UCL Alumni


Award-winning book by UCL alumna made into TV series

2 May 2023

Elle McNicoll’s debut book 'A Kind of Spark' has been adapted into a children’s TV drama.

Image of alumni author Elle McNicoll

Winner of the Blue Peter Book Award, the Overall Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and Blackwell’s Book of 2020, A Kind of Spark, the trailblazing book by Elle McNicoll (MA Publishing 2019), has been brought to screens in a live action series.

A Kind of Spark, which is now streaming on BBC iPlayer and CBBC, tells the inspirational story of autistic teenager Addie. When Addie learns about the witch trials that happened centuries ago in her hometown of Juniper, she knows that there’s more to the story of these ‘witches’, just as there is more to her own.    

Elle, who is neurodivergent herself, co-wrote the screenplay and was involved in all stages of creating the TV series. She said in an interview with the Guardian: “It’s not a story about being diagnosed with autism or people ‘suffering’ with autism, which I’m very against, it’s a story about a girl who is on a mission.” 

All the autistic characters from the book are played by autistic actors, and many of the wider cast and crew are neurodivergent. Elle revealed: “I said to the BBC, it has to be autistic-led. There’s this expression: ‘Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusivity is being asked to dance’. But what if we threw the party? What if it was our party?”.  

While studying at UCL from 2018-2019, Elle wrote her dissertation on on why the children’s publishing industry needs more neurodiversity. Her research, which highlighted the lack of disability representation in children’s books, inspired Elle to write A Kind of Spark. Elle is now an advocate for better representation of neurodiversity and disability in publishing and the media and founded The Adrien Prize, to recognise children’s fiction that explores the disability experience. 

Elle’s second novel, Show Us Who You Are, was published in March 2021 and her latest novel, Like A Charm, was published in February 2022.