Larbert dad publishes picture book for his children

Proud dad...Mark Philliban is delighted to be able to read his very own picture book to his two sons, one year old Connor and four and a half year old Max. (Pic: Michael Gillen)
Proud dad...Mark Philliban is delighted to be able to read his very own picture book to his two sons, one year old Connor and four and a half year old Max. (Pic: Michael Gillen)

Two wee boys in Falkirk have a new bedtime picture book to enjoy – illustrated and written by their dad.

Aisling’s Imagination: The Rocket Ship was first published on Amazon on April 23.

Clever title...Aisling, translated from its Irish roots, aptly means daydreamer. The book was both written and illustrated by Larbert dad Mark Philliban.

Clever title...Aisling, translated from its Irish roots, aptly means daydreamer. The book was both written and illustrated by Larbert dad Mark Philliban.

But Max and Connor Philliban, from the Inches in Larbert, already know the story well – as their dad Mark is its author!

It’s a far cry from their dad’s day job as a risk credit control manager with the Royal Bank of Scotland in Edinburgh.

So how did he come up with the concept?

The 36-year-old said: “We have a lot of picture books in the house.

“My wife Linsey runs a childminding business from home and we also read books to our wee boys, Max and Connor.

“Bedtime can be a bit stressful for parents and a story is always usually part of the routine.

“Reading them stories, night after night, you tend to become knowledgeable about their favourites and what’s not so good.

“You also develop your own favourites – and dread some that are too long, slow or bland which send you to sleep yourself!

“Sometimes they pick one and you’re thinking: ‘Oh no, please get something else!

“It can be really quite tricky to find a picture book that appeals to both children and adults.

“I felt I could pull together text for a picture book that would appeal to children and their parents too.”

So in October 2015, that’s exactly what Mark set about doing. Within three months, he had written two stories.

He then spent almost a year trying to get an agent interested.

However, when no offers were made, the determined dad realised he would have to illustrate the book himself if he ever wanted to see it on the book shelves.

Luckily, the former Larbert High School pupil always had a flair for art.

He explained: “I spent from August last year until March this year drawing the pictures at night.

“With a full time job and two children, that meant about an hour a night!

“Initially, it was about creating a book for my children but doing it to a standard that wouldn’t look out of place with other books of its genre.

“Now that Amazon has accepted it and it’s out there, though, I want to push it a wee bit to see how it goes.

“The main issue is getting the book seen by people who don’t know you.

“It’s easy for Julia Donaldson, whose picture books are a big hit in our house, but not so easy when you’re self-publishing!”

Mark has already tested the book out on his unsuspecting family.

He said: “I got my parents John and Heather and Linsey’s parents Alana and Peter Wotherspoon to read it to Max – but they didn’t know it was my book.

“I hadn’t told anyone that I was doing it so I just wanted to see what they honestly thought of it.

“I thought one of them might spot my name on the front cover but even though my dad studied it for about seven seconds, he never saw my name!

“Luckily, they all liked it and Max wanted them to read it to him again.

“In fact, Max is becoming my publicist – he’s been jumping up and down telling everyone about it!”

Given that Aisling’s Imagination was written for him, it’s only fair we asked for Max’s view.

The four and a half year old said: “I love the book dad has written for me.

“I like the planets and bear the best.”

And Mark’s wife Linsey, who was the only one in on the big secret, added: “I’m so proud to see Mark’s hard work pay off.

“The book is now a firm favourite in our house.”

His parents John (snr) and Heather and brother John (jnr) are also quite rightly proud of his work.

But he is now hoping to attract more rave reviews – from people who are not related to him!

He said: “I was pretty encouraged that they all thought the book was okay – before they realised it was me who had written it.

“The book is printed on demand so it’s not like I have tens of thousands of copies lying around somewhere.

“It is printed as and when people order it so it was a low cost option – although I did have to buy an Apple pencil to do the drawings.

“I just hope parents reading the article will give it a try and see if their wee ones like it too.”

Mark also had to buy ten ISBN barcodes to print the book – meaning he has another nine going spare.

He added: “I’ll definitely be using them all so there will be more Aisling adventures ... and others!”

Aisling’s Imagination: The Rocket Ship is available from Amazon, priced £5.99.