Barnes KidsLitfest, Secret Lake sequel flip-book, audiobook news, more…

Hello from London where midsummer is truly upon us. How time flies!

It’s three months since the launch of Return to the Secret Lake and I wanted to give you a quick update post-launch, along with news of my event at Barnes Children’s Literature Festival next Saturday.

I’m also including a link at the end to a free digital flip-book of the first three chapters of Return to the Secret Lake to give you/your children a flavour of the sequel if you’ve not yet read it. 😊

Below is a picture taken last month at Still Pond in London’s Richmond Park. As you may know, this pond was the inspiration for the lake in The Secret Lake. The azalea display was one of the best in years. I hope you enjoy!

Still Pond inspired the lake in The Secret Lake books

Barnes Children’s Literature Festival — bring the kids next Saturday 25th June!

Barnes, the riverside village in southwest London where I live, is host to the UK’s largest dedicated children’s literature festival. I appeared with Eeek! in the festival’s inaugural year in 2015, and am excited to be back there this year with Return to the Secret Lake. My session is next Saturday 25th June from 3.30-4.30. If you live within reach of Barnes I’d love to see you and your children! Click or tap the link for more details of my session.

You can see the full line-up of amazing authors here There are some very big names, as you will see! It really is a fabulous day out with events centred around the village pond and nearby sites in a variety of halls and marquees. The village itself is charming, with plenty of cafés and other eateries for all the family, and a huge green to picnic on if you prefer.

Return to the Secret Lake — your feedback

Thank you so much to all of you who have taken the time to post reviews of Return to the Secret Lake online. Readers young and old are loving how the page-turning plot mixes with historical fiction. As with book one, it’s proving as popular in the US as over here in the UK. And it’s especially lovely to hear that adults are enjoying it as much as children — my latest 5-Star UK reviewer is aged 70!

Please take a moment to leave a review

If you or your children have read the sequel and not yet had time to post a review online at your preferred store, please do take a moment as it helps those sites show the book more widely. Thank you 🙂 

Return to the Secret Lake audiobook — coming soon!

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been listening to auditions for the audiobook edition of Return to the Secret Lake and am delighted to have found a perfect match. My chosen narrator is in high demand so can’t start recording until mid August. This is a little later than I’d have liked, but the best things come to those who wait, as they say! Assuming all goes to plan it will be out in early September, and I shall of course let you know as soon as it is.

My mother-in-law, who is almost 97, is especially keen to hear it; she has dry macular degeneration (a degenerative eye disease) so can no longer read. Meanwhile my 97-and-a-half-year-old mother (!) whisked through it on Kindle as soon as it was out. They are both doing remarkably well for their age, as you will have gathered!

The Secret Lake in simplified Chinese

A couple of weeks ago, I received images of the cover design for The Secret Lake from my Chinese publisher. The book title translates as ‘The Missing Dog, The Dancing Moles and The Secret Lake’. Isn’t it adorable? What do you think? 😊

The Secret Lake in Simplified Chinese

Virtual author visits — at home and abroad

Just a quick reminder that, as well as in-person visits, I also offer virtual author visits to schools and book clubs. It’s always fun to visit online, no matter how near or far my audience is! Below are a couple of photos recent visits with elementary schools in the US who have been reading The Secret Lake in class. If you’d like to organise a virtual visit for your school —wherever you are in the world —please email me. You can find more details on the ‘school visits’ tab here on my website.

UK readers: I’m also now taking in person and virtual bookings for World Book Day week in 2023. Please do mention this to your child’s school if you think they may be interested. 😊

Return to the Secret Lake — free flip-book of Chapters 1-3!

With the summer holidays upon us, what better time for children (and adults) to get lost in a new book? If you’d like to get a feel for the world of The Secret Lake click or tap this link to open up Return to the Secret Lake as a flip-book and read the first three chapters. (Suitable for ages 8-80!) Or you can scan the QR code below. You don’t need to input your email address and there are no ‘buy’ links inside.

The flip-book will work on your desktop, laptop, tablet or phone. If you’ve not read The Secret Lake you will get a feel for the story without any spoilers, but I’d definitely recommend starting with book one if you enjoy this excerpt. Feel free to share this link, of course!

Scan the QR Code or use the link above to get your free flip book — no email required

That’s it for now, but before I go here’s that link to my event next Saturday 25th June at Barnes Children’s Literature Festival. If you live locally and have children aged 8-12, I hope to see you there!

Otherwise, I hope you and your children have exciting plans (and books!) lined up for the summer.

Happy reading! 📚 😊


⭐ Book Launch ⭐ Return to the Secret Lake 📚 🚣

Official launch date 8th March 2022

I’m thrilled to announce that Return to the Secret Lake is now out and available to order after many many requests from readers over the years!

In this page-turning sequel to The Secret Lake we see Lucy come forward in time in search of a cure for Emma who has fallen dangerously ill. Of course, things are never straightforward where time tunnels and magical moles are concerned — and so unfolds a thrilling tale of time travel, rekindled friendships and new threats that no one could have foreseen.

Today is International Women’s Day, and I’ve chosen to coincide the book’s official launch with this date as half of the story is set in early 1900s London, when the Suffragette movement was extremely active. The movement provides a gentle backdrop in a few of the scenes, which I know young advance readers have found intriguing alongside other historical contexts and events. Also resonating with the theme of strong females is the bravery and resourcefulness shown by both Stella and Hannah from the present, and Lucy and others from the past as they risk everything to help Emma .

The story is not only about the girls, however — we also have Tom and Jack to root for as unexpected events unfold!

Researching Edwardian London

Below is a slide I shared at my World Book Day school visits here in the UK last week about my research into Edwardian London. Stella and Tom spend far more time in this period in Book Two — including venturing out into town — so I wanted to feel, see and breathe the atmosphere through their eyes.

Extract from my World Book Day week school talk

What I loved about this research was diverting off in different directions and discovering little ‘aha’ moments which I knew needed to be in the story in some way, such as the craze of ‘rinking’ in Edwardian time (rollerskating in dedicated rollerskating rinks for those who could afford it), and bylaws being demanded by some to outlaw children rollerskating on pavements. Those children tended to come from poorer backgrounds who couldn’t afford to use the rinks, and I was pleased when reading Hansard reports from 1910-11 to see the young Winston Churchill standing up for them.

It’s amazing how many rabbit holes one can go down. But it was worth the many many hours — and, I hope, has helped ensure that the twists and turns of the story play out in contexts authentic to that time. I shall be writing separately about this in due course when preparing teaching resources. 😊

Early feedback

As any author will tell you, it’s always nerve-wracking launching a new book. Happily, the members of my small team of advance readers have given the story a very strong thumbs up. In the mix were children, parents (including a nurse), two teachers, two grandmothers and a couple of children’s authors.

You’ll find a few early reviews over on Amazon but here are a few more snippets sent to me directly:

“This book will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish! Each chapter brings new challenges, which the children face with determination and mastermind ideas. I loved their quick thinking and wittiness. But what stood out most was how much they cared for and looked out for each other.” Méabh ~ Aged 11 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“Immerses the reader in the early 1900s and is really thought provoking for middle-grade readers. A great fictional adventure and an excellent choice for connecting history with reading for pleasure.” ~ Michelle Gilbert, Primary teacher and Year 4 Book Club lead ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“I loved that there were so many mysteries mixed in with real history! One of the longest books I’ve read and I finished it in 4 days!” ~ Brooke, Aged 10 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Read more reviews or buy Return to the Secret Lake on Amazon

Visit to watch Méabh’s advance reader review

Click to watch BookMonster’s full review of Return to the Secret Lake on YouTube — this is a great channel for your children to subscribe to if they love middle-grade books btw:)

Where to buy

The print book is also available to order from all other online stores or via your high street bookshop. Signed copies will be in Barnes Bookshop from next week. Delivery times to other bookshops may vary in the first couple of weeks.

My next task is to commission a narrator for the audiobook. 😊

That’s if for now. I’m still catching up on piles of admin having caught Covid last weekend, which threw out many of my book launch plans and has left me making preparations up to the wire!

Still, such challenges pale into insignificance when compared with what is being faced by the citizens of Ukraine. I’m sure you will stand with me in hoping for a miracle and a swift resolution to this heartbreaking situation, even though that seems far off as I write.

Bye for now, Karen

PS: If you decide to buy Return to the Secret Lake, please do take a moment to leave a short review if you / your children enjoy it! Thank you!

The Secret Lake sequel 📚 | Christmas gift ideas | more! 🎄

Hello from a cold and crisp London, where the Christmas season is upon us. I hope your holiday season plans are well underway and that you’re all staying safe.

The Secret Lake: Sequel 😊

After much plotting and planning, and following many requests from children and adults, I’ve had my head down for the last three months writing the sequel to my bestselling middle grade novel The Secret Lake,

I’m thrilled to say that I finished editing the final draft two days ago (you can see the printout on my desk below!) and it is now with a small number of beta readers before, no doubt, further polishing, then on to my professional editor. Coming in at 50,000 words it will be approximately twice the length of the first book.

As you have guessed, writing a children’s book takes a lot of time, and effort — children are always surprised when I tell them just how long! Luckily this time around I had an outline plan before I started, which made life a lot easier than first time around when I had no plan and went round in circles with the plot for many many months. I do not recommend writing this way!

The printout of The Secret Lake 2 first final draft ✍🏻 📚

Why did it take so long to write The Secret Lake sequel?

Many children and adults have asked me over the last few years why I hadn’t written a sequel. The reason is that I had promised myself I would only ever do so if I thought any new story would be as magical as the first. Also, I tend to have to wait for stories to come to me… and that can take time! That apart, with so many other projects to juggle, it had been difficult to sit down and find the time and space I needed in order to let my imagination run wild, then plan and research. This summer, I finally had that time.

Going back and spending time with the original characters — and meeting a couple of new ones — has been an absolute joy, with scenes unfolding that I hadn’t planned, and new characters popping up unannounced, as happened the first time around!

I’m hoping for a release date in spring 2022 and, of course, will keep you updated via this newsletter. In the meantime, if you’d like to apply to join my advance reader team to help make the launch a success, please email me via my contact page with the subject line ‘The Secret Lake 2’ and I will send you details of how it works closer to the time.

Teachers — I will be creating some interesting lesson plans to go with the book. More on this in a later newsletter! 😊

In other Secret Lake news, I have just sold foreign rights to Romania, meaning it will soon be in translation in nine languages!

Also, I couldn’t resist the gorgeous little mole, seen sitting on the shelf in the first image above. I found him in one of the gift shops where I live in Barnes village and couldn’t leave without him! As readers of The Secret Lake know, moles are integral to the magic of the story. ❤️

The Christmas Tree Wish: A heartwarming tale for ages 3-6 🌲

Back to the holiday season — if you’re looking for an extra special gift for your younger children or grandchildren, please do take a look at The Christmas Tree Wish.

A heartwarming tale — with links to free colouring sheets

This heartwarming tale about hope, friendship and being different was inspired by a small, bedraggled Christmas tree I saw one dark and wet Christmas Eve, unsold and looking very lonely. As is usually the case with my stories, I couldn’t get this little fellow out of my head, and knew I had to give him a happy ending!

The Christmas Tree Wish comes with links to free downloadable colouring sheets of the tree characters to keep children or grandchildren occupied in the run-up to Christmas, using Anne Swift’s stunning illustrations. Hopefully, the reviews speak or themselves! 😊 🌲

Click or tap below to watch a short video about The Christmas Tee Wish.

Tap to play 🙂

If you prefer to share picture books on an iPad, the eBook is free on Kindle Unlimited worldwide. Also, Amazon UK has just reduced it to 0.99p for December.

The Tell-Me Tree — continued praise from teachers and parents ❤️

Thank you so much to all of you who have bought The Tell-Me Tree and shared with me how it has touched children’s lives, or how you have been using it in schools to help children open up about feelings. Below are a few examples. I’m also bowled over that a simple Facebook promotion has been shared and commented on over 1,000 times!

With the uncertainties all of our children are living with these days, The Tell-Me Tree aims to help ease worries through encouraging a habit of regularly talking about feelings, whether happy, sad or anywhere in between.

Pupils getting into the habit of sharing feelings at schools using The Tell-Me Tree

This story and activity book comes with free download templates to help children draw their own Tell-Me Trees and copies of activity sheets from inside the book to encourage them to draw or write about how they are feeling as often as they would like. Available everywhere online, or via your local bookshop or your school ‘s usual channels.

If you have used The Tell-Me Tree and found it useful please feel free to send me pictures, or tag me if you post about it and I will share.

You can read about the background to The Tell-Me Tree here

📚 Eeek! The Runaway Alien discounted to £3.95! ⚽ 
(RRP £6.99)

Finally, a quick heads-up for my UK followers looking for stocking fillers to let you know that Amazon UK has just discounted Eeek! The Runaway Alien to £3.55 (RRP is £6.99).

Eeek! is perfect for girls or boys aged 7-10 looking for a fast and fun read, and a good laugh! (It’s also available as an audiobook and eBook.)

It was voted book of the month by LoveReading4Kids UK at launch, and favourite book club read three years in a row in one London primary school, and now comes with a shiny new cover! It is also fantastic for reluctant readers, and comes with fun black and white illustrations throughout. 😊 👽

A fun, fast-paced read for ages 7-10 — loved by parents too!

That’s it for now. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and I look forward to providing you with updates on The Secret Lake 2 soon 😊 .

With very best wishes,


PS: Remember, if you’d like to know more about joining my launch team for The Secret Lake 2, please email me via my contact page with ‘The Secret Lake 2’ as the subject line, and I will send you further details in due course.

PPS: Remember, if you like to share picture books on an iPad with little ones, The Christmas Tree Wish eBook is free on Kindle Unlimited worldwide. Also, Amazon UK has just reduced it to 0.99p for December. 🌲

November update 🍂 : Free audiobook codes, online author events, more…

Hello from a cold and crisp London where, like everyone, we were uplifted by news of progress on a Covid-19 vaccine yesterday. What a great end to a very eventful seven days!

Here in England we’ve just gone into lockdown again for a month although, thankfully, most children can still go to school. With socialising time for all ages cut back, one means of escape we still have is, of course, books! On a personal note, I’m now managing to catch up on 45 minutes of reading each morning while exercising, having recently invested in a fold-flat running machine that we have in our kitchen – seen below 🙂

Updates at a glance…

  • Free codes for the new audiobook release of Eeek! The Runaway Alien (US and UK) – I have 20 to give away! 😊
  • The Christmas Tree Wish – shortlisted for the UK Selfies Awards earlier this year – is currently discounted on Amazon UK. But not to be missed wherever you are! 🌲
  • Record-breaking reviews for The Secret Lake – a huge thank you! ❤️
  • Your chance to bid in an online auction of signed children’s books in aid of the BBC’s Children in Need charity.
  • Online author events at home – coming your way!

Eeek! The Runaway Alien – free audiobook codes

Scroll down to hear a sample reading on Audible

I’m delighted to say that the audiobook of Eeek! The Runaway Alien is finally live and I have 20 free promo codes to share exclusively with my blog and FB followers – 10 for the US and 10 for the UK. (Unfortunately, they don’t supply them for other territories.)

Described as “Laugh-out-loud funny” by LoveReading4KidsUK, a respected children’s book recommendation site, Eeek! is fun and fast-paced for ages 7-10 and was voted favourite book club read three years in a row by one London primary school.

To request one of the codes for your children please email me by Sunday 15th November. If there are more than 10 requests from each country I’ll ask my husband to draw names out of a hat. I’ll then reply on Monday 16th to everyone who requested a code, whether or not you’re successful. Anyone who doesn’t win – plus those who do – will get a link to free download Eeek! posters 🙂

>> Click or tap to hear a sample of Eeek! on Audible US

>> Click or tap to hear a sample of Eeek! on Audible UK

The Christmas Tree Wish: don’t miss if you have little ones…

Do check out this heartwarming tale if you’re looking for an extra special Christmas gift for ages 3-5+. Shortlisted earlier this year for the Selfies Award for Best UK Independently Published Children’s Book, this gentle story introduces Little Bruce Spruce and his fir tree friends – Cedrick Cypress, Penelope Pine and Douglas Fir.

Little Bruce is excited about finding a home for Christmas Day, until he discovers he has two broken branches from the weight of the snow. Downhearted, he is sure that no one will want him. However, all is not lost as Cedrick, Penelope and Douglas rally round to help and reassure him, showing him that none of them is perfect. (Needless to say, there is a happy ending!)

Anne Swift’s stunning pen and ink illustrations make this a wonderful Christmas gift with a gentle message about friendship, kindness, and that it’s okay to be different. There are also links to free downloadable colouring sheets.

🌲  Click or tap here to read reviews of The Christmas Tree Wish on Amazon

If you live in London, you’ll find signed copies in The Barnes Bookshop (operating click and collect). If you’re farther afield but prefer not to use Amazon you can order it via any other online store globally or which shares a percentage of each sale between the independent bookshops that are signed up with it.

Stop Press for UK readers: The Christmas Tree Wish is currently discounted on Amazon UK. I’m not sure how long the discount will last so grab it while you can. I have no control over Amazon discounting.

Please note: the book is paperback, though the image above implies it’s hardback.

Record-breaking reviews for The Secret Lake – thank you!

I’d like to say a HUGE THANK YOU to those of you who have helped your children leave reviews of my books online – and in particular for The Secret Lake, which has been breaking all sorts of sales records recently, not just here in the UK but also in the US and Canada. It has now had over 4,000 reviews globally – and has been dipping in and out of the top 200 books for the UK / US stores and even higher in Canada where it’s inside the top 20 as I write.

Reviews from children posted on The Secret Lake’s website

Your children’s feedback means a great deal to me and those who post reviews to The Secret Lake’s website (with your help) always receive a personal reply from me. Thank you also for copying so many of those reviews to Amazon or your other preferred online stores – doing so really does help authors’ books get shown more, which means that more children, parents and teachers find them.

Online charity auction: bid for a signed book or illustrated toilet roll tube!

I’m delighted to be part of the ‘Children in Read’ 2020 online charity auction of signed books and other items from authors and Illustrators from around the world. I have donated a signed copy of my latest book The Tell-Me Tree for ages 4-8, which invites children to share how they’re feeling – whether happy, sad or anywhere in between – through writing, drawing or conversation. All funds raised are going to the BBC charity Children in Need which helps disadvantaged children and young people across the UK.

Auction ends 11pm UK time this Friday 13th November

With three days to go – and over £15,000 raised at the time of writing – there are still plenty of small and large bid-price lots available. Besides signed books for children and grown-ups, other items include a range of illustrated toilet roll tubes from ex UK Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell! His work is truly stunning – see above! The auction closes this Friday 13th November at 11pm UK time and UK postage is included if your bid wins an item.

Coming your way! Online author events at home…

Covid-19 has forced all businesses and educational institutions to rethink how they operate. Of course, in-person school visits have been significantly affected, with many authors now moving online. I continue to offer school visits via Skype in the Classroom, Microsoft, Zoom or the school’s other preferred tech, visiting whole classes/year groups at a school or (more recently) a ‘virtual’ US classroom where pupils were individually logging in for the session from home as part of their weekly online classroom schedule. One of the pupils even had his pet rat running around on his lap during that session! 🐀 The wonders of technology mean that I shall shortly be ‘visiting’ 80 Fifth Grade pupils at an elementary school just outside of Chicago. 🇺🇸

Book clubs and family audiences…

I am now looking to extend my virtual visits beyond schools to book clubs, informal reading groups and families. I’m still putting the flesh on the bones of how this might best work, staying mindful of budgets and, of course, the need to comply with the rules to protect the privacy of children. As I firm up my plans I may be in touch to get feedback on different formats and pricing options as I’m keen to make it as affordable as possible for smaller groups or family audiences. In the meantime, if your school would like a virtual visit – wherever in the world – please do ask them to email me 😊 .

Stay safe and remember to reply to me by midnight your time on Sunday 15th November if you’re in the UK or US and would like to request a promo code for Eeek!’s audiobook.

Before I go… Here’s a link again to The Christmas Tree Wish where you can read customer reviews.

You can also view sample excerpts and read more about how I came to write The Christmas Tree wish in my blog post here 🌲

The Christmas Tree Wish – Coming Soon!

Happy Autumn, all! The nights are slowly drawing in here in London and it will be Halloween before we know it, followed by the big rush up to the holiday season. As I write we’re still 85 days away from Christmas (!), however I’m still thrilled to announce that my new picture book The Christmas Tree Wish will be available to order from early to mid October 2019. UPDATE: IT’S OUT NOW HERE ON AMAZON and will be available via bookshops and other online stores from mid October.

This is a heart-warming Christmas tale for ages 3-5+ about hope, friendship and being different 😊. The beautiful pen and ink illustrations by Anne Swift feature little Bruce Spruce, Penelope Pine, Douglas Fir and Cedrick Cypress, as well as a gorgeous Christmas robin and inquisitive squirrel.

Read on to learn more, see images and to sign up for a release date notification.

Christmas tree images

From the back page

robin in snowy scene sitting on a star

The story behind the story

This is a story that had been going around in my head for years after I saw a small bedraggled Christmas tree left unsold one dark evening a few days before Christmas. My heart went out to the little fellow and I knew I had to write about him.

From the outset I was certain that I wanted hand-drawn illustrations rather than digital, so it was a question of finding the right person. Anne, who is a great friend whom I’ve know for 25 years, is an architect by day, but has always been incredibly creative in other ways – I can’t believe it never occurred to me to ask her to try her hand at children’s illustrations! It was a chance image she drew for her son that made the penny drop!

A sample page spread for fun!

christmas tree characters


Sign up to be notified on release date 

The Christmas Tree Wish will be available to order from early to mid October. Sign up here to join my occasional mailing list to be notified on the release date. You’ll also receive the first three chapters from my Amazon UK/USA bestseller The Secret Lake, a time travel adventure for ages 8-11. 😊 I don’t email often and you can unsubscribe at any time.

  • Alternatively, search your favourite online store from mid October.

The rhyme and the reason: confessions of a picture book author

It’s a well-known fact that we authors spend a lot of time alone, dreaming up and crafting our stories, discarding some and holding on to a golden few. If the idea takes off, we then spend many more hours, days – and often weeks or months – drafting, rewriting, testing, editing and polishing before finally having the courage to put the story out into the big wide world.

It’s a long (long) process – no matter how short the book. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that writing children’s books is the easy option!

The above holds true for middle grade novels (aimed at ages 8-12), for early reader chapter books – and for picture books whose word count is typically around 500 but might range from zero to 1,000. (Less is best. Less is harder! And it goes without saying that the illustrations are crucial.)

Ferdinand Fox picture books side by side
Ferdinand Fox rhyming picture books

The rhyming game

Trying to squeeze a satisfying and entertaining tale into a picture book’s 26 or 28 pages (this is what’s left after the title and copyright pages etc are used up) is hard enough at the best of times as we toil away on our own. Add in rhyme and you’re into a whole new layer of complexity. Getting the story and the rhyme and the rhythm to cooperate along with the illustrations over a limited page count is one huge challenge!

‘Why on earth would anyone want to write in rhyme?’ you might ask yourself. I’d agree with you there. Except that’s how it came out when I began composing my Ferdinand Fox stories after seeing a beautiful fox trot past me in the mist one November evening. I simply couldn’t express the story in any other way!

Happily, rhyme, it seems, is still what little children love best – or most consistently at least.

Speaking as a parent, I also know that the rhyming stories I shared with my children, such as Hairy MaClary from Donaldson’s Dairy and the others from Lynley Dodd’s wonderful series were firm favourites for me and my husband!

Kids know best

Another well-known fact is that children are the most discerning and honest audience out there – and generally the younger, the more discerning! If they don’t like your story they will let you (or their parents or teachers) know in no uncertain terms 🙂

This brings me on to the flip side of all of those hours spent alone getting things just right – namely the rewards for authors of getting out and sharing our stories with young readers at school visits and other live events.

Children's Author Karen Inglis reading Ferdinand Fox and the Hedgehog to the pupils of Barnes Montessori
The pupils of Barnes Montessori eagerly listening to Ferdinand Fox and the Hedgehog

With my rhyming picture books I often see Reception year children as part of a wider primary school visit with my other titles. However, just as rewarding – and with an extra special place in my heart – are my visits to nursery schools, where I have the opportunity to introduce the magic of books and stories to such young, receptive, (and brutally honest!) minds.

The pictures above and below from my recent visit to Barnes Montessori, a stone’s throw from where I live, offer a glimpse of how meeting my readers brings such joy both to me as an author and to the children. These three to five year-olds were hooked from the get-go and highly engaged for each of the 30-40 minute sessions I offered. That’s quite a tall order from children of that age – especially the three-year-olds!

Keeping picture book listeners engaged

I always warm things up with a rhyming game and by asking children about foxes they may have seen. This sets the scene well for what’s to follow and ensures they feel relaxed and invested from the outset.

Karen Inglis at front of class holding up rhyming game images for pupils who are out of shot
Rhyming game warm-up before I introduce the rhyming stories

Whether as an author or parent/carer the key, of course, to engaging children with books and reading is the enthusiasm you show yourself – it’s infectious and little ones quickly pick up on it. It’s reflected not just in the energy and variety you bring to delivering the story, but also in using opportunities to involve the children with the characters and storyline as you go.

Have you seen a fox in your garden? Where did you see one? What did it look like? Was it a beautiful fox or did it look sad and hungry? What might you call your fox? How do you think Ferdinand feels in this picture? How does baby Ed feel here? Do you think he’s scared? Have you ever seen a hedgehog? Did you touch it? How did it feel?  What colour is the mouse in this picture?

In Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep, as Ferdinand sleeps (and snores) through the story we are introduced through his dream bubbles to his favourite food. This provides ample opportunity to talk with the children about their favourite food – as well as hear whose mum or dad snores!  There’s also a clock that chimes from one to five as the hours pass. As the story moves forward I pause at the clock chimes and count the numbers with the children. Needless to say they get lots of praise for their counting skills!


Image of interior page of Ferdinand Fox's Big Sleep - colour image of fox sleeping and rhyming text
From Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep: lots of opportunity to discuss food likes and dislikes 🙂

In Ferdinand Fox and the Hedgehog there’s a section at the end dedicated to fun facts about foxes and hedgehogs, such as where they live, how long they live and what they eat. We always have great fun discussing whether the children would like spiders for breakfast, caterpillar sandwiches for lunch, or worms on toast for supper! This part of the book also shows how we can all help hedgehogs find food by cutting holes in the bottom of garden fences, and help them hibernate by building up safe areas in our gardens.

Karen Inglis at front of class with nursery pupils at Barnes Montessori
Discussing what hedgehogs like to eat – caterpillar sandwiches anyone? 🙂

Live video

As time has gone on I’ve added videos to my sessions. One is of a fox that fell asleep in an author friend’s garden and looks remarkably like Ferdinand Fox. The children all ‘ooh’ and gasp when he finally starts to wake up!

The other is a video of a hedgehog running down the side of my family home in Hertfordshire – captured by chance by my brother. As with the fox video, it has the children entranced and goes just one step further to enhancing their experience of sharing stories and books.

Karen Inglis author pointing to hedgehog video with nursery pupils in front
The children loved the video of the hedgehog running up the side of my family home!

The pictures here mean a lot to me and encapsulate the double sided joy of being writer. From sitting alone in a quiet world where stories tumble, mature and develop as they try to get out – to seeing the delight on children’s faces as they lap up your characters and the journey you have taken them on.

Author and teacher with pupils - picture book reading
Reading Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep

Writing children’s books is a journey I wouldn’t give up for the world!

Rhyming or no rhyming 🙂

With thanks to Barnes Montessori for inviting me and for taking these lovely photos.

If you think your child’s school would like a visit, please do get in touch via my school visits page (opens in new tab).







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

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!

From rejection to bestseller – the magical story of The Secret Lake…


The Story of The Secret Lake

They say the best things come to those who wait: it’s seven years this month since I published my time travel adventure The Secret Lake and I couldn’t be more thrilled that it has become an Amazon UK children’s bestseller both in print and as an eBook over the last four months. (The print book is ranked at just over 300 in the whole of the Amazon UK Store as I write – though this changes by the hour and the bestseller badge comes and goes as a result.) Now feels a good time for any new followers to tell you how I came to write it, how it was rejected, and what happened next…

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images of two front covers of the secret lake by karen inglis
The Secret Lake – old and new

It’s almost 20 years since I wrote the first draft of my time travel adventure The Secret Lake in which Stella (age 11) and Tom (age 8), while trying to find their elderly neighbour’s missing dog, discover a time tunnel and secret lake that take them to their home and the children living there 100 years earlier. And it’s seven years to the day since I self-published it. (Amazon shows the print publication date as 4th August but that is wrong – that’s the date I registered the ISBN, but I clearly did something wrong!)

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Notting Hill communal gardens


The story was inspired when some friends moved to an apartment backing onto communal gardens not far from Notting Hill in London. When I walked out and saw the children playing there I couldn’t help wondering what might happen if they could meet the children who had lived and played there in Edwardian times.

The lake in the story was inspired by a pond in a magical woodland in Richmond Park, close to where we live. We used to take our boys there to play when they were younger and it reminded me of the sense of freedom I had had as a child growing up in the Hertfordshire countryside. Even before we’d left Notting Hill that day of our first visit, this magical woodland setting had become connected with the story that was already forming in my mind…

Three children's book illustrations from Ferdinand Fox and the Hedgehog: Ferdinand Fox trotting along the street; Hatty Hedgehog putting her baby son Ed to sleep and mum and son hedgehog nose to nose
Still Pond in the magical Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park

There were many drafts in the early days (I didn’t plot, and things got very muddled!), and it was many months before I felt ready to show the story around.

My first step was to submit it for comment to an independent manuscript appraisal service, The Writers’ Advice Centre for Children’s Books. Thereafter – and several rewrites later – I  sent it off by post to a half a dozen publishers only to be told that the story was “too traditional”, “not what children are looking for these days” or “not for our lists”. After the six- to eight-week wait to hear back, I was despondent – and many reading here will know that awful feeling of rejection!

I had better luck with my next story Eeek! The Runaway Alien (a humorous chapter book about a young alien who comes to Earth for the Word Cup), with Bloomsbury asking for more material, and an agent asking for a further version. However, when this eventually came to nothing I decided the odds of getting published were stacked against me in a very large, slow-motion lottery — so I packed everything away and went back to my day job as a business writing consultant where I knew I would at least earn from my writing.

After that The Secret Lake, Eeek! and various other stories lay in a wooden box under my office window for over 10 years. I used to glance at that box from time to time and think what a shame it was that no one would ever know the magical story of The Secret Lake. I also recall fleetingly wondering if one day my great-great grandchildren might discover it and bring it back to life.

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The Secret Lake sat in this wooden box for 10 years…

Discovering self-publishing and gaining control

In fact, it wasn’t the future grandchildren who would breathe new life into The Secret Lake. I took a yearlong sabbatical from my consulting work in late 2010 and pulled my stories out again. Around that time self-publishing via Amazon’s CreateSpace was being talked about online and, once I delved deeper, I knew it was for me: it would put me in control and allow me to get my story in front of children instead of sitting unloved in someone’s slush pile.

Early days…

It was a lonely business back then – no Facebook Groups or self-publishing organisations to join to swap expertise and frustrations! And book formatting tools were few and far between — and extremely clunky compared with what’s on offer today. I had lots of setbacks but The Secret Lake was finally born in print and for Kindle in September 2011.

The long road to discovery – and how children know best!

Once The Secret Lake was out, I set up a website, contacted and visited local bookshops and sent press releases to local magazines, newspapers and community newsletters, taking care to point to where it was stocked locally. My first event was a reading in our local library. I was terrified that no one would turn up – or that I’d have hordes – and I burst into tears from nerves the day before. In fact, there were seven children, seven adults and the library staff. It was perfect. The librarian even served tea and cakes!

Thereafter I began connecting with local schools, which entailed a lot of research and persistence. Gradually (very gradually) it began to pay off and my local author brand started to grow.

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One of many school visits with children listening eagerly to The Secret Lake

Then and now – children still know best…

My instinct that children still hanker after a good adventure story had proven itself long before its recent rise through the Amazon ranks. By the end of 2017 I had sold over 7,000 copies through a combination of school visits, local independent bookshop sales and signings in six branches of Waterstones (a major UK book chain) around southwest London – plus a steady trickle of online store sales in print and for Kindle in both the UK and USA. During this time the then Head of Independent Commissioning for children’s CBBC also read and enjoyed it, and recommended I pitch it to the BBC and/or to independent production companies. It didn’t get chosen by the CBBC in the end, and life and other writing got in the way after that. However, pursuing the second option is now high on my task list and I’ve even had an enquiry from Hollywood recently. (I am sure this will be case of ‘watch this space for a VERY long time’, so I’m not get excited just yet…).

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Waterstones in Notting Hill was the first bookshop to stock The Secret Lake. Several more branches in southwest London took it and I had many successful signings 🙂

What changed in 2018?

The Secret Lake has always been my bestseller at school visits but raising its profile beyond face-to-face events and my local bookshops has, until this year, been by far the hardest part of being an independent children’s author. And if people farther afield don’t know your book then they don’t know to look for it – be that online or in high street bookshops. This in turns means that children won’t know about it in sufficient numbers around the UK to spread the word and so fuel further demand.

I have Amazon UK to thank for the breakthrough. When they opened up sponsored product advertising to independent authors alongside traditionally published titles in early 2018 I was finally able to make The Secret Lake visible online where parents are looking for similar children’s books. The effect was almost immediate and the book began to climb slowly and steadily through the ranks. (This was before I updated the cover in May, though the new design has undoubtedly worked extra magic since and I couldn’t be happier with it.)

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By the time I started promoting it, The Secret Lake had 45 reviews, gradually built up over the years. These undoubtedly helped encourage sales once the book became visible, and the review numbers are now slowly growing. I’m so grateful to those parents and grandparents who have taken the time give their feedback, or help their child give their feedback. As any author will tell you, it means so much after all the hard work – and particularly in the case of children’s authors where our readers don’t have access to the online reviews platforms. So, thank you if you have left a review recently or in the past!

Not just Amazon…

I’m especially delighted to report that word-of-mouth customer requests have also led to independent and high street bookshops outside of my locality placing orders for The Secret Lake through wholesalers, with around 70 recent UK sales and similar in the US this way when I last checked. This is great news for bookshops and readers alike. For once, Amazon seems to be helping high-street bookshops make more sales.

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Local bookshops that have supported The Secret Lake. It’s now travelling farther afield…

Reflecting on my adventure

As The Secret Lake continues to land on hundreds of doormats in the UK, US and Europe (notably Germany) each week, I can’t help thinking back to those early rejections. I truly felt there was a gap in the market for more classic adventure stories – the sort I’d enjoyed as a child, but with a modern twist. I’m so glad that children, parents, librarians and teachers have confirmed my suspicions and given this story the chance to breathe.

pile of children's books - spine facing
A typical book order pile ahead of a school visit… (old cover)

In short, without Amazon and self-publishing, this story would still be in its box — how  very sad would that be? (Oh, except, of course, for those curious future great-great-grandchildren! 🙂  Hmm, and therein might lie another magical time travel story…)

Have a book-loving 8-11 year-old at home?

You’ll find copies of The Secret Lake on Amazon in your country here. It’s also available in print in all online stores worldwide. Alternatively use the link top right of this page to find your closest independent bookshop to place an order.

Please leave a review of The Secret Lake

If your child has read and enjoyed it, it would mean a lot to me if you could help them leave a review online. Thank you!

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Foxes & Hedgehogs, The Secret Lake & the World Cup

Hello from London

We’ve all been enjoying the sunshine today – I hope it’s shining where you are!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here – life is always so busy, what with new books to get out, school visits and all of the marketing tasks I have to keep up with. However, I promised to keep you up to date with what I’m doing and wanted to share two pieces of children’s books news – and to remind you about the World Cup!

Ferdinand Fox and the Hedgehog: a rhyming picture book for ages 3-6

Firstly, I have a new rhyming picture book out for ages 3-5+ Ferdinand Fox and the Hedgehog which introduces Hatty the hedgehog and her baby son Ed.

Front cover of Ferdinand Fox and the hedgehog by Karen Inglis

It’s already proving extremely popular with children, parents and grandparents and the rhyming story comes with eight pages of hedgehog and fox photos and facts to share with little ones – including how we can all help hedgehogs survive. If you have children or grandchildren in this age range, do take a look at the online reviews on Amazon UK . It’s also available in the store and all other stores worldwide. You can also order it at your local bookshop.

Inside the book you’ll find a link to free colour posters to download and print off…

Images of Hatty the hedgehog and her baby son ed, and of Ferdinand Fox trotting along at night

I took the story along to the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival the weekend before last where it was a huge hit with little ones!

A magical new cover for The Secret Lake

The beautiful Isabella Plantation woodland in Richmond Park near London (where Henry VIII used to ride out) is in full bloom right now – see my images below from a visit last week – it’s where we used to take our boys to play when they were small.

To coincide with the season, I’ve recently updated the cover of my best selling time travel adventure The Secret Lakewhich was partly inspired by a magical pond at Isabella, called ‘Still Pond’.

The Secret Lake by Karen Inglis

I asked for children’s votes on the cover at eight schools during my World Book Day visits in March this year and they overwhelmingly went for this one over a couple of other options – I hope you like it! I wanted to bring it up to date but also retain the classic feel that the story has, and I think my illustrator, Damir, has achieved this.

The Secret Lake has now sold over 9,000 copies and continues to be a firm favourite with girls and boys aged 8-11 – oh, and with grown-ups! It’s even been hitting best seller lists on Amazon UK in recent weeks which I’m especially proud about 🙂

You can read its many reviews on Amazon UK here. And more reviews on here.

The Secret Lake up at Isabella Plantation last week for a little tour

Three images from Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park -- with vibrant pink azaleas in a magical woodland
Still Pond, seen at the top, provided the inspiration for the lake in ‘The Secret Lake’

While here – just a quick reminder: with the World Cup coming around in June, if you have any soccer-mad boys or girls aged 7-10 at home do check out Eeek! The Runaway Alien – about an alien who comes to Earth for the World Cup 🙂 It has a huge surprise at the end (but don’t tell the kids!) and has been praised for getting both keen and reluctant readers turning the pages. LoveReading4kidsUK describes it as “Laugh-out-loud funny!” and it has been used in the Get London Reading campaign.  I shall be posting a new crossword puzzle to go with it on my site in the next couple of weeks, so look out for that — I just need to consult with my husband on a few minor details…

Front cover of Eeek! The Runaway Alien - a green alien with blue smoke wafting from his ears and wearing a red and white England scarf and holding soccer boots
A match made in heaven for soccer fans 7-10 yrs!

Other news – helping local causes

Finally, one thing I love about being an author is getting involved with community projects, or doing what I can to help with fundraising relating to literacy. Below you can see me at Brandlehow Primary School in Putney a couple of weeks ago, close to where I live in London. The PTA is raising funds for a new library and asked a few local authors if we’d come and run some free workshops that both children and parents could attend. The money they raised through donations is going towards the library, and stood at over £700 when I last heard! The children also got to buy signed books, so everyone went home happy.

Image of author Karen Inglis speaking to children at a school author event
Author workshop with Years 3 & 4 at Brandlehow Primary – part of their library fundraiser

My next task for today is to drop off a signed copy of each of my books for prizes in a fundraising quiz being held this week at Greenmead Primary,  a special needs primary school in south-west London for children aged 2-11.

I’m also extremely excited to have sponsored a bookshelf for a new literacy library being built in London by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education – a charity that works to improve literacy in primary schools.

That’s it for now – I’ll be in touch again, but not too often. In the meantime I hope you have a great rest of week – and let’s hope the sun stays shining in the UK for our upcoming bank holiday!


PS If you think your school would like a school visit – in person or via Skype – please ask them to get in touch and/or to look at my school visits page

The Secret Lake – live video from Isabella

Hello from London – I hope you all had a great Easter break.  Our one-off heatwave in early April seems a distant memory now, but the sun is trying to break through again today, and the magical woodland that inspired the setting for my top selling children’s time travel adventure The Secret Lake is already in bloom and I wanted to share a couple of images. (You’ll also find a link to a free sample of the story later on if you don’t yet have it.)

The woodland that inspired The Secret Lake is called Isabella Plantation, and is hidden away within London’s Richmond Park (one of the places Henry VIII used to ride out to from Hampton Court). Here’s a photo I took after cycling up there on Sunday. Our children loved exploring there when they were younger!

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But the best is yet to come: I also took a 12-second video of the stunning ‘Still Pond’ with all of the azaleas reflecting in the water. This was the inspiration for the book’s cover and the lake in The Secret Lake. It’s also the first thing Tom and Stella see after climbing down the time tunnel. (You can see this scene in the book cover image below.)

Click here to view a live sweep across Still Pond (opens in YouTube)

Image of a woodland pond with pink azaleas reflecting in the water
Click to view – the inspiration for the front cover of The Secret Lake 🙂

These shots were so stunning, I couldn’t resist sharing them. I hope you enjoy!

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Could you take a moment to review The Secret Lake?

If you or your child has read and enjoyed The Secret Lake it would mean a lot to me if you could take a moment to leave a rating and short review on Amazon or help your child to do so. Reviews really do help spread the word and every little helps – especially for we children’s authors! Our readers aren’t on Amazon and so garnering reviews is a slow process. Hopefully the links below will help save you time!

Read 45 reviews of The Secret Lake on Amazon UK and add your own

Read 15 reviews of The Secret Lake on and add your own

Download a free preview copy of The Secret Lake

If you don’t already have The Secret Lake and would like to ‘try before you buy’ – whether for yourself or on behalf of a child –  simply click on the link below to download the first four chapters for free. The instructions are really easy to follow and you can download to phone, Kindle, desktop or any other device. The full book is available in print or as an eBook.

Sign up for a free preview of The Secret Lake (opens in new tab)

What’s the reading age for The Secret Lake?

The Secret Lake is aimed at a reading age of 8-11 years, but is also highly suitable to read aloud to younger children, thanks to its page-turning plot and short chapters. It’s also loved by grown-ups – especially fans of Enid Blyton and Tom’s Midnight Garden!  I hope you or children will enjoy. It continues to be my bestseller both online and at school events – I hope your children will also get to know this magical tale.

That’s it for now. I hope the sun is shining where you are – or will be soon 🙂




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