Papa the Stock Farmer
Papa the Stock Farmer

In the press

Edinburgh Book Review

What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s a question many children hear and one which, as far as I can remember at least, conjured up fantastical ideas of exotic jobs and reveries of a rose-tinted future. From astronaut to gymnast to vet, I imagined myself doing anything and everything, but, of course, only the good parts of the job. Becoming an astronaut without needing to understand physics; gymnastics without the strenuous diet and exercise regimes; and vet without the need to examine scary looking dogs.

Sean the Actor is the third book in Mairi McLellan clever series in which she turns this traditional question on its head and asks instead, from a child’s perspective, “What do the grown-ups do?

Told from the point of view of two girls living in the Highlands of Scotland, this book has McLellan’s young characters finding out about the life of an actor. After briefly introducing her characters – which makes Sean the Actor a stand-alone read as well as part of the series – the children’s task of “investigating grown-up jobs” is carried out by means of an interview in which the two girls ask actor Sean questions about his job, ranging from “how do you become and actor?” to “if there are lots of cameras, how do you know which one to look at?

The questions are well thought out and, importantly, written as if a child could be asking them; read like a genuine conversation and followed through smoothly; and providing a good all-round introduction to what an actor does.

McLellan’s eye for detail is also evident in Sean’s answers which are again realistically phrased, and manage to strike the balance between addressing the children at their level without patronising them (and therefore her readers). Importantly, both the good and bad points of being an actor are addressed, giving readers a balanced account and lending the book great educational value. It also makes use of photographs rather than illustrations throughout, which works well as they emphasise the book’s factual nature, as well as really bringing the story to life. Yet, despite being educational, McLellan manages to retain a sense of humour throughout the book, making it enjoyable and easy to read as well as informative.

Sean the Actor is therefore a valuable addition both to Mairi McLellan’s well thought-out series, and to children’s non-fiction writing in general, providing an entertaining and educational guide to the life and career path of an actor. One thing’s for certain; if this book is anything to go by, I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

The Mad House family are back for a review of Sean the Actor.  The reviewer is obviously a long term fan and who can blame her - he is a handsome lad!

Kids book review

Review by Iain P W Robertson

Earlier this year, I reviewed the first two books of a new series for children, with an overview title of What Do The Grown-ups Do?. To say that I was totally enamoured by them is something of an understatement. I always feel that the ultimate test lies in how one’s own children treat such reading materials.


Having bought some beautiful leather-bound copies of the Works of Shakespeare and an entire series of Charles Dickens, at Christmas, for them both to share, I was watching how they would react to something, somewhat less ‘high-brow’. For almost three months, they have dipped in and out of the ‘expensive’ books, mostly to satisfy my desire for them to comprehend the ‘classics’, for which I make no apology. 


However, the ‘What do’ series seems to have sparked a different sense of fun in them. They have read the stories about the Mackenzie children and their adventures in the West Highlands village of Badaneel, from the other pair of books, ‘Joe the Fisherman’ and ‘Papa the Stockfarmer’. While they could almost recite the stories verbatim, they have continued to pick them up and read them again and again.


When I asked them, if they were enjoying the books, they were unequivocal in their praise of them. In fact our daughter even lent ‘Papa’ to next door’s children but popped back within three days to request its immediate return! On such evidence, I have to state that Mairi McLellan, the author, has managed to achieve a level of literary ‘magic’ that perhaps only the good Dr Seuss (Theodore Geisel) might have mastered many years earlier than she.


The latest issue deals with Sean the Actor, who will be familiar to a lot of children of various ages, since the younger Mr Maguire commenced his acting career in BBC TV’s ‘Grange Hill’, in 1988, at the age of 11 years. Playing the part of ‘Tegs’ Ratcliffe, the Essex-born actor left the series in 1992 and went on to Hollywood to make movies.


The happy coincidence of his appearance in Badaneel, where he had location filmed a recent production, ‘Songs For Amy’, provided further impetus to Mairi, as she developed her book series. This one reads every bit as fluently as the other two, although I retain my slight criticism of the retail cost, which I still believe to be too expensive for children to buy. Yet, as stated before, I have no issue with the delightfully worded text, the quality of the photographs, or the books’ abilities to engage with children so succinctly.

"Emphasising the importance of work, these books are fantastic for exploring ‘grown-up’ jobs from a child’s point-of-view. All children love asking questions, and this non-fiction book will not disappoint any child's curiosity!" - Sprouts Magazine

Sean the Actor

Review by Joanna Britland


Have you ever wondered what it takes to be an actor? What are the working hours like? How do actors get cast in roles for tv and films? In Mairi McLellan’s new book, ‘Sean the Actor,’ we go on a journey to find out exactly what an actor does.


Ava, Skye and Gracie, are very inquisitive young girls who live in the Highlands of Scotland who want to find out all about the world of acting and luckily for them Sean Maguire is filming in their hometown. Our story begins as the three girls go and visit him on set to ask him some questions about his job as an actor.


Sean Maguire is described by the girls as having a ‘friendly face’ and throughout the book he answers their questions honestly. This book manages to show acting in a realistic light rather than all the glitz and glamour we are sometimes led to believe acting is. Interestingly, Sean says the worse part of his job as an actor is the ‘unpredictability,’ explaining that you never quite know what your next job is going to be. Sean describes his job as hard work but throughout the book the reader can sense how much he really loves his job. Not once does Sean come across negatively about his chosen career – instead he gives great advice about how you should always educate yourself and the importance of always learning and improving your craft.


The pictures throughout the book of Sean on set, playing guitar and at a film festival give great visual aids to the interview. The variety of photos shows how varied Sean’s job really is. This book is targeted at a younger audience but dare I say it I believe even adults interested in acting would find it useful. Whilst the book is in story format, it is also factual, based on a real place and written about real people which gives it a slightly more ‘grown up’ feel.


If you’re a young performer wanting to know all about life on set then Sean the Actor is a down to earth, honest account of life as an actor. Sean has the ability to put an honest spin on his job without putting people off following their dreams. Sean Maguire comes across as an intelligent, passionate, friendly and approachable actor who really knows his stuff – and the fact he has a ‘friendly face’ is just the icing on the cake!

Press & Journal 19th March 2014

A lovely review from themadhousefamily, who were voted in the Top 20 UK parent blogs for 2013. Read the reviews for Joe the Fisherman and Papa the Stockfarmer here:

star rating 4.5/5

Many thanks, Cheryl for taking the time to review x

Adobe Acrobat document [86.9 KB]

Calum MacLeod, Ross-shire Journal

Review of Joe the fisherman and Papa the stockfarmer.

Full article available for PDF download below.

Ross-shire Journal_1Feb2014 copy.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [1.5 MB]

“What makes these books noteworthy are the practical details from the mouths of the real workers, which fascinate rather than bore.  It’s eye-opening stuff.”
Teach Primary magazine.

“This series is a great way of demystifying the grown-ups’ world for children.  I look forward to the next few titles.”
Mike Gartside, Editor, Primary Times (Avon).

for parents of under 11s


"What Sprouts loves about these books is how they do not dictate to the young reader. Instead, they allow young minds to explore ideas through children's questions. Quite simply they're fantastic educational books that won't fail to fascinate and entertain all readers!"


Link to article:

Adobe Acrobat document [501.9 KB]

Lucy Lowndes from

Review of Papa the stockfarmer


“This is a lovely educational book, full of lots of facts and information about farmers, cows and sheep. The quality of the book is 5/5 with its glossy cover and well printed pages.This book is packed full of information from beginning to end. My daughter is almost 9 and we read it together, taking it in turns to read the pages. We both have thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and we have both learnt a lot about the farming industry. Overall this is a great educational book, which I would recommend to any parent/teacher wanting their child to learn about farming.”


Rating: 5/5

“What brilliant books to help create a mindset for children. My girls would never have seen a calf being born nor have they ever ‘baited a line’. They found these books very interesting and informative and I enjoyed reading with them. I would highly recommend them for every boy and girl from the age of 5 and up.”

Pampered presents review.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [6.0 MB]

It's a boy thing

"What grown-ups do can sometimes be a bit of a mystery to kids - just try asking your young children what they think you do at work all day! So Mairi McLellan has produced a series of books that try to explain a number of jobs, through the eyes of three young children. What do the Grown-Ups Do? are all based in the Highlands, and the first couple of books that we have seen cover the rural jobs of stockfarmer and fisherman.
Mclellan has avoided making them fluffy rural tales by using real-life photos and going into detail about topics such as vaccinating against bovine TB and sustainable fishing. If you're reading these to your kids you might even learn a thing or two!"

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