What’s the best thing about being a children’s author?

I’m often asked at school visits what I enjoy most about being a children’s author. Last week when I visited the delightful St Osmund’s Primary School in my local village,  Barnes, the question came up again in several sessions and I thought I’d say a little bit more about it here.

St Osmund's Primary School - exterior image
St Osmund’s Primary School – Barnes village

Before I carry on, I should say that the second best thing about being a children’s author is going out and meeting young readers at school visits and other events  🙂 We writers spend a lot of time alone – or perhaps I should say “alone” given all the characters that fill our heads! Getting to meet the audience you’ve been writing for and watching as they fall silent –  absorbed in the world you have created as you share your story – is truly magical. And the children never cease to amaze me with their thoughtful and intelligent observations and questions – not just about my stories and being an author, but also about the joy they get from reading for pleasure and writing their own stories.

Children sitting and listening to author Karen Inglis reading from The Secret Lake
Capturing children’s imagination with a reading from The Secret Lake followed by Q&A

So what’s the best thing about being a children’s author?

Most of all, I love the freedom I have to ‘make believe’ absolutely anything, from laugh-out-loud funny tales, to adventure, mystery or magic in this world – to discovering and visiting ‘other worlds’ (and their inhabitants) that lie hidden behind secret doors, down forgotten passages, in tumbledown buildings or deep in the forest.

As I write, I love getting lost in these make-believe worlds as they come alive with noisy, bossy, funny, crafty, happy, sad, timid, bold, kind and clever characters (humans, animals, wizards, aliens…) who breeze in and out of scenes, or plod, run, hop, skip, jump or even fly across my virtual page. A casual passer by looking through my window would have no idea just how much my head is buzzing as I sit in silence tapping at my keyboard, watching and listening as my story unfolds!

And what’s most exciting – just as in a really good book or a great movie – is that new characters often appear without warning or behave unexpectedly, stubbornly refusing to follow the plan I had for them. It’s as if they’re saying “Not that way, Karen – it’s this way we need to go! And, yes, I know that may cause problems for you, but I’m afraid we’re going there whether you like it or not!” Or “Well I’m here and I’m staying whether you like it or not, so you’ll just have to get used to it and get on with the story!”

I’m thankful that my characters don’t always co-operate, because that’s what’s usually makes a great story – all the tension and problems and sorting out that has to be done to fix the new direction they insist on taking!

During the writing of The Secret Lake, both Jack (seen in the boat below) and Lucy (who we meet later on in the story) appeared unexpectedly after Tom and Stella climbed down the time tunnel that led them to their home in past time. I hadn’t seen them coming, yet each of these characters took the story off in new directions, leading me around twists and turns that I couldn’t have made up without their help.

Stella and Tom after arriving in the grounds of their home 100 years in the past…

In Eeek! The Runaway Alien, sci-fi mad Sid Spiker who spots Eeek! through his telescope came as another surprise. He popped up in my planning stage unexpectedly and caused all sorts of trouble when he planned to kidnap Eeek! at posh Sophie Marr’s fancy dress birthday party. But he also helped drive the plot and make it a great story!

Charlie and Eeek! arriving  dressed as “aliens”.  Sid Spiker is hiding in the crowd behind 🙂

The joy of getting lost in a story

Back to my school visits. As I said earlier, the children often talk about their love of reading and getting lost in stories. What I always tell them is that, as a writer, you get to enjoy that very same experience – but, as well as watching what’s happening (just as a reader does) you’re also in charge, and responsible for shaping what’s happening into a tale that will engage and absorb your readers from start to finish. It is great fun, and very challenging – and it requires lots and lots of rewriting. But once you’re done the feeling is fantastic. Whether you’re the writer or the reader, there really is nothing like getting lost in a great children’s story!

Stories to share and get lost in….

For my new followers, if you don’t know my stories or would like to introduce them to your children, simply click on the fun interactive book ‘widgets’ (called ‘biblets’) below to read free samples directly on your phone, tablet or desktop. As well as early chapters they include  video and (for Henry Haynes) audio. I hope you and the children will enjoy  🙂

eeek-biblet-widget-image              henry-haynes-widget-image              svfodcrlj2_recent_lookinside          walter-brown-widget-image

Quick Question Survey on book biblets

I’d love to know what you or your children think of book biblets as a way to share information about children’s books. If you have 60 seconds to spare after you’ve tried one or more biblet it would be really helpful if you could come back at some stage and complete the 5-question survey below. (The data is collected anonymously.)

>> Take the 60-Second Survey Here 🙂 5 Questions. 60 Seconds. Anonymous 🙂






Werewolves, Book Widgets, YouTube & more – Autumn Update :)

I hope you and your children have had an enjoyable half term and are now ready to embrace the darker evenings – what perfect timing for Halloween tonight with the UK clock changes!

In fact, this post isn’t about witches – or werewolves  🙂 – rather to update you on what I’ve been up to, and to ask for your and your children’s feedback on a fun new interactive book ‘widget’ that I’m trying out.

My new YouTube Channel

First things first, I’m excited to announce that I’ve recently set up a new YouTube channel where children can watch videos about my books including mini trailerschats from my desk (yes, they get to see my office ‘live’!) videos showing my illustrator at work and (coming soon) video diary and readings. It’s early days but I’ll be adding something new each week so please do let them know. The videos have no advertising or ‘buy’ links and so should be searchable under my name on YouTube Kids if your children are on there.

Click the link or image to see the channel on the main YouTube site and please do give a thumbs up to any videos you enjoy.

Kids can search for Karen Inglis Children’s Author on the safe YouTube kids site

New interactive Online Book ‘widgets’ – I’d love your feedback

I’m currently experimenting with a new book widget supplied by Nielsen and called a ‘Book2Look biblet’. It’s pretty cool and combines flip-page book extracts with embedded audio and video clips. I’ve now set up two of my books using the widget and would love to know what you and your children think. If you click on either image below the biblet will open up on your screen or mobile device. Inside you will find:

  • early chapter extracts
  • embedded videos about the book
  • embedded audio book extract (Henry Haynes and the Great Escape), read by American narrator Timothy Strong
  • ‘click to share’ feature – share the whole book (as I have below) or your favourite clip
  • links to reviews and where to buy

                                       eeek-biblet-widget-image                         henry-haynes-widget-image

Click each widget to open up.

Please feel free to share the biblets with friends and family, either by forwarding them the link to this blog post or using the ‘share’ button inside the books in the menu.

I’ll  post a short survey in a couple of weeks asking what you / the kids thought . However if you wanted to let me know sooner (good or bad – or if something’s not working) please leave a comment below. I’ll be passing on all feedback anonymously to Nielsen.

Would your child’s school like an author visit?

Latymer Prep Feb 2016

I’ve been busy in the last few weeks setting up school visits, the first few of which will be in a couple of weeks.

World Book Day week in 2017 is almost fully booked but there’s plenty of availability in the spring and summer terms, so please do ask your child’s school to get in touch if they’d like a visit.

As well as giving readings and talking to the children about how I came to write my books I take along fun slides showing how I work online with my Bosnian illustrator – these always go down very well!  Schools can read full details here

Personalised signed book orders for Christmas or birthday

Last, but by no means least, if you’d like an extra special surprise gift for a child for Christmas, you can order personalised signed copies of my books for UK delivery from my website.  Follow this link to find out more Children love receiving books signed by the author – and it really does help inspire a love of reading! And of course I can also dedicate for birthdays or other occasions. Drop me a line if you have any questions or live nearby and would prefer to collect.


That’s it for now. Enjoy the autumn colours if you have them – they certainly look spectacular in London this week!

With best wishes

Karen Inglis


















Second to none – the 2016 Barnes Children’s Literature Festival

It’s almost three weeks since the second Barnes Children’s Literature Festival, after which I dashed off to Verona. Now that I’m back I wanted to share a few photos  (of the festival – not Verona!) and a weekend date for your next year’s diary – Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 May 2017 when the third festival will take place. Sign up here to be added to their mailing list (scroll down once you land on the page).

A children’s festival with big ambitions

On the evening that marked the end of last year’s inaugural one-day festival I marvelled at the energy of local mum, book publicist and festival organiser, Amanda Brettargh, as she enthused about making the following year’s event twice the size and spread over two days instead of one. Anyone else in her shoes at that time would have been sinking back in a chair with a well-deserved gin and tonic and worrying about next year another time…!

Amanda certainly doesn’t do things by halves and this year those ambitions were well and truly fulfilled. With over 50 author events held across nine venues over the two-day period, and over 5,000 tickets and £15,000 of children’s / YA books sold, the festival is now firmly on the literary map and not to be missed if you live within reach.

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Barnes Children’s Literature Festival website

Not only are you guaranteed a mix of bestselling authors across all age ranges (this year included Judith Kerr, Alex Scheffler, Michael Morpurgo, Lauren Child, Jacqueline Wilson, Philip Reeve, Cornelia Funke and Frances Hardinge – to name but a very few), but children can also enjoy free storytelling and other creative workshops around the pond throughout the weekend. What better excuse do you need to spend time with your children in one of the prettiest villages in southwest London?

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I couldn’t be everywhere by any means. Below I let I’ll let the pictures and captions tell the story that I saw…

Friday afternoon – on its way up –  the wonderful ‘Booktop Marquee’ which hosted Jacqueline Wilson, Philip Reeve, Morris Gleitzman, Cathy Cassidy, Frances Hardinge, Lauren Child and David Mackintosh over the two days. Just one of nine festival venues dotted around the village – but by far one of the most striking…
Saturday afternoon – a packed Booktop Marquee with Carnegie Medal Winner Philip Reeve (Mortal Engines) reading from his new book Rail Head – along with a great audio visual soundtrack 🙂
Around the pond – the bookshop tent with red flags in the foreground (also hosted free author readings on the hour). Behind it, the free arts & crafts wigwam and then the ‘Booktop’ Marquee  beyond… There was a fabulous all-day BBQ at the Old Sorting Office arts centre, seen at the end of the path where the white umbrella is visible. As the day went on, the whole green became a picnic area for children and families – some even set up a badminton game…
St Mary’s Church filling up to hear bestselling fantasy author Cornelia Funke. Of her schooldays she said “I wrote essays, but not what the teachers wanted!” Of her characters she says she feels they are always travelling with her. Funke Facts: The planning stage for her books can last years – she puts together extensive notebooks with pasted-in research images and her own illustrations and handwritten notes – they looked beautiful! These help the story grow. She has 14 notebooks for The Griffin’s Yarn… On writer’s block she said: “There’s no such thing – you just run into a hedge and wonder how your characters have tricked you and what will happen next…” Funke only started writing at age 27 – before that she was a social worker and then an illustrator for children’s books. It was when illustrating children’s books that she realised she could write better stories. It was 17 years before she came up with the sequel to Dragon Rider. Until then she couldn’t think how to make the follow-on story original…
The phone box outside Olympic Cinema was turned into a free Children’s Bookswap for the weekend 🙂
Little ones waiting for the start of Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep reading – part of the free author events programme on Sunday afternoon … Ferdinand Fox himself was a big hit. By this time he had been passed around by all the children and was losing his jacket 🙂
The bookshop tent buzzed all weekend long! Also the venue for free author readings…


In the space of an hour we had two sittings for the Ferdinand Fox reading on Sunday afternoon – this was the first. Top right you can see one of the 90 (yes, 90!) volunteers who came from Barnes local community organisations, local primary schools, friends and family and Roehampton University .


A signed copy of Rail Head from Philip Reeve – he can draw too 🙂  With thanks to my husband for the surprise present! I’m a big fan of the Mortal Engines books….


Along with the authors, Barnes’ resident swans with their new signets drew lots of attention…! A pity that the sun had briefly gone in for this shot…
Saturday morning calm before the storm 🙂 Bookseller extraordinaire, Isla Dawes (right), owner of The Barnes Bookshop, and a bookseller friend and volunteer Venetia Vyvyan (left) – little did they know that £15,000 of books would be sold over the weekend! (I love the aprons!)
The swans and signets now across the pond….they do get around… we even have a road sign in the village to stop the traffic when they cross 🙂



As part of my launch of Walter Brown and the Magican’s Hat at the festival I took along props for my reading and a young audience member enacted the scene where Walter opens the battered box and finds the hat left to him by his Great-grandpa. (Sadly I didn’t manage to get a photo of this!)

I also had a free prize draw that children entered over the weekend. Top left shows the top hat the moment before the draw on Sunday night. The lucky winner was nine-year-old Ben Nicholson from Putney whose mother kindly sent me the photo below!

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A moment of magic for Ben Nicholson 🙂


A few shots of Barnes village – not a bad place to spend the weekend!



Screen Your Story event – still to come

In July there will be a screening at the Barnes Olympic Cinema of the winner of the children’s Screen Your Story Competition Find out more about Screen Your Story here

Below is an earlier tweet showing the cinema. You can follow me @kareninglis btw

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A few great links

With Cornelia Funke after her talk at the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival – read my in-depth interview with her above

That’s it…

This is just my story – and doesn’t do justice to all the venues and many readings and talks that went on – nor to the wonderful atmosphere of the weekend. Still, I hope it has inspired you to make a note in your diaries to come along next year. Remember – you can sign up for news about next year’s Barnes Children’s Literature Festival here.

Wild flowers around Barnes Pond…

Oh, ok – since you insist, here’s one shot from Verona 🙂

View to Verona from the hill before lunch…that sunshine is a distant memory!

Hmm – I see below that my last blog post was a year ago! I really must find a bit more time to post in between my writing and school visits! However, remember you can also find me on twitter and facebook

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.”


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?


“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

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

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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

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!


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 “The Secret Lake revisits Notting Hill”

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

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…)


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 “Ferdinand Fox goes to Spain!”

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