The story behind the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival

Following on from last week’s blog post about the inaugural Barnes Children’s Literature Festival – which takes place on Saturday 25 April – I’ve finally managed to catch up with its organiser, the delightful Amanda Brettargh.  It’s all systems go at Festival HQ so I’m grateful to Amanda for finding time in her hectic schedule to talk to me.

Image of Amanda Brettargh

Amanda Brettargh

poster of Barnes Children's Literature Festival

Click to see what’s on and book tickets!

I believe that Barnes will become both a destination and an inspiration for book lovers everywhere.”

Karen:

We’re all hugely excited about the upcoming kidslitfest in Barnes!  I’m sure that my readers – children, parents, teachers and librarians, not to mention children’s authors – would love to know the story behind the festival, so here are a few questions.

What gave you the idea for the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival?

Amanda:

“In my day to day life I am a freelance book publicist and I have a media consultancy that specialises in publishing. All of my clients are small to medium sized independent publishers and part of my job is to organise the appearance of their authors and illustrators at festivals everywhere. From this I have had first hand experience of the importance of these events on book sales. So when I used to push my buggy around beautiful Barnes Pond every day, every day I would think: they should have a literature festival here! Of course, we also have one of London’s best independent bookshops in Barnes (The Barnes Bookshop) and I believe that any community that supports its own bookshop deserves to have its own festival.”

Here’s Barnes Pond, just in case you didn’t see the last blog post 🙂

Image of pond and park - Barnes

Barnes Pond

This is a ticketed event  – £5 per performance –  in aid of local children’s charities. Have you chosen which will be benefiting?

“The Barnes Children’s Literature Festival is a community event and thanks to Barnes Bookshop a percentage of all books sold on the day, together with the profit from ticket sales will be donated to Barnes children’s charities, which include local primary school libraries, Barnes Brownies and Guides and St Mary Barnes Cubs and Scouts.”

You’ve managed to pull together an amazing line up of authors and illustrators – how easy was that to do? You seem to have some excellent connections!

“It’s true that through my own work I already had some contacts among the agents and in the various publishing houses and, in general, I think they were very positive when I approached them. The head of publicity for one of the largest children’s presses even said to me: ‘Barnes! The perfect place for it!'”

What are your hopes for the festival in the future? Can we expect this to be an annual event?

“I am planning for this to be an annual event in the same way that Bath has its children’s literature festival every year. With our magnificent location, our strong literary heritage and sense of community we are going to strive to present a literary experience like no other.

“I have said that when you come to Barnes you will find some of children’s literature’s best known names as well as a few special treats that you will be unlikely to see at festivals anywhere else.

Image of A Bit Lost picture book

Barnes Kidslitfest will host the UK premiere of the stage production this award-winning picture book

“This year we are opening our festival with the UK premiere of the stage production of Chris Haughton’s beautiful picture book, ‘A Bit Lost’ by the Boulevard Theatre from Stockholm .

“I believe that Barnes will become both a destination and an inspiration for book lovers everywhere.”

Do you have your own children? Did they have in say in helping you decide who to include in the line-up?

“I have ten year old twin girls who are at Barnes Primary School. This Festival has been a real family affair and we’ve had plenty of sorting and stuffing and stickering and folding and leafletting – you name it! They also had great pleasure in putting together a list of authors that they would love to see come to Barnes. At the top of it was Jeff Kinney, closely followed by David Walliams, and I’ve said to them: ‘Next year!'”

What do you do when you’re not organising children’s literature festivals?

“I very much regret that the demands of my media consultancy, as well as becoming a launching festival organiser – not to mention my ten year old twins –  leave me little time for my favourite occupations, reading and sleeping!”

Finally, I can’t help noticing your warm southern hemisphere accent – are you from Australia by any chance?  (If so, how do you cope with the weather over here?!)

“Yes, I’m Australian. We have been here for twelve years and my children were born here. When I walk around Richmond Park, even when it’s tipping it down, I think, ‘I could never leave!'”

My thanks to Amanda for sharing her story with us. And how wonderful that someone from so far afield has helped bring the first ever Children’s Literature Festival to Barnes!

Click here to see what’s on and buy tickets

Barnes Children's Litfest Home page

Barnes Children’s Literature Festival – click to check what’s on

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See you at the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival!

I’m thrilled to be appearing at the inaugural Barnes Children’s Literature Festival, which takes place on Saturday 25 April in southwest London. If you have children and live in London or within reach of Barnes don’t miss what promises to be a fantastic event – read on to find out more!

Barnes Children’s Literature Festival

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 19.09.32

Barnes Children’s Literature Festival – click to visit the website

As you may be able to see from above, the Barnes Children’s Literature festival – organised by book publicist and local mum of two girls, Amanda Brettargh – includes a fantastic line-up of award-winning authors for children of all ages.

Barnes village lies a mile or so south of Hammersmith Bridge. It’s a lovely place to spend the day – we have our very own duck pond and village green, plenty of cafes, delis, family-friendly pubs and restaurants, the river Thames at the top of the high street and one of the coolest cinemas in London – on which more below!

Barnes pond, Barnes, London SW13

Barnes Pond – Barnes village is a five-minute bus ride south of Hammersmith Bridge

 So who will be there …?

Well, here are just a few tasters… (you’ll find a link to the full programme below)

  • Multi-award-winning picture-book author, Chris Haughton – not only will he be bringing his fabulous picture books to life at his own session, there’s also the UK  premiere of the stage production of his award-winning picture book  ‘A Bit Lost’
  • Picture book illustrator Alex Scheffler – of Gruffalo fame – say no more!
  • Abbie Longstaff – author of The Fairytale Hairdresser series
  • Sally Gardner –award winning author of ‘Maggot Moon’ – at the festival she’ll be talking about what makes a good detective and her fairy detective series ‘Wings & Co’
  • Author-illustrator David Mackintosh – who’ll be drawing as well as reading from his latest book ‘Lucky’
  • Marcia Williams – author of the acclaimed  ‘Archie’s War’ – a child’s scrapbook of the First World War
  • Jim Smith – author of ‘I am not a loser’ series
  • Piers Torday – introducing his new novel ‘The Wild Beyond’ – the final in his trilogy
  • Horrible Histories® illustrator Martin Brown
  • Britain’s favourite poet and local resident Roger McGough who has even penned a poem for the festival!

There will also be book-to-film cinema events curated by Guardian film critic, Danny Leigh, at the ultra cool Olympic Studios. And Julia Eccleshare, children’s books editor of The Guardian, will be interviewing teenage author Helena Coggan.

For my own part, I’ll be introducing 7-10 year-olds to my popular graphic novel Eeek! The Runaway Alien – you can find out more about my session here

The above really is just a samplesee the full programme and book tickets here. (All ticket sale proceeds go to charity.)

Front cover of Eeek! The Runaway Alien

Voted favourite book club read three years in a row by boys & girls locally!

Charlie opens his door to an alien

Charlie opens his door to an alien

With thanks to my local bookshops and schools

Needless to say I’m both proud and honoured to be part of the festival. Those of you who follow my writers’ blog will know that I regularly take my books into schools in southwest London and have hosted many signing events in local bookshops and Waterstones – all of whom have been incredibly receptive and have stocked my books from the outset, often placing them face-out with shelf-talkers that I supply.

So I’d like to say thank you to the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival – and to southwest London yet again – for giving me this next opportunity to raise my profile. And thank you to my local bookshops, notably The Barnes Bookshop (through which my festival sales will pass), Sheen Books, Wimbledon Books and seven branches of Waterstones in southwest London. Also thanks to so many local schools for having me in and to the local press for so often sharing my stories. But most of all, thank you to my young readers, both near and far for buying and enjoying my stories!

Barnes Bookshop

The Barnes Bookshop – with Eeek! poster in the window during the World Cup 🙂

More inaugural book festivals during April

Can’t get enough of books? Here are two more new literature festivals for your diary if you live or work around London or in Gloucestershire!

  • The unstoppable author, speaker and PR consultant Debbie Young is hosting the inaugural Hawkesbury Upton Literary Festival on World Book Night 23 April – don’t miss this wonderful village event which has an impressive roll-call of authors and speakers and will centre around the village pub! If you live in or around the Gloucestershire area it promises to be extremely special!

This year in particular certainly seems to have sprung a new breed of literature festival – so here’s to bookshops, litfest organisers and authors themselves for helping reshape the future of book selling in this fast-changing world. I’m sure we all agree that these changes are for everyone’s benefit – author, reader and bookseller alike.

Getting to Barnes

If you’re on public transport it’s a five-minute bus ride or 20-minute walk from Hammersmith Tube, or a five-minute walk from Barnes or Barnes Bridge over-ground stations. If you’re driving you’ll find parking in the streets a few minutes walk away from the immediate central village area.

Click here to view the full programme and book tickets to the
Barnes Children’s Literature Festival

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Henry Haynes and the Great Escape gets off to a flying start!

It’s just eight weeks since I released Henry Haynes and the Great Escape – my fast-paced chapter book for ages 6-8 about a boy who falls inside his library book after complaining that it’s boring.  And I’m thrilled to report that I’m already well into my second box! This means that over 100 children have now either read or are currently reading or due to read Henry’s story.

As with all of my books, what really heartens me about this is knowing that the imaginary world I created is being enjoyed and shared by so many children, just as I had hoped and dreamed that it would be. For a writer, there’s nothing to beat that feeling!

Henry’s early journey to meet his first readers follows three school visits and two book signing events since publication. One book signing was held in Waterstones, Putney on 14 June and another at the delightful Wimbledon Books this Saturday, 21 June. This last event co-coincided with Wimbledon Village Fair. There was a great buzz all around the village and on the common – especially with Wimbledon tennis starting this week too. One little boy who bought Henry Haynes had already had his photo taken in another shop with one of the tennis stars!

Image of Wimbledon Books, bookshop

The delightful Wimbledon Books in Wimbledon Village – just off Wimbledon Common

Image of children's author Karen Inglis sitting at signing table at Wimbledon Bookshop

At Wimbledon Books – it was one of the hottest days of the year so I was glad to be by the open door!

Henry escapes up to Leamington Spa!

Prior to the signings I took Henry Haynes into three schools. One of these visits took me up to Milverton Primary in Leamington Spa – a delightful primary school attended by a friend’s daughter, Martha, who very kindly acted as my first beta (‘test’) reader back in December.

The visit to Milverton Primary couldn’t have gone more smoothly and the children were an absolute delight. Here’s a picture of Sasha, one of Henry’s fans from Year 4 at Milverton.

Image of boy reading Henry Haynes and the Great Escape

Sasha – from Yr 4 at Milverton enjoying Henry Haynes and the Great Escape

Thank you to Sasha and his parents for allowing me to use this photo!

Early feedback and pre-publication nerves….

Asking for early feedback on your book while it’s still in manuscript form is always nerve-wracking, as any writer will tell you. And what makes it worse is the waiting, which is often when doubts start to bubble up. But people are busy and rarely able to read your work right away, so the waiting is something you just have to learn to live with.

So when I emailed the manuscript of Henry Haynes and the Great Escape to Martha’s mother, I honestly didn’t expect to hear back for a few weeks, especially as it was in the lead-up to Christmas. In fact I didn’t even suggest an ideal turnaround time. Imagine, then, my delight, to receive an email back that very same evening to say Martha had refused to turn out the light until she had finished the story – and had loved it! She then insisted on reading it to her grandmother the following weekend!

Pre-publication nerves are very common – and I’ve experienced them with each of my books. (I was so nervous about The Secret Lake before its first library reading that I almost cancelled the event! Almost 6,000 sales later, and with rafts of great reviews both here and in the USA, I now know that I needn’t have worried!)

I should add that Martha was able to provide some really useful feedback to do with some of the characters’ names – and to point out where I’d made a mistake with who said and thought what 🙂  Thank you Martha!

And it seems Martha hasn’t been the only one to want to race through Henry’s story! Here’s a screenshot of a tweet message I received from a parent on the evening of my Putney Waterstones signing on 14 June:

Feedback received about Henry Haynes via Twitter

Image of a tweet

Tweet received following my Putney Waterstones signing

I’m looking forward to sharing Henry Haynes with more school children in coming weeks and months. Please do get in touch if you’d like me to visit your school – you can read more about my school visits here: I have four books which cover from Reception up to Year 4.

And if you’re looking for a summer read for your 6-8 year-old you can order your copy of Henry Haynes and the Great Escape online or from your local bookshop who should be able to get it in for you within a few days  🙂  In southwest London it’s stocked by Waterstones in Putney, Wimbledon Books, The Barnes Bookshop and Sheen Books. RRP is £4.99.

Happy reading!

Karen

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The Secret Lake revisits Notting Hill

I’ve done quite a few school visits in recent weeks – but one in particular had special significance for me. This was a day spent at Norland Place School in Notting Hill – the area in London that first inspired the story of my time travel adventure, The Secret Lake.

Norland Place School - Notting Hill

Norland Place School – Notting Hill

If you’re not familiar with Notting Hill, much of this part of west London is made up of tall and elegant terraced Victorian houses that back onto vast communal gardens for the owners’ shared use. (If you’ve seen the film ‘Notting Hill’ with Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant you’ll know what I’m talking about – I think the pair hop over a communal garden fence at one stage to steal time in one of the gardens!)

View back to houses from communal gardens - Notting Hill

Notting Hill houses – most are now apartments

Most of the Notting Hill communal garden houses have now been converted into apartments. Those on the ground floor have direct access to the gardens from their own patio gardens – other residents have a key for access via a separate gate.

Patio garden within a communal garden

Ground floor apartments have patio gardens

Inspiration for The Secret Lake

The Secret Lake came about after some friends moved to one of these Notting Hill apartments many years ago when our children were around age five and seven. The moment we walked out into the gardens I was struck by their magical atmosphere. The sound of twigs cracking underfoot echoed all around as children raced across the woodland lawns playing chase, or hide and seek, while others (often younger) huddled inside bushes, making secret dens.

Exploring the gardens and seeing these children lost in their imaginary worlds brought back memories of my own childhood and the freedom I had growing up in the Continue reading

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Children vote for ‘Eeek!’ in World Cup run-up!

Update 9 June 2018

With the World Cup coming around again it feels timely to re-share this post about Eeek! The Runaway Alien – my popular chapter book for ages 7-10 about an alien who runs away to Earth for the World Cup. It continues to be one of my best sellers at school events – with over 150 new readers ordering copies during World Book Day week in 2018.  If you’re looking for a laugh-out-loud funny page turner with an unexpected twist (sshh — don’t tell the kids!) you’re in the right place!

Below is the post that I wrote a few years ago. Click or tap here to read reviews or order on Amazon UK.

I’m thrilled to report that Eeek! has been voted favourite Book Club read by Year 3 boys and girls at a local primary school not once, not twice, but three times!

Eeek book - photo

Fun and fast-paced – for 7-10 yrs

St Elizabeth’s Catholic Primary School in Richmond, Surrey, ordered 22 copies of Eeek! for their book club soon after it came out. It has evidently been working its magic on the children ever since – including with the most reluctant readers.

Interior pictures from Eeek! The Runaway Alien

Eeek – the alien who ran away to Earth for the World Cup

I was invited to spend the day at St Elizabeth’s as part of their World Book Day celebrations in March. The school had themed its World Book Day celebrations around aliens – making my visit all the more apt!

Interview with Hannah Parker – librarian at St Elizabeth’s Primary

It was a hectic day at St Elizabeth’s, but I was grateful to Hannah Parker, St Elizabeth’s librarian, for finding a few minutes in the staffroom at lunchtime to conduct a mini-interview about the school book club – and Eeek!

St Elizabeth’s school book club sounds like a great idea. Can you tell me a bit about its aims, who attends and how often it takes place?

At the moment I run five book clubs across the Juniors, with between 10 and 15 children in each group. Membership is entirely voluntary, and we meet during one lunchtime each month to discuss that month’s book. The club’s aim is to support literacy and encourage a love of reading by allowing children to choose a book and read it as a group – partly in school and partly at home – and then discuss it in a relaxed and informal setting. The children share their thoughts and ideas and then choose the book they wish to read for the subsequent month.

Eeek! by Freddie - a Book Club fan :-)

Eeek! by Freddie – a Book Club fan 🙂

I’m thrilled to hear that Eeek! has proven so popular with the children – clearly all that hard work has paid off! Can you tell me more about their feedback?

This is the third year of using Eeek! in our Year 3 book club (we ordered 22 copies soon after it was published in 2012) and of course this year is especially fun as we have the World Cup coming up in June! Each year, without exception, Eeek! has been voted Year 3’s favourite book club book. Significantly, it’s just as popular with the girls as it is with the boys.

What is it that the children particularly enjoy about it?

Quite a lot really! They love the humour – and the relationship between Charlie and Eeek! They also love how Charlie and his best friend, Jake manage to pass Eeek! off as Charlie’s Continue reading

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New children’s book: Henry Haynes and The Great Escape

I’m delighted to announce that my latest children’s book Henry Haynes and The Great Escape – a graphic novel for ages 6-8 is finally out. This fun, fast-paced page-turner with short chapters is aimed at early readers from age 6 as well as slighter older ones looking for a quick and entertaining read. It also includes the first two chapters of Eeek! The Runaway Alien – my popular graphic novel for age 7-10 years in which an alien runs away to Earth for the World Cup!

Henry Haynes and The Great Escape book cover

Click to buy on Amazon

Here’s the all-important back cover blurb 🙂

Henry Haynes and The Great Escape back cover image and blurb

Fun and fast-paced for ages 6-8

 

Read an in-depth review of Henry Haynes on Debbie Young’s blog

I popped a review copy of Henry Haynes in the post to journalist and book reviewer, Debbie Young, on Friday. I was bowled over to find a blog post from her on Sunday morning. Debbie is an avid reader and, amongst her many roles, has worked with a leading children’s reading charity Readathon. You can read Debbie’s review here.

Where to buy Henry Haynes and The Great Escape

You can order Henry Haynes from most online bookstores – and from most UK/US and Australian bricks and mortar bookshops. The links below offer just a few examples of where to find it online. I’ve not included Waterstones in the UK as they are showing the wrong price for it at £5.99 when it should be £4.99!  I shall, however, be signing copies at Waterstones in Putney on Saturday 14th June 🙂

Goodreads Giveway

If you’re in the UK, USA, Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, or Singapore I’m offering three copies of Henry Haynes and The Great Escape in a Goodreads Giveway.  Follow the link to find out more – and good luck! (For info, the giveaway started today, May 5th and not May 2nd as shown…)

 

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Ferdinand Fox goes to Spain!

When I published my rhyming story picture book, Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep, last year I had no idea that within 12 months he would have found his way into a Spanish school!  But that’s exactly what’s happened.  Here I interview Amy Sandiford-Watts – the student behind this foxy tale!

Ferdinand Fox at a Spanish school

Amy Sandiford-Watts ready to introduce Ferdinand Fox to Spanish pupils

Hi Amy

Thanks for contacting me to tell me you used Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep for one of your English teaching classes in Spain! I’m thrilled that he is now an international star 🙂 Many thanks for agreeing to a mini interview.

Firstly, where in Spain is the school – and how long are you there for?

It’s in a small town called La Ràpita – just over an hour from Barcelona. I arrived in September and I’m here for one academic year as part of the British Council language assistant scheme. I study French and Spanish at Durham university and a year abroad is part of my course. I work three days a week and help the English teacher with cultural activities and conversation practice.

You mentioned that you’d used the book in several classes – what age are the children you introduced Ferdinand Fox to and how did it come about?

I read the story to mixed age groups of about 22 pupils from age three up to 11 years old. The activity was part of the school’s carnival celebrations when pupils spent a morning off-timetable celebrating ‘English Day’. The reading was one of 10 different 15-minute long sessions which gave them a chance to practise their English and learn something about Continue reading

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