An award-winning Highland children’s author visited schools in his home town to mark the launch of his new book and to encourage more children to take up reading.
Barry Hutchison, whose books are loved by children across the UK and further afield, described his new book – The Shark-Headed Bear-Thing – as a comedy fantasy adventure for seven to nine-year-olds.
The 37-year-old, who lives in Fort William with his partner Fiona and their two children, Kyle and Mia, explained that he had been an avid reader from an early age.
He was just eight when he decided he wanted to become a writer, but did not start writing children’s books until 2007.
In October 2008, he signed a six-book deal with HarperCollins to publish his Invisible Fiends horror series for the 9+ age group and the first book in the series – Invisible Fiends: Mr Mumbles – won the Royal Mail Award for Scottish Children’s Books in 2010.
But The Shark-Headed Bear-Thing is the first book he has published in two years.
And Mr Hutchison said he was delighted to be able to visit six schools in his home town, including Caol Primary School which he attended as a child, to talk about his latest book and his inspiration for it.
He said: “I do a lot of school workshops in which I talk about creating monsters and I always tell the children to think about things that scare them, then make them worse.
“I’ve always been a bit wary of sharks since my big sister made me watch Jaws the night before my first swimming lesson, so I decided to go for a shark and mash it up with a bear.
“I love going into schools to talk to the kids. It’s one of my favourite parts of the job and a great way of getting instant feedback from them.”
He added that he also enjoyed getting feedback from a parent or teacher to say a child, who previously showed no interest in reading, had become an avid reader after one of his visits.
He said: “It is always very rewarding to know that I have encouraged children to read books.”
Mr Hutchison has also written 36 episodes of the TV comedy series Bottom Knocker Street, starring Phill Jupitus, and has recently started writing for The Beano, including Ball Boy, Gnasher & Gnipper and The Bash Street Kids.
He said: “To describe the whole experience as a dream come true would be a very big understatement indeed.”