Al’s Awesome Science is back, get ready for a… Splash Down!

Author Jane Clarke and illustrator James Brown team up again to bring you another science adventure!

Are you wondering if Al has given up on his time machine capsule? Of course not!! Scientists NEVER give up! Twins Al and Lottie’s exciting science adventures continue with Al’s Awesome Science: Splash Down! (June 2018), where fun and messy water-based experiments rule the day. Having decided that an egg-shape is the strongest and best shape for Al’s time machine (please see Al’s Awesome Science: Egg-speriments!), our science-loving twins must now find out what kind of covering Al’s time-machine capsule will need to survive its SPLASH DOWN! back to Earth.

In Al’s Awesome Science: Splash Down (June 2018) twins Al and Lottie try their best to keep cool on a hot summer’s day. There’s a drought and water use is limited, but the twins need water to experiment for the time machine’s SPLASH DOWN! back to Earth. In typical Boffin-style, Al and Lottie show us that perseverance is key! It is all in the planning! But how long will it take before their water-based plans take on disastrous consequences involving one overheated dog and their fastidious neighbour Mrs Good? Jam-packed with science fun, a bit of mischief and a pair of nosy neighbours, Al’s Awesome Science: Splash Down (June 2018) promises the exact same engaging format as the successful first book in the series, Al’s Awesome Science: Egg-speriments!.

Al’s water-based, child-friendly experiments, can be done at home, and are perfect for a lovely summer’s day. So scientists, grab your nearest adult and some water, and follow Al’s awesome instructions to have some fun with science! You will discover how to create a siphon, learn about water waste-management and even get a great explanation of centripetal force! (Don’t worry, Lottie helps us pronounce it!)

Al’s Awesome Science: Splash Down! releases 1st June 2018!

Alice Winter

Five Stars For Five Quills Children’s Books

Sky Private Eye and Al’s Awesome Science receive five stars from Toppsta reviewers!

Toppsta reviewers give Five Quills children’s books Sky Private Eye and Al’s Awesome Science five stars.  Their reviewers include children, parents, teachers and a variety of family members.

What have Toppsta readers said about our books? 

 Five Star reviews for Al’s Awesome Science: Splashdown! 

“Great book for getting kids interested in science. Lots of drawings to try and follow the experiments. Going to get my mum to try some at the weekend.” -Reviewer Aged 9

“Both my girls 6 & 3 liked this book a lot. The eldest found it easy to read and loved the sketches, I’ve been asked a number of times since reading it if we can do some of the experiments! We will be trying some in the next school holidays.” -Reviewer, Mum read to children aged 3 & 6.

“This book is a great way to inspire children to think about science in a fun way. The book contains some fun sketchy style illustrations and the book is broken up with some fun science experiments that can be easily replicated at home with help.” -Reviewer, Mum read to children aged 5 & 7





Five Star Reviews for Sky Private Eye and the Case of the Missing Grandma

“My niece absolutely loved this book ..she especially enjoyed the cupcakes. She made me read it to her several times. This is a fab book and I would highly recommend it to anybody who’s children love going on adventures.” – Reviewer, Aunt read to niece aged 4

“My class really enjoyed this book. They were excited to see Little Red Riding Hood taking on a different role and trying to save Grandma! I will look out for other stories in the series they are great! “ – Reviewer, Primary School Teacher read to classes aged 4 & 6

Five  Star Reviews for Sky Private Eye and the Case of the Runaway Biscuit

“A story full of cupcakes, fairy tales and a detective. This story has a very different twist to gingerbread man, in this case with a happy ending, where the gingerbread boy wants to run the olympics and he manages to do that after sky, the detective, gives cupcakes to the fox and they get covered when the rain comes.” -Reviewer, Mum read to son aged 3

“The first thing to comment on with this book are the beautiful illustrations which really bring the story to life. My 2 year old daughter was pointing things out and really engaged with the images as I read to her. The story is positive and upbeat and can easily be read as a bedtime story as it’s short enough but has enough content to make for a lovely part of the bedtime routine. My daughter loves this and we’ve already read it twice in just a few days! ” -Reviewer, Mum read to daughter aged 2

“The Gingerbread Man is one of my little one’s favourite fairy tales so this book was a big successful in our house. It has the familiar story but told in a new way. Sky Private Eye is enlisted to help find the Gingerbread Man after he goes missing and she uses her investigative skills to find him.” – Reviewer, Mum read to daughter aged 3

Sky Private Eye: Reimagining Fairy Tales

Keeping Ancient Stories Alive

Fairy tale legends Little Red Riding Hood and the Gingerbread Man inspired the first two stories in the Sky Private Eye picture book series. Here we explore the origins of these icons and the importance of reimagining fairy tales.

Fairy tales have been around for thousands of years, their origins are notoriously difficult to trace. Beginning life as folk tales they followed ancient oral tradition, told and retold over the generations.

The Brothers Grimm published folklore in the nineteenth century; finally giving the world the most comprehensive written record of the many tales we know and love today. With elements of magic, strong characters embodying good versus evil and lessons for young children to learn, fairy tales are timeless.

The Sky Private Eye picture book series from Five Quills, written by Jane Clarke and illustrated by Loretta Schauer, is set in a fairy tale world. The books give a modern twist to well-known tales with an exciting new detective, Sky Private Eye. Sky uses magic, wit and her faithful dog Snuffle to piece together fairy tale mysteries.

Daniela Schneider, Five Quills founder and publisher, explains,

“the reason I chose fairy tales for this series is because my first memory of being read to as a child was listening to my mother read the Brothers Grimm in German. In my opinion fairy tales remain the perfect introduction to literature for young children”.

The first Sky Private Eye picture book features Little Red Riding Hood. The original Little Red tale is believed to have started life around two thousand years ago as The Wolf and the Kids, in the Middle East. This is thought to have spread to Europe where it became the Little Red Riding Hood we know, and also to East Asia where other versions such as The Tiger Grandmother emerged. All adaptations include an animal pretending to be something else. The message is consistent, be aware of strangers; they may not be what they seem.

Reimagining Fairy Tales: Wolfie Eating A Hotdog. Sky Private Eye Series. Illustrated by Loretta Schauer. ©Five Quills

Sky Private Eye Series. By Jane Clarke & illustrated by Loretta Schauer. ©Five Quills 2017

Little Red Riding Hood in Sky Private Eye and the Case of the Missing Grandma is a little savvier than earlier incarnations, heading straight for help from detective Sky Private Eye when she fears the worst has happened to her Grandma. The big bad wolf is not so bad either; he has the potential to be tamed.

The second Sky Private Eye picture book features a Gingerbread Boy as inspired by the Gingerbread Man fairy tale. The most common telling of this story was seen in print in America in the late nineteenth century. It started life as The Runaway or Fleeing Pancake in Norway and Germany, printed around fifty years earlier. Less widespread versions include an American Johnny Cake, English pudding, Irish cake and Scottish bannock as the protagonists. All of these tales include a baked good that pops out of the oven or pan, then runs or rolls away escaping a series of pursuers before being eaten by a character they thought they could trust.

Reimagining Fairy Tales: Foxy and the Runaway Biscuit. Sky Private Eye Series. Illustrated by Loretta Schauer. ©Five Quills

Foxy and the Runaway Biscuit. Sky Private Eye Series. By Jane Clarke & illustrated by Loretta Schauer. ©Five Quills 2017

In Sky Private Eye and the Case of the Runaway Biscuit, the Gingerbread Boy has his sights set on competing in the Fairytale Olympics, but a hungry fox is in pursuit. Thankfully Sky’s magic cupcakes redirect Foxy Loxy’s intentions. Reimagining fairy tales keep these ancient stories alive.

Look out for the next instalment from Sky Private Eye, in Spring 2018, when a prince needs Sky’s help to hunt down the owner of a sparkly slipper.

“Fairy tales spark the imagination,” Daniela concludes, “I hope our Sky Private Eye stories will encourage parents to go and look for the original tales and read them to their children as well”.

Sky Private Eye Books

Sky Private Eye ©Five Quills

Sky Private Eye ©Five Quills 2017








Edited by Janey Robinson


Sky Private Eye Reviews Round-Up

A Marvellous Collection of Reviews for Sky Private Eye

Sky Private Eye ©Five Quills 2017

A marvellous collection of reviews for our Sky Private Eye Titles: Sky Private Eye and the Case of the Missing Grandma and Sky Private Eye and the Case of the Runaway Biscuit by Jane Clarke and illustrated by Loretta Schauer. These reviews make us even more excited about our third book in the series Sky Private Eye and The Case of the Sparkly Slipper: A Cinderella Fairytale Mystery, to be released in March 2018,  written and illustrated by the same fantastic duo Jane Clarke and Loretta Schauer.


“A lively fairytale series.” The Bookseller

“This is a fun story with wonderful illustrations which would make a great read aloud for story time.” North Somerset Teachers’ Book Award

“Full of fun, with super illustrations.”  Parents in Touch

“Kids will absolutely love this fabulous re-spun classic, but will definitely love Sky – who is set to star in her own range of fabulous detective fairy stories.” Read it Daddy

“This new series is a great way to introduce children to traditional fairytales with the inspiring Sky as the lead role.” Angels & Urchins

“A fabulous re-imagining of traditional fairy tales, sure to become a favourite at bedtime!”  (The Case of the Runaway Biscuit) Creative Steps

“A lovely series . . . Sky Private Eye is a thoroughly enjoyable read, bringing to life classic fairytale characters in a new and brilliant way. A very accessible font and clear narrative makes this a great book for fledgling readers to try themselves, as well as being a good story to read aloud. . . The wonderful illustrations are lively, colourful and perfectly capture the tone of the story . . . All in all, it’s a great story to have on your bookshelf and sure to be a hit with aspiring bakers and fairytale fans alike.”    The Book Activist

“Baking, detection and fairy tales are all whisked together in this appealing story to make a tasty picture book… A busy, action-packed story that puts an original spin on the world of fairy tales.”  (The Case of the Runaway Biscuit) Love Reading 4 Kids 

Snuffle Snuffling from Sky Private Eye ©Five Quills 2017

“Baking, detection and fairy tales are all whisked together in this appealing story to make a tasty picture book… A funny, lively spin on a traditional fairy tale.” (The Case of the Missing Grandma) Love Reading 4 Kids 

“The tale’s telling is terrific fun and with illustrations by rising star, Loretta Schauer, that are full of hilarious details, this series looks set to be a winner.” ( The Case of the Missing Grandma) Red Reading Hub 

“The recipe is akin to the previous case: cupcake baking, a deft move on Sky’s part and a thoroughly satisfying finale. Whether or not you met Sky in Sky Private Eye and the Case of the Missing Grandma, then do so now. The chief ingredients: Jane Clarke’s toothsome telling and Loretta Schauer’s appetising artwork, wield their magic again.” (The Case of the Runaway Biscuit) Red Reading Hub

The Gingerbread Boy from Sky Private Eye and the Case of the Runaway Biscuit. ©Five Quills 2017

The Gingerbread Boy from Sky Private Eye and the Case of the Runaway Biscuit. ©Five Quills 2017

“Puts a whole new spin on the classic fairytale … The illustrations are bright and appealing – leaving little white space – and provide plenty of visual literacy, being busy and full of items to peruse. The idea is very much for the reader to be his or her own detective, deciphering what is different from the original fairytale, and predicting what might happen. The book was devoured by my testers here, who definitely wanted more.” Minerva Reads

Illustrating Al’s Awesome Science

Five Quills have just launched a brand new series of fun, messy adventures for younger readers, Al’s Awesome Science. The first book, Egg-speriments! is out now, introducing us to science loving twins Al and Lottie. Beautifully illustrated by James Brown, here he tells us about his process and the stories behind the pictures. 

How did you begin the process of illustrating Al’s Awesome Science?

I like to sketch out in biro first then use my lightbox to trace over once I’m happy with the movement. Read more

Five Quills Represented by Rights People

There’s exciting news at Five Quills HQ: a new deal with rights agency Rights People. The first international outing for Sky Private Eye picture book series is at Frankfurt Book Fair this week when Five Quills foreign rights will be represented by Caroline Hill-Trevor from the agency.

Sky Private Eye is an action-packed detective picture book series, where Sky and her loyal dog Snuffle can solve even the trickiest fairytale mysteries.

Sky Private Eye Picture Book UK Covers 2017

Sky Private Eye Picture Book Covers, Launching in the UK Spring 2017

“We’re thrilled to be teaming up with Rights People to bring Sky Private Eye to the world and hopefully into the hands of children in lots of different countries. The Frankfurt Book Fair is a great place to start.”

Daniela Schneider,  Five Quills

Going to Frankfurt? Caroline and Sky Private Eye will be in the Agents’ Centre at the book fair, do say hello!

Five Quills partners with Rights People

Ifyou would like to get in touch with Five Quills about foreign rights or the 2017 Sky Private Eye UK launch you can contact Daniela Schneider at

Edited by Janey Robinson.

Illustrator Q&A | Loretta Schauer

I usually start by creating the main characters for the story; it’s a bit like assembling a cast for a play or film.

Inspirational children’s book illustrator Loretta Schauer shares her approach and inspirations in bringing picture books to life through drawing, painting and digital collaging.


1. When did you start illustrating?

I started studying illustration seriously in about 2009, attending evening classes and workshops. I didn’t have any formal art training before that so it has been a steep learning curve, and I still have lots to learn.

2. How did you find your illustration style and has it changed over time?

I am still finding my style and it definitely changes over time, sometimes with a new project or idea. When I did my first book, I didn’t have anywhere to work, everything had to be done on a small scale. I came up with a way of drawing and painting individual elements, scanning them, and then collaging them together digitally. I wanted to explore using textures and other elements in my work; digital collaging worked really well for this and has definitely influenced how I work and my style. This way of working gives me a lot of freedom to experiment with how the final artwork looks, and I think it would be hard for me not to think in terms of collage now, even if the final outcomes of pieces look quite different.

3. What’s a typical day in your life as an illustrator and is there somewhere you like to illustrate?

I work at home so it’s often just me and the hamster all day working through whichever project I’m focusing on. Although I love the freedom of being my own timekeeper it can get to the point where I’m working so intensively that I don’t leave the flat for days at a time, I try to get out for a long run on Hampstead Heath at least a couple of times a week. Depending on what stage I’m at with a project, I try to take my work outside to a park or to the Heath if I can too – weather dependent of course!

4. What are the “can’t live without” items you use as an illustrator?

My 2mm mechanical pencil, a tube of Payne’s Grey watercolour (great for making textures and marks that can then be coloured digitally), and I guess my scanner and computer as I collage elements to create the final artwork.

5. When working on a new story, what’s the first thing you do?

I usually start by creating the main characters for the story; it’s a bit like assembling a cast for a play or film. I draw them in lots of different poses, showing a range of emotions and activities that they might encounter in the story.

6. How do you illustrate a story, do you have a process?

Usually a publisher will want you to establish the main characters first, then it’s a process of breaking the text into spreads and testing out how the story arc and page turns work best. At this stage I do rough pencil drawings to work out what’s going on in each spread and to experiment with different camera angles and with picking the right moment in the action to focus on. For a picture book an illustrator usually works on this stage with a designer or art director.

We make sure that the flow of text and image is easy to read and makes sense, and that there is a variety of full colour spreads, vignettes, and other visual devices throughout the book.

It’s important to make sure that the text and images work together to tell the story in the most effective way and there are usually several versions of roughs at this stage. After we’ve agreed on the layout and the content of each spread, I’ll begin working on the final colour artwork. Sometimes I do little colour thumbnails too to get an overall idea of the colour palette for the book and how colour can enhance the mood and atmosphere of the story.

7. What inspires your illustrations?

When I’m working on a commission I’m inspired by the story and characters in the text, but when I’m working on personal work or my own story ideas I tend to gravitate towards drawing animal characters, spooky kids or slightly darker characters and urban settings – I definitely like rooting for the underdog. I’ve been inspired by all sorts of things – nature, science, history – I’m a real history buff so I’d love to have a go at some historical non- fiction one day too.

8. How do you ensure that your drawings will appeal to young readers?

A key element to picture book illustration is the relationship between the characters. I like to keep my characters as expressive as possible and make sure their expressions and body language are clear to read. I also like to include little background details and extra background characters that have their own little stories or subplots going on.

9. How valuable is it for children to meet illustrators?

Children are always excited to find out about how I work and how the pictures get into the books. I like to encourage children to make up their own comics, stories and characters, and this can be a starting point for other areas of study. Discovering the creative process and communicating ideas through making pictures can really boost children’s confidence, whether they believe they are good at drawing or not.

10. What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator?

Keep practicing, and keep looking at other picture books that are in the shops. There are no short-cuts, keep building your portfolio, perfecting your craft, and showing your work to as many people as you can. Listen to any feedback, and give yourself a couple of days to absorb it before you decide if you agree with it and can apply it to your work.

Edited by Janey Robinson

Author Q&A | Jane Clarke

Children still enjoy many of the same books, but publishing goes through fashions and stories have become faster-paced. As a writer you have to keep up!

Award winning children’s book author and Five Quills writer Jane Clarke shares her inspirations, her approach to writing picture books and engaging young readers.

Image: Jane with grandpuppy Dutch, her sons and their families © Kristen Jimenez

1. When did you start writing and what inspires you to write?

I started writing at the age of 40 when I was working in a school library. The first story I wrote was for a 6 year old who wanted a book about a princess, a rabbit and shopping and was upset that the library didn’t have one. These days, my family and pets past and present are most often the inspiration for what I write.

2. What’s a typical day in your writing life and is there somewhere you like to write?

My best time for writing is 9 am to around 2pm. After that I go for walk, along the canal or to a park, or into town. I jot down ideas in my notebook that accompanies me everywhere, but I like to sit at my desk to write.

3. You have been a library assistant and a teacher, has this helped you as a writer?

Being a library assistant made me think about being a writer, my dream was to have a book with my name on it in the school library. As part of my job, I read a lot of picture books aloud, which helped me develop a sense of what worked and what didn’t.

I taught history at high school and archaeology at university level which wasn’t a lot of help with the under 10s 🙂

4. Does your approach to writing change depending on the type of book you are writing?

Yes. I write picture books and phonic reading schemes by hand, using pencil and lots of scrap paper – most of which gets crumpled up and thrown in the bin. I only go onto the computer at the very end of the writing process. For longer chapter books, I make notes, but type straight onto a computer.

5. Do you write books for yourself, or do you write them with particular children in mind?

I write them for myself, though I keep in mind my sons when they were young, and my little granddaughters.

6. How do you keep younger readers hooked until the end with a story?

I think very hard about the page turns, and try to make them surprising or exciting. A good editor is a great help with this!

7. How do you ensure a picture book lends itself well to being read aloud?

I always read my texts out loud, even if it means I’m talking to myself.

8. Over the years have you seen a change in the types of books children enjoy?

Children still enjoy many of the same books, but publishing goes through fashions and stories have become faster-paced. As a writer you have to keep up!

9. Do you think it’s important for children to meet authors?

Yes, an author visit is a great way to inspire children to create their own stories and to encourage them to read and write.

10. What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

Have fun writing your first draft, then get down to business and do loads of re-writes. If you’re writing for children, join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Edited by Janey Robinson