Saviour Pirotta

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Saviour Pirotta
Saviour Pirotta, children's author.jpg
Saviour Pirotta, children's author, during a school Book Week visit
Born 1958
Occupation author
Nationality British
Genre Children's picture books, poetry, Greek myth, fiction, non-fiction
Notable works The Orchard Book of First Greek Myths, Ancient Greek Mysteries
Years active 1986 - present

Saviour Pirotta (born 1958, Naxxar, Malta) is a British writer of Maltese heritage. He has written children's books, plays and short stories for adults. He is mostly known for the bestselling The Orchard Book of First Greek Myths and the Ancient Greek Mysteries Series for Bloomsbury. [1]


The second of five brothers, Pirotta grew up speaking both English and Maltese. His father, Anthony, is a retired joiner and his mother, née Cini, is a home maker. He attended Naxxar Primary School and later won a scholarship to St Aloysius' College, one of the most prestigious schools on the island. He developed a love of literature early on in life when he discovered the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis,[2] Ian Serraillier's The Silver Sword and R.L. Stevenson's Treasure Island.[3] The author's parents, both extremely devout Catholics, encouraged his writing but discouraged his general interest in the arts [4]and censored most television programmes but Pirotta cites as visual influences on his writing the works of legendary film animator Ray Harryhausen and Alexander Korda. Rare visits to the cinema to watch Biblical epics like Ben Hur and The Ten Commandments were also to prove of lasting influence, which later led to an interest in the sword and sandal genre of movies and historical novels, especially the works of Rosemary Sutcliff.

Career in the UK[edit]

Saviour Pirotta's The Orchard Book of First Greek Myths, illustrated by Jan Lewis

Having finished his secondary education at St. Aloysius, Pirotta enrolled in a hotel management course, but left during the second year, mainly due to bullying from fellow students, although during an interview with a local newspaper two years later he claimed that 'in a world where people are still dying of hunger and fighting for basic human rights, I don't want to waste my life deciding which wine goes with which fish.' He had a variety of jobs while attending a two-year evening course at the Manoel Theatre Academy of Dramatic Arts, Malta's national drama school. While in his second year, he wrote a children's radio play which he sold to a local station for £5. After graduating, he directed various plays at the Manoel Theatre and helped set up Malta's first youth theatre company, for which he adapted and produced several works. By now he had decided that his future lay in writing and in October 1981, he moved to the UK. His first job was directing three short plays for Moonshine Community Arts Workshop in London, an offshoot of Brian Way's pioneering Theatre Centre. He also wrote a children's play based on a Maltese folk tale which toured various venues around London, including the Oval House and Jacksons Lane Community Centre.[5] This brought him to the attention of the Commonwealth Institute, where he worked as a workshop leader and storyteller till 1989 alongside other artists from the Commonwealth including the Guyanese poet John Agard.

The children's play was subsequently published by Samuel French and Pirotta has since concentrated on writing. His first efforts were picture books but he soon moved into non-fiction, specialising in pirates and religious festivals. His Pirates and Treasure, published in the UK, the US, Russia and Sweden in 1995 is widely considered to be the first children's book about sea-robbers with a multi-cultural viewpoint. For a while he also wrote science books for the very young using the pen name Sam Godwin.[6] A Seed in Need – a first look at life cycle of a flower – won him the 1998 English Association Award for best non-fiction picture book. After the success of his next two books, Turtle Bay and The Orchard Book of First Greek Myths, Pirotta decided to write solely under his own name.

Turtle Bay, published by Frances Lincoln in the UK and Farrar, Straus, Giroux in the United States, was selected by members of a book review panel appointed by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and assembled in co-operation with The Children's Book Council (CBC) as a Notable Science Trade Book of 1998. American Bookseller also chose it as one of their fall children's books 'pick of the list'.

He has since concentrated on retelling folktales, producing The Sleeping Princess with illustrator Emma Chichester Clark in 2002; The Orchard Book of First Greek Myths with Jan Lewis in 2003 (both books for Orchard Books, an imprint of Hachette Livre); Aesop's Fables (2006) and Around the World in 80 Tales (2007), both illustrated by Richard Johnson and published by Kingfisher in the UK and the US. In 2008 he performed for the first time at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

He writes in English and his books are produced mainly for the English-speaking market but they have been successfully[clarification needed] published by major companies in various countries, including the United States, Italy, France, Spain, Holland, Portugal, Germany, Rumania, Belgium, Sweden, Brazil, Thailand, Greece, Estonia, Poland, Russia, Indonesia and Korea. In the US, excerpts from his works are often used by homeschoolers and in schools for multiple choice tests.[7]

The author is now a British citizen and lives in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. He is very much committed to empowering children to write and still performs workshops and story-making sessions in schools around the UK. He is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, the SCBWI and the Scattered Authors' Society.

In November 2010, his picture book Firebird was awarded an Aesop Accolade by the American Folklore Society. It shared the honour with Eric A. Kimmel's Joha Makes a Wish: A Middle Eastern Tale and Cloud Tea Monkeys by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham.[8] It also won a Best Book Award from the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio.[9]

In November 2016, The Bookseller announced that Saviour Pirotta and his agents, Pollinger Ltd had signed a contract with Bloomsbury Publishing for a series of middle grade adventure stories set in Ancient Greece.[10] The first title, Mark of the Cyclops, publishes in March 2017.


Pirotta has collaborated with some of the biggest names in children's illustration today, including Emma Chichester Clark, Catherine Hyde, Chris Riddell, Chris Mould, Jan Lewis, Alan Marks, Toni Goffe and Richard Johnson.

Festival appearances[edit]

Pirotta has appeared at the Edinburgh Children's Book Festival, the Northern Children's Book Festival, the Swansea Book Festival, the Scarborough Literary Festival and the Linton Book Festival.

Awards and commendations[edit]

  • The Guardian, Best Children's Books 2016 for Perseus and Medea [QED Publishing]
  • The Guardian, Best Children's Books 2016 for Jason and the Golden Fleece [QED Publishing]
  • The Guardian, Best Children's Books 2016 for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow [QED Publishing]
  • Notable Science Trade Book, National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) & The Children's Book Council for Turtle Bay, 1997
  • English Association Award, Best Non-Fiction Picture Book 1998 for A Seed In Need
  • Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award, Category Books, 2010 for Firebird
  • Aesop Accolade, 2010 for Firebird
  • Mum's Choice Awards gold medal, 2009 for "Fairy Tree House", illustrated by Susanna Lockheart[11]

Selected works[edit]


  • Mark of the Cyclops - An Ancient Greek Mystery, Bloomsbury 2017
  • Secret of the Oracle - An Ancient Greek Mystery, Bloomsbury 2017
  • The Warrior Princess, Fiction Express 2017
  • My Cousin the Minotaur, Fiction Express 2017


  • Storyworld [illustrated by Fiona Small], Blackie & Sons, 1988 [re-issued as Tales From Around the World in 1994]
  • Joy to the World: Christmas Stories from around the Globe [illustrated by Sheila Moxley], Frances Lincoln/Harpercollins, 1998
  • The Sleeping Princess and other Fairy Tales from Grimm [illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark], Orchard Books 2002 [titled The MacElderry Book of Grimm's Fairy Tales in the US]
  • The Orchard Book of First Greek Myths [illustrated by Jan Lewis], Orchard Books, 2003
  • Once upon a World [illustrated by Alan Marks], Watts/Sea to Sea Publications, 2004
  • Aesop's Fables [illustrated by Richard Johnson], Kingfisher 2005
  • Traditional Stories from the Amazon [illustrated by Rebecca Gryspeerdt], Hodder Children's Books 2006
  • Around the World in 80 Tales [illustrated by Richard Johnson], Kingfisher 2007
  • Children's Stories from the Bible [illustrated by Ian Andrew and Anne Yvonne Gilbert], Templar 2008
  • The Giant Book of Giants, Egmont Books, October 2011
  • The Orchard Book of Grimm's Fairytales,[illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark] Orchard Books, November 2011[12]
  • The Buccaneering Book of Pirates, Frances Lincoln, October 2013
  • Greek Myths, [US only], Sterling Publishing, April 2015
  • The Orchard Book of Grimm's Fairy Tales - Deluxe edition, Orchard Books, 2015 [3 September 2015]
  • The Ghosts Who Danced, Frances Lincoln, [3 September 2015]
  • Orchard Ballet Stories for Young Children [illustrated by Brigette Barrager], Orchard Books, 2016.
  • The Talking Bird, [illustrated by Louise Pigott], harpercollins, 2017


  • First Greek Myths, ten books [illustrated by Jan Lewis], Orchard Books, March 2008/2010
  • Grimm's Fairy Tales, eight books [illustrated by Cecilia Johansson], Orchard Books, March 2012/ paperback January 2013


  • Solomon's Secret [illustrated by Helen Cooper], Methuen/Dial 1989
  • Do You Believe in Magic? 1990
  • Little Bird [illustrated by Steve Butler], Frances Lincoln/Tambourine 1992
  • Turtle Bay [illustrated by Nilesh Mistry], Frances Lincoln/Farrar Straus Giroux, 1998 [re-issued as Turtle Watch, 2008]
  • Patrick Paints a Picture [illustrated by Linz West], Frances Lincoln 2008
  • Firebird [illustrated by Catherine Hyde], Templar September 2010/paperback, 2014
  • George and the Dragon, Harpercollins, [1 September 2015]


  1. ^ "Biography". Author's official website. Retrieved 17 March 2010. 
  2. ^ Life, Words for (2017-03-02). "Words for Life - Saviour Pirotta". Retrieved 2017-03-04. 
  3. ^ "Education". Education. Retrieved 2017-03-04. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Saviour Pirotta". Children's Discovery Centre. Retrieved 17 March 2010. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ New York State Test Questions Tricky for 3rd Graders, and Maybe Some Adults - The New York Times
  8. ^ American Folklore Society Aesop Prize and Aesop Accolades
  9. ^ Oppenheim Toy Portfolio: Firebird
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^

External links[edit]