Pictish Beast Publications was established in 2011 by Dr Colin D. MacLeod for the sole purpose of publishing a series of academic books aimed at undergraduate and postgraduate students in the biological science which he wanted to write and publish. He decided to go down this route, rather than approaching an existing publisher, because he saw that advances in on-demand and digital printing meant that for such niche products with low potential sales volumes, this was the best way to bring these books to market at an affordable price. In addition, it allowed him to write the books using an approach (called Task Oriented Learning) that is very different from traditional textbooks (which focus on Knowledge Based Learning), but that allowed the readers to rapidly gain practically applicable knowledge and increase their skill levels very quickly. These books, and the approach behind them, proved very successful, and led to an expansion of the original two books into a total of nine by 2017.
With the success of these original books, Colin realised that there was a gap in the market for books that were willing to take a non-traditional approach to educational subjects. This led to the production and publication of The Little Book of Zombie Mathematics: 25 Zombie-based Maths Problems in 2016. This book, based on the Maths With Zombies blog, aimed to encourage an interest in mathematics in those who are often put off by the rather stale nature of traditional maths problems. By creating much more interesting, zombie-based scenarios, this book captured the zombie-zeitgeist and brought maths to people who would have traditionally avoided it. This approach was sufficiently successful that it was recognised as a finalist in the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards in both the Science/Nature/Environment category and the Children’s Juvenile Non-Fiction category.
In 2017, Colin expanded the focus of Pictish Beast Publications into primary education with the release of the first book in the Draw Your Own … series. Starting with Draw Your Own Monsters In My House, these books aim to help primary age children develop and expand their language and word interpretation skills, especially of the evocative ‘wow’ words that help bring writing to life. This is done by providing amusing and interesting descriptions of things like monsters, imaginary animals and fairies and then providing space for the children to draw what they think the creature would look like based on these descriptions. While this is a very simple, low-tech concept, it is one which children still find very appealing, and the success of these books led to the development of two further series (Learning By Drawing and Draw Your Own Encyclopaedia).
The Learning By Drawing series, starting with Amazing Animals Basic Word Types, is aimed at educators who wish to have an alternative resource to help teach children about elements of the English language, such as basic word types, grammar and comparative words. Again this uses the natural love that many children have for drawing to help build their language skills.
By contrast, the Draw Your Own Encyclopaedia series aims to provide a resource for building general knowledge in children, and engaging them by making learning part of their everyday lives. This series started with six books about animals (one each about mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates), which are available for purchase either individually or as a box set. These books contain interesting factual information about their specific subject matter, a range of quick facts, questions to be answered and a pop quiz at the end to test the knowledge gained by working through the book. However, at their core is the drawing element. As well as containing information, each two-page spread provides the space for the reader to draw a specific picture to illustrate the book. In order to complete these drawings, the reader will need to find an example pictures to base their own images on. This can be done by using an internet search engine, which helps children develop the critical information-gathering skills that are essential for success in the modern world.
In the future, Pictish Beast Publications will continue to expand its unique and non-traditional approach to providing high quality materials for all levels of education. This will be done by both continuing the further development of existing series of books and the addition of new books and series. If you agree with our non-traditional approach to educational materials, and you’d like to contribute to any of our existing series or to discuss your own ideas, please click here to read our guidelines for submissions.
While Pictish Beast Publications has primarily focused on publishing broadly educational books, it has also published a small number of non-educational books. this includes fiction for adults (including the For Those In Peril series) and a traditional children’s picture book (Zombies Love Brains). However, these books none-the-less have underlying educational components, in terms of the ideas on which they are based and the concepts they explore.