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


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.

Sky Private Eye | Illustrator Preview

My most enduring memories of beaches as a child are the colourful shells and pebbles I would find, so I wanted this to feature in the beach scenes.

Children’s book illustrator Loretta Schauer gives a little taster of the visual creation behind the soon-to-launch Sky Private Eye picture book series she works on with Five Quills.

Scenes from Fairytale Beach in Sky Private Eye and the Case of the Missing Grandma

The Sky Private Eye picture book series is coming out in Spring 2017 with Five Quills. What aspects of Sky’s personality show through in your drawings?

Sky is very capable and is ready to jump in and help whenever she can, so I hope she looks like a practical person but also someone who is creative and spontaneous. After all, she manages to make all those yummy cupcakes as well as being an ace detective.

Sky has a contemporary look and uses a number of gadgets, how did you develop this detail?

Sky is really smart so it makes sense that she would use the latest magical Fairytale gadgets to help her solve each case. Technology is increasingly a part of our lives now so I think children can identify with Sky in that way. Although my final artwork is digital, most of the elements are hand-drawn or hand-painted, so I try to contrast this with more digital looking elements like dots and patterns for the gadgets. It can be tricky to blend the two. Of course Sky’s biggest helper is her best friend Snuffle the dog, and he was great fun to draw.

When drawing scenes with lots going on, such as Fairytale Beach, what inspires the scene and when do you know when to stop?

My most enduring memories of beaches as a child are the colourful shells and pebbles I would find, so I wanted this to feature in the beach scenes. We also wanted Fairytale Beach to be familiar but not too much like a traditional British seaside. There are some exotic buildings and palm trees in the background, but the little details, the shells and seaweed, could equally be found on a tropical beach, or a beach closer to home.

Lots of Fairytale Town characters auditioned to be in the beach picture, but only a few made it in to the final artwork.

It was important that the viewer could focus on Wolfie and Grandma so I tried not to make the beach too crowded. I think my favourite incidental character is definitely Arthur the inflatable shark though. He’s so cool and collected; he had to be in there somewhere.

What are you looking forward to drawing more of as the Sky Private Eye series develops?

I’m looking forward to creating the new Fairytale Town characters and giving them interesting backstories and personalities!

Edited by Janey Robinson

Sky Private Eye | Author Preview

Fairy tales with a happy ending are a great way to help children explore good and bad characters.

Children’s book author Jane Clarke shares a pre-publication preview of the characters, setting and development of her new picture book creation with Five Quills, Sky Private Eye, before it hits the shelves.

Illustrations taken from Sky Private Eye and the Case of the Missing Grandma

The Sky Private Eye picture book series is coming out in Spring 2017 with Five Quills, what kind of girl is Sky and what makes her different?

Sky is cute and curious, but also calm and focussed when it comes to detective work- and baking cupcakes! Sky and her dog Snuffle solve mysteries in the world of fairy tales.

Do you think book series and their returning characters offer a different kind of opportunity to engage children?

Yes, they offer a chance for children to become friends with the characters, and enjoy meeting up with them again in different stories

Sky Private Eye is set in a fairy tale world; do you think fairy tale settings are a useful tool for children’s learning and development?

Fairy tales with a happy ending are a great way to help children explore good and bad characters. They provide a satisfying story structure, too.

How do you see the Sky Private Eye series developing?

Sky and Snuffle are ready to help to solve many more fairy tale mysteries, including why Goldilocks broke into the Three Bears House and what happened to Cinderella’s sparky slipper!

Edited by Janey Robinson

10 Facts About Loretta Schauer

Find out more about children’s book author illustrator and Five Quills illustrator Loretta Schauer with these ten quick facts.

Facts about Loretta, lives in: London1. Lives in


2. Books published


3. Favourite book

Anything by Edward Gorey

4. Favourite fairy tale character

The Big Bad Wolf, he’s the best villain

5. Favourite type of cupcake

Vanilla with chocolate chips

6. Favourite thing to cook

cakesMassive cakes!

7. Favourite thing to do

Fossil hunting and beachcombing

8. Favourite game


9. Favourite place to draw

In the long grass on Hampstead Heath in London

10. Favourite author / illustrator

Mini Grey


Loretta's cakes, fossil hunting and her fossil collection


Edited by Janey Robinson




10 Facts About Jane Clarke

Find out more about children’s book author and Five Quills writer Jane Clarke with these ten quick facts.

Facts about Jane: She lives in Market Harborough, Leicestershire

1. Lives in

Market Harborough, Leicestershire

2. Writes

Picture books, chapter books, poetry and reading scheme books

3. Books published


4. Favourite book

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

5. Favourite fairy tale character

The Ugly Duckling

6. Favourite type of cupcakeFacts about Jane, favourite book: The Wind in the Willows © E.H. Shepard

Carrot cake with lots of swirly frosting

7. Favourite movie

The Good Dinosaur

8. Favourite thing to do

Picking up fossil sharks teeth on a palm-tree lined beach in Florida

9. Favourite stationery itemFacts about Jane, favourite film: The good dinosaur © Disney Pixar

HB school pencils, especially the yellow and black ones!

10. Jane’s creative mantra

Writing isn’t brain surgery, no-one gets hurt if you get it wrong.


Facts about Jane: she loves to collect fossils, particularly fossil sharks teethJane at desk with Sky and giant shark tooth gift under the lamp











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