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Children's & YA

'A Kind of Spark' by Elle McNicoll


Elle McNicoll is a neurodivergent editor, writer and former bookseller who is passionate about authentic neurodiverse representation and #OwnVoices storytelling in fiction, particularly children’s books.

She wrote her debut novel, A Kind of Spark for her eleven-year-old self, and found the courage to finish it after her own Masters dissertation research found that only 0.05% of protagonists in children’s books are neurodivergent.

She wanted the book to offer a positive and honest depiction of being autistic, so that neurodiverse readers could see themselves reflected in the characters but also help neurotypical readers to understand more about neurodiversity.

Elle's second middle-grade novel, Show Us Who You Are, was published 4th March 2021.


What we did

Reaching both neurodiverse and neurotypical readers to ensure learning and discussion was key to our approach. We focussed our strategy on targeting parents, carers, grandparents and teachers and worked closely with Elle to identify key supporters within the autistic community including appropriate charities. Early endorsements and support were secured from Lizzie Huxley-Jones, Dara McAnulty, Autistic Tyla, Purple Ella and Yo Samdy Sam. Copies were widely distributed and placed in reviewer’s hands early ensuring stellar reviews in The Observer, The Guardian, iWeekend and The Week as well as solus Children’s Book of the Week reviews in both the Sunday Times and The Times on the same weekend. The PA Children’s Book of the Week review was syndicated in 28 regional newspapers, and further coverage appeared in The Week Junior, WRD About Books, and Kookie Magazine.

Broadcast support was targeted and online coverage proved key with BookTrust, Books for Keeps, Armadillo, Books for Topics, Just Imagine, School Reading List, Culture Whisper, Book Riot, Culturefly, National Autistic Society, Autistic & Unapologetic, Autistic Girls Network, The Reader Teacher’s #PrimarySchoolBookClub and a 10-date blog tour which tapped into the online community of teachers and librarians.

One of the most high profile debut children’s launches of 2020 (despite bookshops being closed when it launched) A Kind of Spark has remained in the public’s consciousness all year with Blackwell’s selecting it as their overall Book of the Year. Waterstones has chosen it as their October Children’s Book of the Month, and A Kind of Spark has won the 2021 Waterstones Children's book award. and had award nominations for the Blue Peter Book Awards, Books Are My Bag Readers Awards, Branford Boase Award and the prestigious CILIP Carnegie Award 2021. Our campaign was shortlisted for the 2021 Publishers’ Publicity Circle Annual Awards.

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