PART OF THE Spotlight on the South-West ISSUE

‘After all, without our fabulous rural landscapes there would be no stories to tell! ‘

Scotland is lucky to have brilliant publishers based all around the country. In the South-West, we have Curly Tale Books who publish gorgeously-illustrated books for children. We asked publisher, Shalla Gray, to tell us more about Curly Tale’s publishing journey.



Curly Tale Books is an independent publisher based in Galloway, South-West Scotland.  Our aim is to produce beautiful books for children rooted firmly in the countryside of this beautiful part of the world.  Co-founded in 2013 by author and illustrator Shalla Gray and author Jayne Baldwin (who has since left the business to pursue her dream of running a children’s book shop in Wigtown, Scotland’s Book Town), Curly Tale Books has published 13 books thus far, with a 14th just gone to print.  More about that later…

Curly Tale Books is proud to have been awarded the Galloway & Southern Ayrshire Biosphere Chartermark, which signifies our commitment to follow sustainable business practices to help protect and conserve the resources and environment of our amazing region.  After all, without our fabulous rural landscapes there would be no stories to tell!  Our ethos is to support our local economy and the environment as much as possible, for example all our books are now printed on 100% recycled paper, and we get all our books printed in the UK.

Our first published book was The Quite Big Rock by comics legend Alan Grant.  As well as writing Batman, Judge Dredd and many other superhero titles, he is also Shalla’s Dad, and many years ago, before he got into comics, he wrote stories to tell her at bedtime.  We have two of these stories on our list, the other being the psychedelic Sammy the Rainbow Snail.

Our bestselling book is Big Bill the Beltie Bull, written and illustrated by Shalla.  Belties are a cattle breed originating in Galloway with a distinctive white belt around their tummies.  Big Bill goes (against his will) to the local show and surprises himself by winning first prize!  We have received so many photos of children dressing up as Big Bill for World Book Day, he really captures their imagination!  Jayne wrote two sequels to this top-seller, Big Bill’s Beltie Bairns and Big Bill and the Larking Lambs, which continue to sell really well.

A chance meeting at an art exhibition led to Curly Tale Books publishing Nip Nebs – Jack Frost in Scots by Susi Briggs and Ruthie Redden.  Shortlisted for the Scots Bairns Book of the Year in 2019, Nip Nebs is one of the few original titles written in Lowland Scots for children.  Author Susi is extremely passionate about the Scots language, and in 2019 we were delighted to be awarded a Scottish Book Trust Grant for the publication of a sequel to Nip Nebs, entitled The Last Berry.

Alasdair Hutton, the voice of the Edinburgh Tattoo and a great admirer of Sir Walter Scott was our next signing, having penned a children’s story featuring Scott’s Dandie Dinmont Terriers, now a rare breed.  Who would have thought that there were so many Dandie Dinmont fans!  The book raced off the shelves and we are currently in talks about a sequel.

All of these books are set firmly in Scotland – the landscapes and characters are Scottish, and we have carried this theme on with our next book, Strange Visitor.  This is a retelling of a traditional Scots tale by Renita Boyle, illustrated in a dark, graphic novel format by Mike Abel, and is so unusual that it almost defies description!

All of the authors, and many of the illustrators on our list do fantastic events for children.  Susi Briggs for example has workshops based around Nip Nebs which also educate the participants about the Scots language in a very engaging way.  Renita Boyle was a storyteller before she became an author, and she has an amazing knack with children – she can keep a whole school enthralled with her singing and stories!  Shalla loves doing events at schools and nurseries, who often do farming-related topics which fit in nicely with her stories, and she has a large variety of activities and games to go along with each book.

So, what next on the Curly Tale Books journey?  Well, we are really excited to announce our next book Saving Gracie: the Story of Cow 812.  Written, illustrated and printed in record time during lockdown, it is the result of a collaboration with Youtube sensation The Hoof GP, a local hoof care specialist whose little boys love our books.  He has a cow called Gracie in his care who has attracted hundreds of thousands of followers, and he approached Shalla to ask if she would be interested in telling Gracie’s story.  She was immediately inspired, and the resulting book is due out later this month…


To find out more about Curly Tale Books, visit their website.

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‘After all, without our fabulous rural landscapes there would be no stories to tell! ‘