Festivals, book offers, hedgehogs and more – why I love May!

We’re at the start of the first of two Bank Holiday long weekends this month in the UK  — guaranteed to make the nation smile, come rain or shine! However, there are a couple of other reasons why I especially love May. I’ll start with those before sharing other news.

Barnes Children’s Literature Festival – May 11th/12th

May is the month in which we have The Barnes Children’s Literature Festival, conveniently held down the road from where I live in southwest London. It’s in its fifth year and is now London’s largest dedicated children’s book festival.

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Barnes now has London’s largest dedicated children’s literature festival – don’t miss!

As well as the many big names this year (Lauren Child, Judith Kerr, David Almond, Jeremy Strong to name but a few…), there’s also a fabulous free events programme. So if you have kids and live within reach of London, do look at the programmes and come along. I’m already looking forward to hearing Judith Kerr and Emma Carroll. Oh and I must book for Hillary McKay too!

Do you have a children’s story in you?

I’ve had great fun running children’s events at Barnes over the years. However, this year for the second year in a row I’ll be running an event for new and aspiring children’s authors on  Children’s Book Self-Publishing and Marketing. If you think you have a children’s story in you, or are just curious about how it all works, do come along to find out more about this exciting world. Ages 16-66+ welcome! 🙂 (We had a packed tent last year.) Click here to learn more or book.

The Secret Lake – the magical journey continues

As many of you will know, another reason May has a special place in my heart is that it’s the time that Isabella Plantation, a stunning woodland in London’s Richmond Park, comes into bloom. The woodlands and ‘Still Pond’ (seen below during a 14k walk last Sunday!) were a strong part of the inspiration for my UK bestselling time travel adventure The Secret Lake, which is also now climbing the charts in the US and Canada.

Karen Inglis standing in front of Still Pond lake with pin azaleis
Still Pond last Sunday 28th April – The Inspiration for The Secret Lake

Unbelievably, over 20,000 copies of The Secret Lake have sold in print in the last year and I’ve just signed two foreign rights deals. If you don’t yet know the story and are curious, do visit Amazon UK to read over 100 reviews 🙂 You’ll also find 35 more on Amazon.com.

It’s now almost 20 years since I wrote the first draft, after watching some friends’ children playing in the vast communal gardens of London’s Notting Hill. As I looked all around at the grand houses I couldn’t help wondering what would happen if the children playing there that day could meet the children who had lived and played there 100 years earlier. If you want to know more, or to download a free sample, follow the links below. The reading age is 8-11, but it’s also perfect to read aloud to ages 6 upwards.

The Secret Lake on offer in the UK and Canada

For those of you who live in the UK, The Secret Lake is currently on offer on Amazon at £5.29 down from £6.99. It’s also discounted on Amazon in Canada from $10.70 to $9.71. I don’t control the offers I’m afraid, so don’t know how long they will last. If you have a young bookworm at home, I’d say grab it while you can. And, of course, you can also order it from your local bookshop.

Reader fan mail – making me smile!

image of a book and two cards
This beautiful hand-drawn postcard is from a Secret Lake fan in Richmond, Texas

We authors love hearing from our readers. Above is a lovely hand-drawn postcard I received from a nine-year-old pupil, Grace, from Richmond, Texas, USA. I was travelling in Vietnam when her card arrived and my son sent a photo on Whatsapp — I was thrilled and have since written back with the ‘head in the clouds’ (that’s me!) giraffe card you can see. I’ve also just received an envelope full of letters from school children in Wiltshire, UK — most asking for a sequel after they read The Secret Lake in class! This was a wonderful surprise, especially as I’ve not visited that school.

hand written letters arranged with a copy of The Secret Lake children's book
Wonderful handwriting – and lots of requests for a sequel to The Secret Lake!

Eeek! The Runaway Alien cover makeover

In more news, Eeek! The Runaway Alien (my fun illustrated story about a soccer-mad who runs away to Earth for the World Cup) has a had a minor cover update, with a football added. Goodness knows why we didn’t have one before! To mark the occasion, my illustrator created this animation. I hope you enjoy!

Eeek! is ‘laugh-out-loud funny’ and great for boys and girls aged 7-10 who love soccer and/or aliens. Read Amazon reviews or grab a Kindle sample here.

Hedgehog Awareness Week: May 5th – 11th

Last, but not least, it’s Hedgehog Awareness Week here in the UK next week. All year round we’re doing what we can to look out for them as they are now an endangered species.

We’re lucky to have quite a few hedgehogs in my local London village of Barnes, and there’s a huge campaign to encourage homeowners to create holes at the foot of garden fences, to allow the hedgehogs to travel to find food. This creates a ‘hedgehog highway’. The video below of a hedgehog running up the side of my family home last summer demonstrates just how far they like to go in search of food!

Click below to view a video of a hedgehog out looking for food – my brother kindly captured this for me last summer 🙂

Hedgehogs and foxes – early learning

If you have a toddler in the house, or children/grandchildren up to age 6 my gentle rhyming picture book Ferdinand Fox and the Hedgehog, about a baby hedgehog that meets a fox one night, ends with eight fun pages of photos and facts about foxes and hedgehogs including how to build nests and safe places for hedgehogs to hibernate in your garden. It’s always a huge hit at my school visits — not least when they come to learn what foxes and hedgehogs like to eat for breakfast and supper!

View Ferdinand Fox and the Hedgehog on Amazon here.

You can find out more about helping hedgehogs on the Hedgehog Preservation Society website.

FFHH Global print link Affiliate

Do you have hedgehogs where you live? I’d love to hear about them or see some photos if you do!

That’s it for now. I hope you have a relaxing May bank holiday weekend if you’ll be getting time off where you are. And, for those of you in the US, I hope the children have been getting stuck into reading more than ever over the last week!

With very best wishes,


PS If you or your children have read any of my books already, it would mean a lot to me if you could help them leave an honest review on Amazon or your other preferred store. Doing so means that Amazon and other stores will show it to more people. Every little really does help! Thank you!

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 🙂

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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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