A book which was inspired by children at Grindleton Primary school in Clitheroe will now become part of a trilogy, as author, Sophie Stewart begins to pen her next two children’s novels.

The Best Kept Secret, which has been loved far and wide including by Nigel Evans MP and the late Queen Elizabeth II, has been on shelves since September and has already been well received by many children across East Lancashire.

It tells the story of how a constant plume of smoke in the skies above the Ribble Valley is fuelling rumours a local factory is the lair of a legendary dragon, born of magic over four hundred years ago; when King James I ruled the land, and the Lancashire witches ruled the air.

It is set in and around Clitheroe in the Ribble Valley, and inspired by the Pendle witches, folklore, and urban legend. 

As the book has been so well received it is now on its fourth print run and Sophie is excited to visit more schools and bring out her next two novels.

Lancashire Telegraph: Sophie StewartSophie Stewart (Image: Sophie Stewart)

Sophie said: “The book has been very well received.

“When I first sowed the seeds for the book on social media back in 2021, explaining the backstory, I received an overwhelming response.

“Parents and grandparents told of their own explanation for the cement factory smoke - Banes Robot, or cloud makers, Penny machines, as their dad went there to make money and were thrilled to now have an official explanation 'Our Kid', the captive dragon! 

“The book is now on the fourth reprint since September, and I have to restock the local stores regularly.

“From September to November 2022 I visited seven schools in as many weeks.

Lancashire Telegraph: The Best Kept Secret by Sophie StewartThe Best Kept Secret by Sophie Stewart (Image: Sophie Stewart)

“This term I have author visits to schools in Stalybridge, Burnley and Colne pencilled in for March to coincide with World Book Day and interest from schools nationwide.

“The illustrator Eli John and I attended a book ‘signing and doodling' at Clitheroe Castle last year and we have another planned for WH Smith in Clitheroe early this year. 

“The book although meant for children, was written with adults in mind, for example the ingredients in the spell are all the local pub names.

“The children's response to the book has, by far, been the most humbling, watching their faces when the baby dragon emerges from the cauldron, dripping in slime; listening to them laugh and giggle as they don their costumes and read their lines and hearing from their parents how they are now inspired to write their own books.

Lancashire Telegraph: Illustrations inside the book by Eli JohnIllustrations inside the book by Eli John (Image: Sophie Stewart)

“But above all I find it utterly delightful that some children believe the story.

“The Best Kept Secret is a trilogy. Part one is currently on the shelves, parts two and three are in progress, release dates to be confirmed.”

Sophie said her book was inspired by children at Grindleton Primary School and their artwork is now incorporated in the trilogy.

She said: "Initially just written for fun, and whilst it was still a short poem, the children at Grindleton read the first draft of 'The Dragon Tower'.

"The children's enthusiasm and imagination inspired me to develop the story further and sowed the seed for 'The Best-Kept Secret Trilogy'.

"Their contribution was invaluable and as such, incorporated within the book is the artwork the children at Grindleton Primary created after hearing the story for the first time, combined with the professional illustrators work." 

Lancashire Telegraph: llustrations within the book are by students from Grindleton Primary Schoolllustrations within the book are by students from Grindleton Primary School (Image: Sophie Stewart)

Sophie Stewart is a southerner by birth but has lived with her family in the Ribble Valley for some time.

The Best Kept Secret was written by Sophie and illustrated by Eli John who has also worked on books for Stephen King, the book was designed by Nathaniel Hébert.

The Best-Kept Secret is available to purchase at over five stores in Clitheroe including The Platform Gallery, Clitheroe Castle Museum and WHSmith and online at stonehillpress.co.uk

The e-version can also be found on Amazon.