didn’t know which were equally story-shaped,” explained Lari. “So, I wanted to get some inspiration from my target audience.
“The books’ heroine, Helen, lives in a little Borders village, so I really wanted to bring the books home to this part of Scotland.
“When I read Emily’s entry I thought Traquair House would be the perfect starting point. I already knew it was the oldest inhabited house in Scotland with an amazing history, but it was the mention of the maze, which I was unaware of, in Emily’s entry which sparked my imagination. The history, the legends, the old house, the trees all around, and the danger and mystery of a maze were a perfect combination.”
To mark her achievement, Emily also received signed copies of the three previous books in the series and her class will have a special visit from Lari, who has starred at several Borders Book Festivals and lives in Leith, before Christmas.
Nearly 250 children from throughout Scotland entered the competition, suggesting a variety of locations including well-known tourist attractions and local landmarks. Lari and the judges also awarded four runners-up prizes to Heather Jenkinson from Inverkip who suggested Cessford Castle near Kelso; Morag McDonald from Falkirk who proposed the Blue Pool near Falkirk; and Rowan Miller from Ullapool who came up with Corrieshalloch Gorge.
And a collective prize went to classes from Knockbreck Primary in Tain whose suggestions for locations around Nigg and Cromarty proved very inspirational for Lari.