Beyond the page

By Monica Charsley

The world of witches and mermaids with Sibéal Pounder


Sibeal Pounder and a group of children in costume. Photo credit: Karolina Stanislawczyk, 2019


A packed house at Barnes Green Centre. Photo credit: Karolina Stanislawczyk, 2019


Have you ever wondered what a cross between a witch and a mermaid would be like? Author Sibéal Pounder invited her festival audience to find out.

Sibéal kicked off her talk by sharing her obsession with witches as a child. “I thought witches were hiding down the plug hole below the sink pipes,” said Sibéal. This wild thought was the start of something amazing, her ‘Witch Watch’ book series!

Now Sibéal, who also wrote the ‘Bad Mermaids’ book series, has decided to combine the two in her latest book ‘Bad Mermaids: On Thin Ice.’

After her introduction, it was time for us all to get creative as Sibéal led us on a magical adventure with lots of audience participation. Together Sibéal, the children and the parents created a brand-new witch called ‘Ceeceechub’!  Children were invited onto the stage and transformed into sea creatures including an octopus, shell, shark and lobster. Then Sibéal produced more props, including water, rain macs and hats to prepare the children-turned-creatures to go through the shark-infested Hammerhead Heights. What a journey!

Sibéal took lots of time after the adventure to answer questions. She was particularly encouraging to young aspiring writers. Sibéal assured them it’s ok to make mistakes. “Spelling and grammar come with time, that’s mechanics, it’s about ideas,” said Sibéal

Stay tuned for Sibéal’s next book, ‘Bad Mermaids: On Thin Ice’ which launches next month.

A stand up time with Michael Rosen

By Saskia Calliste

From the Stone Age to the Lone Ranger


Michael Rosen and the We’re Going On a Bear Hunt bear. Photo credit: Liesel Bockl, 2019.


Michael Rosen outside the marquee. Photo credit: Liesel Bockl, 2019.


“1,2,3 smiling!”

Before the show had even begun, eager parents and children were flooding into the packed out Book Marquee to grab a snap with legendary children’s author Michael Rosen. “1,2,3 smiling” he said to each new crowd of kids.

As his microphone was already on, we could all hear the conversation he was having with little Ted from St Mary’s Twickenham, who had a bone to pick with Michael about an unanswered letter. I’m sure you’ll get a response now Ted after that telling off!

Michael certainly redeemed himself with his hilarious trip down memory lane – all the way back to the stone age, where he apparently went to school – and had the audience in fits of laughter. He isn’t just a fab storyteller, he has a gift for getting everyone in the audience involved. Nobody who was there will forget Michael Rosen making them act out the opening credits of the 50’s TV show The Lone Ranger.

Michael wasn’t alone in bringing joy to the crowd. Halfway through his performance, we had a visit from the We’re Going on a Bear Hunt bear! Then another legend turned up in the audience, author Lynne Reid Banks, who had the final word, reciting a poem that flew right over the kids’ heads and directly into the ears of parents – naughty Lynne!

Michael has written over 100 books, plays and poetry collections, including We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, No Breathing in ClassMind Your Business and Fluff the Farting Fishing. His latest book A Dog’s Tale: Life Lessons for a Pup comes out next month. Here’s to your next 100 books Michael: it was an absolute pleasure!

Illustration time with Axel Scheffler

By Kathleen Neighbours

Axel Scheffler with a few fans signing books in the marquee. Photo credit: Arnhel de Serra, 2019.


Axel Scheffler drawing a personalised doodle in each book. Photo credit: Liesel Bockl, 2019.


Storytime with the illustrator of the Gruffalo.

Axel Scheffler, illustrator of such favourites as Zog the dragon, the Ugly Five, and, of course, the Gruffalo, had a full house at the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival. He was introduced by Lily and Maggie from Barnes Primary, who shared fun facts and a few secrets. Did you know that there is a Gruffalo hidden in all but one of Axel Scheffler and Julia Donaldson’s books?

There was a lot of cheering as Axel began to draw Zog, with children standing on chairs to get a better look and shouting out guesses as the character emerged on screen. Adults and children alike were enthralled by his live illustrations. He had hardly finished his first drawing before there were chants of “Gruffalo! Gruffalo!” all over the marquee. But after drawing Zog, Axel began to read aloud, and the marquee went quiet. (Don’t worry he did draw the Gruffalo later.)

At the end of the session, the kids had an opportunity to ask questions. We got some amazing answers, like Axel Scheffler’s favourite animal to draw (rodents) and his advice to young illustrators (draw a lot!). Then Axel signed literally hundreds of books – drawing a little doddle in every last one.

Get inspired with Libby Jackson

By Kathleen Neighbours

Author of A Galaxy of Her Own says space isn’t just for the boys anymore!


Libby Jackson signing books.


Libby Jackson’s book, ‘A Galaxy of Her Own’.


Libby Jackson, head of the Human Exploration Programme at the UK Space Agency, has a special message for girls and boys everywhere: “You can do whatever you like!” She proved this in her talk on Saturday, when she shared the inspiring history of women in the space industry. But this talk wasn’t just for the girls. Her message to all the children was that if they want to, they can be part of the exciting world of space travel. Libby believes that in our lifetime, we will send astronauts back to the moon and even all the way to Mars. She shared the many different ways that girls and boys alike can be involved — even without leaving the planet!

Reaching new heights with David Almond

Skellig author on his latest venture into graphic novels. 


David Almond signing books at St Mary’s Church. Photo Credit: Liesel Bockl, 2019.


Bex Lindsay (left) asking David Almond (right) the kid’s questions from the audience. Photo Credit: Liesel Bockl, 2019.


It has been 20 years since Skellig, and David Almond, esteemed author and proud ‘Tynesider’, still can’t believe how that magical story came to him.

“I just posted my latest work to my agent and said I was going to take a break from writing,” he says. “When I turned around to go home, the story started to tell itself in my head. I didn’t take a break; I went home, started writing and six months later, there was Skellig.”

Bex Lindsay from Fun Kids Radio did a great job of interviewing David, and even led a funny Geordie word quiz — but it was the kids in the audience who had the best questions. “What’s your favourite word?” asked one. David thought and thought, then said, “skylark” and then “hawthorn.”

Talking about his new book, Joe Quinn’s Poltergeist, David said, “It feels like an adventure.” It’s his first graphic novel, and he’s teamed up with the wonderfully, dark Dave McKean, illustrator of Coraline, to share a tale of the paranormal (with flying bread and butter). The pair have collaborated before; readers will remember Mouse Bird Snake Wolf and Slog’s Dad. When David was asked why he chose to write this story as a graphic novel he said, “It’s quite visual, quite dramatic; it made sense for it to be this story.”

David also had some tips for aspiring writers of all ages in the audience. Here are the top three:

(1) Just do it. The answer is obvious, just start writing it down.

(2) Don’t try to impress anybody.

(3) Be brave.

You heard it here first!

The true story behind Cloud Boy

By Saskia Calliste

Former prisoner of war, Olga Henderson accompanies Marcia Williams to the festival. 

Marcia Williams reading her book Cloud Boy.


Olga Henderson (left) and Marcia Wlliams (right) signing books.


Master storyteller Marcia Williams, author and illustrator of Mr William Shakespeare’s PlaysGreek Myths for Young Children and Three Cheers for Woman and many many more, has written her first novel! Cloud Boy is a beautifully told story based on the life of Olga Henderson, who was a prisoner in the Changi jail in Singapore from aged 10 during World War Two. Not only Marcia, but Olga herself joined us at the festival this year for an extraordinary event, during which Olga shared some of her memories. Even though they were covering a serious subject, Marcia and Olga made the event fun, engaging and insightful for parents and kids alike.

“I heard Olga’s story ten years ago, I just didn’t know how to write it,” explained Marcia. She told us that the inspiration for her novel not only came from Olga’s story, but from the support her grandson’s friends showed him when he fell ill — as well as meeting a little girl who liked to write letters to her cat!

Karen Inglis on Self-Publishing

By Kathleen Neighbours

Top tips for budding authors

Karen Inglis.


Karen Inglis’s book How to Self-Publish and Market a Children’s Book.


Karen Inglis is a best-selling Amazon author who decided to self-publish after receiving rejections early on in her writing career. She has now published five children’s titles on Amazon, as well as her book on self-publishing, How to Self-Publish and Market a Children’s Book. Here are her top tips!

Be prepared to go out and meet your audience.

Know the age group you are writing for and how best to reach them. Comparing pricing for your market will also help you set your price (along with a royalty calculator).

Join the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi).

This organisation can provide advice and support as well as trusted third-party contacts. Which leads us to…

Use professional editors and illustrators.

Quality is key. Above all, Karen advises children’s authors NOT to design their own cover. Using a professional will make your book look its best.

When finding an illustrator, be sure to establish copyright ownership.

Think about how much direction or freedom you are giving your illustrator when considering this.

E-books are a useful marketing support tool.

Using services such as KDP Print (which is owned by Amazon) will allow you to create an e-book quite easily. When listing your book on Amazon, be sure to think of the keywords your audience is most likely to use to find a book like yours.

Finally, you are in charge of your own marketing and PR.

Start local: libraries, bookshops, schools, and any local events are a good place to start marketing your book. Online platforms are also very useful. Anyone thinking of self-publishing should be sure to have a website at the very least, and some social media channels won’t hurt.


Laughing and learning with Christopher Lloyd

By Saskia Calliste

We all wish Chris was our teacher. 

Christopher Lloyd signing books at Barnes Methodist Church.


Christopher Lloyd’s book Absolutely Everything.


15 objects in the 15 pockets of Chris’s magical, history-telling coat were all that he needed to capture the audience and power through the most important moments in history. From a bottle of Scottish water to a pair of knitting needles, Chris had everyone laughing and learning, whilst he discussed his latest book Absolutely Everything. Summing up the whole universe in just 352 pages, Chris’s book leaves no stone unturned, including the creation of the universe, the significance of the olive and how KFC should be renamed KFD because birds are essentially dinosaurs – thanks Chris, we all know what we won’t be having for dinner tonight!

It was Chris’s first time at Barnes Festival, but we do hope it won’t be his last!

Bigger is better for S F Said

By Lauren Billings

The Smarties Award winning author of Varjak Paw, tells us how he achieved his dream of becoming a writer.

S F Said giving his talk. 


S F Said with his book Phoenix.


Dreams are something S F Said is fascinated by and uses a lot in his writing. Varjak Paw is a cat who has strange visions, and Phoenix is about a boy who finds great power through his unusual dreams. But Said reminds us that not all dreams are so unlikely.

“Dreams are all possible to achieve,” says Said. “I know because I achieved mine.”

Said dreamt of becoming a published author from a young age. He says his major inspirations were The Cat in the HatWatership Down, and Star Wars.

“After seeing Star Wars in the cinema for the first time, I wanted to make a story so big it could fill an entire galaxy!”

So, Said set out to do just that, and didn’t let his first failed attempts deter him. After being rejected by publishers for a second time, he realised he needed to do some research – something he stresses the importance of when trying to achieve anything. In doing so he learnt about the importance of drafts and started work on his beloved Varjak Paw.

“Varjak Paw was 17 drafts!” he says. “But it helped me to become a better writer.”

Now with three books under his belt, Said hasn’t forgotten his ambition to create something big.

Phoenix was bigger than Varjak Paw, and my next book, Tyger, will be even bigger than that!”

Though Tyger is still in its crucial draft stage, Said is aiming for it to be completed by the end of 2019. So, look out for Said’s biggest book yet, in 2020!


Awesome comes to Barnes

By Genevieve Ferris

Matthew Syed on sports, studying and success.

Matthew Syed introduced by William.


Matthew Syed teaching us how to be awesome.


The queue to Matthew Syed’s event stretches way across Barnes Green. There’s clearly a lot of people who want to hear what the author of bestselling book, ‘You Are Awesome’, has to say. A fact that seems surprising to the author himself.


‘You might have noticed as you walked in, I was stood in the corner of the room. To be honest, I was feeling overwhelmed by the number of people  – I always think it will just be my family at events – so I went off and tried one of my exercises. I told myself; “Whatever happens now, good or bad, my parents will still love me.” Try it if you’re anxious.’


Syed is full of positive tips and advice on the growth mindset he so passionately promotes, and pitches them perfectly for the school-aged members of his audience.


‘I went through school not asking questions. I wanted to look smart, but that meant I didn’t learn and had to teach myself. That’s the crazy way. Putting your hand up to ask questions in class is good! After all, your teacher is paid to make you learn. Take advantage.’


In fact, he credits a particularly inspirational English teacher with igniting his passion for writing. ‘He read us The Hobbit and it felt like we were in that world. It came alive. His passion lit the fuse of writing in my soul. A great teacher can do that.’


The advice isn’t just for children. He has all generations in the audience transfixed with his tales of how David Beckham is one of the original growth mindset sportspeople; ‘He knew talent wasn’t everything – he worked hard and learnt from his mistakes’, and how his own Olympic table tennis dreams were smashed in a matter of minutes after he crumbled under pressure.


The Olympic disaster was a pivotal point for his own growth mindset journey; ‘The first thing I thought was, I’m never going to risk failing like that again. But I knew that was the wrong approach.’ He went on to win a Gold at the Commonwealth Games.


He applies the same mindset to his writing. ’You know what, writing ‘You Are Awesome’ was a big risk for me. It turned out well but might have flopped. And you know, that’s what life’s about. Stepping out of your comfort zone and taking risks.’

How to write a great story

By Saskia Calliste

Top tips from Caroline Lawrence. 


Caroline Lawrence with her latest book Time Travel Diaries at Kitson Hall.


Caroline Lawrence signing books at Kitson Hall.


Bestselling author of The Roman Mysteries and P K Pinkerton series, Caroline has mastered Greek mythology, Roman quests and more recently time travel; and now she’s sharing her secrets for writing great stories!

After introducing her latest novel, The Time Travel Diaries, Caroline took her festival fans through the seven key components of a great story. Here’s a spoiler: the first thing you need is a problem. All heroes have them, it’s just the way it has to be.

You can study her secret formula more closely when her new book How to Write a Great Story hits the shelves on 22nd August 2019. Illustrated by Linzie Hunter, it’s full of fun drawings, helpful tips and extracts of some of Caroline’s own favourites stories.

Chitra Soundar and the wonders of India

By Lauren Billings

The author’s imaginative tales take us from London to India in the blink of an eye.


Chitra Soundar at Barnes Methodist Church Hall. Photo credit: Liesel Bockl 2019.


Photo credit: Liesel Bockl 2019.


Chitra Soundar led us on an exciting journey of sound and colour through India. Her beautiful folktales Farmer Falgu Goes to the MarketPattan’s Pumpkin, and You’re Safe With Me are packed with vivid, evocative descriptions and dialogue that really sticks with you.


You’re Safe With Me shows us the beauty that comes with things that may scare us, and why we should try and look on the bright side when faced with adversity. It is currently shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal for Poonam Mistry’s gorgeous Indian fabric art illustrations.  A visual and literary treat.

It’s a full house with Emma Carroll

By Saskia Calliste

From peanut butter, cucumber and marmite on toast  (yes, seriously) to codebreaking, we were off to a great start with Emma Carroll


Emma Carroll signing books.


No spare seat at Emma Carroll’s talk.


A talk that opens with ‘Duran Duran’ and embarrassing childhood pictures of a bad 70’s haircut, is only going to go one way – absolutely hilariously. ‘The Letters from the Lighthouse’ author kicked things off at Barnes Methodist Church, discussing all things old and new in the life of Emma Carroll.

The talk was introduced by the lovely Hannah, age 10, and when Emma came on to tell her and the rest of the room full of impressionable children that rules were, “made to be broken”, they were all spellbound. The rules Emma was referring were actually in her latest book, ‘When We Were Warriors’: a story of all things forbidden and mysterious set in World War Two.

When asked how she got her idea for the novel, Emma said, “Things I want, dream, hate – it’s like a making a smoothie: you whizz it all up and it becomes something new.” Other than where to pull inspiration from, Emma had some great tips for the budding author;

-Drink lots of tea.

-Eat really disgusting snacks that no one else wants, whilst being stared at by dogs.

-Buy notebooks. They’ll make no sense to anyone but it’s here where the essence of the story lies.

That sounds about right.

Emma’s next book is called Somerset Tsunami which is about – that’s right, you guessed it – a tsunami in Somerset. Out this October, Emma is the woman who makes the impossible imaginable – and that includes her favourite snack, as she shared with us during her talk, peanut butter, marmite and cucumber on toast, yuck!

Top marks for Robin Stevens

By Lauren Billings

Murder Mystery aficionado, Robin Stevens, talks childhood, murder, and her brand new novel.


Robin Steven giving her talk. Photo Credit: Liesel Bockl 2019.


Photo credit: Liesel Bockl 2019.


Robin Stevens, author of the wildly popular Murder Most Unladylike series, told Barnes Children’s Literature Festival how her unique childhood – moving from America aged five to live on-campus at an Oxford college with her parents – has heavily influenced her writing.


“There were no kids my age where I lived; just teachers and students,” she says. “I felt like Alice in Wonderland – I was too small for everything!”


This isolated feeling led Robin to create Hazel and Daisy, the intrepid heroes of Murder Most Unladylike. “I have two main characters, so they always have a best friend to support them.”


Robin has been writing from a very young age. As a child, she created the TCA magazine – the Toy Care Association – that she admits was just an excuse to write stories. This is despite the fact she struggled with learning to read as a child.


“My teacher pulled my Mum aside one day for a chat,” said Robin. “She said ‘I think Robin can’t learn to read… because of her accent.”


Luckily, Robin’s accent hasn’t hindered her success, as the children in the audience sat in awed silence and looked on adoringly as she spoke. You could have heard a pin drop as Robin read an extract from her upcoming book, Top Marks for Murder, Hazel and Daisy’s eighth adventure together. No doubt everyone in that audience will be lining up to get a copy when the book drops on the 8th  August.

Getting to the bottom of Petr Horáček!

By Lauren Billings

The illustrator and author gives a cheeky insight into his brilliant books.

Petr Horáček and his illustration of a bear and a bird.


Petr Horáček’s Greedy Goat book.


Charming storyteller and illustrator, Petr Horáček, introduced the fascinated children in his audience to his wonderful world of greedy goats, blue penguins, and colourful puffins.

In a unique glimpse at Petr’s creative process, he showed the beautiful apple orchard where he works – and the hungry goat who likes to eat his breakfast! Petr likes to draw all sorts of animals from horses, to geese, to mice. He let us in on the secret that he cheats sometimes when drawing.

“I can’t draw mice feet, so I cheat and give her stripy socks,” he smiles, cheekily. “That’s how clever I am!”

Petr also admits he loves to draw elephant bottoms! “I’m very good at drawing bottoms! I can draw a good bottom!” he says, resulting in a wave of laughter from children, and chuckles from grown-ups.

Petr’s stories really captivate readers with their sweet illustrations, and side-splitting writing. But he also manages to tug at the heart strings in the process. His readings of The Greedy Goat, Silly Suzy Goose, Blue Penguin, and The Mouse Who Ate the Moon left the audience captivated. Thanks for coming to Barnes, Petr!


Magic and myth with Ross Welford

By Sabrina Sadr

Time Travelling with a Hamster author Ross Welford urges aspiring young authors to keep trying.

Ross Welford giving his talk.


Ross Welford books.


Ross Welford developed an interest in magic and mythology as a child although his first foray into the world of writing was not in children’s literature. It was after having children of his own he decided to write children’s books, he told his audience at Barnes Children’s Literary Festival 2019.

Stressing that it’s never too late or too early to start writing and to follow your dreams, he added that the key to success as a writer is to keep trying and that the journey to becoming a great writer is never over: ‘Even when you’re [rejected] so many times, as writers often are, you shouldn’t give up.’

When asked where the most magical place is for him, he responded: ‘The Magical Circle Headquarters, in London, where I just recently became a member.’

Lisa Thompson’s top writing tips

By Genevieve Ferris

Advice from the hit children’s author on how to write that book.


Lisa Thompson giving her talk. Photo Credit: Liesel Bockl 2019.


Lisa Thompson signing books. Photo Credit: Liesel Bockl 2019.


  1. Use Your Eyes And Ears

“It isn’t just about writing. I was creating ideas, stories and inventing fictional worlds long before I became a novelist. Stories are all around us if you use your eyes and ears. It started when I was four and wanted to be Wonder Woman – I spent hours inventing worlds imagining I was her. Then later on in my work at BBC radio, I listened to people reading plays and stories for hours, and I was always making up images in my mind about what I was hearing. I think that has really helped me with writing.”


  1. Seek Inspiration From Your Interests

“I have always loved reading books about fascinating trivia, and some of those facts and stories have stayed with me and helped me with the plots of my books. For example, when I was thinking about my latest book, ‘The Day I Was Erased’, I drew on the tale of the Mary Celeste and its missing crew which had mystified me as a kid, as well as one of my favourite films, It’s A Wonderful Life.”


  1. Embrace Deadlines

“Sometimes I think procrastination is the longest stage of my writing process! And I think it’s the same for most writers, or would-be writers. I can be distracted by anything – football, the kettle and biscuit tin, Instagram, funny pictures on Twitter…. So for me, deadlines are helpful. They focus my mind. When I decided I wanted to write a book (something I had thought about since I was 9!) I gave myself a year to write a first draft and get an agent. I think giving myself that deadline was what helped me get it done.”

Francesca Simon presents the final Horrid Henry book

By Sarah Robertson

Horrid Henry author Francesca Simon has completed the final book in her series with Up Up and Away, she told Barnes Children’s Literature Festival organisers today.


Francesca Simon giving her talk on the Horrid Henry Series. Photo Credit: Liesel Bockl 2019.


Francesca Simon signing books. Photo Credit: Liesel Bockl 2019.


Appearing at the festival to promote her latest work and discuss how she developed the bestselling Horrid Henry Series, she said she will now be moving into focus on new characters for the publishers Faber and Faber. After completing the 25th Horrid Henry book, she said it was a good number at which to stop.

When asked her advice for budding young Barnes writers, she responded: ‘Always keep an ideas book and finish the stories you start. Don’t forget you can always write your ending first.’

Runaway Success

By Genevieve Ferris

Frank Cottrell-Boyce talks first days at school, false teeth and finding inspiration for his new book, ‘Runaway Robot’. 


Frank Cottrell-Boyce.


Frank Cottrell-Boyce with Gabriel and Jay.


With his natural wit and easy story telling ability, Frank Cottrell-Boyce had the audience in the Barnes Marquee in stitches from the get-go as he introduced his new book, ‘Runaway Robot’.


Inspired by a surprising trip to London Underground’s bountiful lost property department (boxes of false teeth anyone?!), ‘Runaway Robot’ tells the story of a boy who has lost his metal hand at an airport, but in looking for it, finds himself landed with something much bigger and more troublesome – giant, one-legged robot Eric, to be precise.


The enjoyment Frank clearly gets from the writing process is evident, ’Researching books is such a privilege. You get to talk to such interesting people – scientists, astronauts – and they are all so generous with their knowledge.’ – and is mirrored in the enjoyment both he and the audience get from his readings, both laughing along together at the bizarre mishaps that befall his characters.


During a memorable question and answer segment, we hear about how Frank’s disastrous first day at school (kicking a nun he mistook for a dalek, then turning yellow) inspired his hit book ‘The Astounding Broccoli Boy’. This in turn inspires some first-day of school anecdotes from his young audience members; ‘It was OK until I realised I had to go back’ and ‘I accidentally bit someone’!


Frank’s advice for would-be writers? ‘It’s the same as it would be for people who want to be bakers, or architects or teachers… “READ! Whatever you do in life, you’ll be better for having read a lot.”

Lauren Child and the art of wasting time

By Lauren Billings

Children’s Laureate, Lauren Child walks us through her creative process, and how we should all strive sometimes to just do nothing.


Lauren Child signing books at Book Marquee. Photo Credit: Liesel Bockl 2019.


Lauren Child signing a young boy’s book. Photo credit: Liesel Bockl 2019.


Looking particularly fabulous in her tailored black suit and red, glittering gloves, Lauren Child poses the question: “Do we ever think about nothing?” While today’s social pressures can make us feel like we must always be doing something productive, Lauren asks us to stop and consider allowing ourselves time to do nothing at all.

“Let children just stare into space,” she says. “That’s when ideas really form.” Lauren also stresses the importance of doing things just for the fun of it. Having a strict teacher and doing grades caused her to quit practicing piano as a child. Now, as an adult, she has picked it up again, and says that concentrating on playing is her own form of meditation.

Thinking back on her own childhood, Lauren remembers the works that inspired her to draw. She would copy Peanuts characters freehand, over and over again, and would often create her own comics. Drawing and writing go hand-in-hand for Lauren, and she’s very particular about the look of her characters.

“If Charlie Brown’s nose was pointier, he wouldn’t be Charlie Brown,” says Lauren. “It’s the same for me; if Lola didn’t have her signature tippy eyes, she wouldn’t be Lola.”

Before becoming the household name she is now, Lauren worked as a receptionist, and would illustrate her now infamous characters, Charlie and Lola between tasks.

“I had cut out a drawing of Lola when the phone rang, so I put her down,” she says. “When I hung up the phone, I saw she was sat on the wooden table, and I loved the look.” Lauren’s use of collage, texture, and layering in her illustrations is iconic. Whenever she finds something she loves, she puts it aside for later use. This even includes hoarding envelopes with patterns inside that spark her interest, which she used effectively for her recent illustrations in P. L. Travers’ classic book, Mary Poppins.

Her latest spectacular book, Hubert Horatio: How to Raise Your Grown-Ups, stars a child genius who’s the best at everything, from scuba-diving to modern dance. Lauren’s passion for quirky, unique characters continues to shine through, and her signature style remains instantly recognisable. Look out for Hubert on bookshop shelves!

Roald Dahl and the Wurble Gobblers

By Kathleen Neighbours

Help protect the stories of Roald Dahl by defeating the word-eating Wurble Gobblers.

Roald Dahl and the Wurble Gobblers at Kitson Hall.


With an inspiring introduction by author Michael Morpurgo, followed by a lone ‘Thank you!’ from the audience, Roald Dahl and the Wurble Gobblers began with a bang. From the outset the quirky team from the Ancient Guild of Tale Tenders was interacting directly with the audience to get them to help protect and preserve the words of Roald Dahl.


From learning a special Tale Tenders salute (make an opening book and then a ‘T’ with your hands) to encouraging a lot of laughter through making silly faces and roaring like a monster, children were learning the importance of books from Terry and Brenda. Children were able to share details of their favourite Dahl stories, compete in an ‘Ugly-Off’ in honour of The Twits, and make up their own story complete with bouncing shoes and a flying-motorcycle-fish. Each experience is unique and noise is encouraged! Safe to say, the kids all loved it.

Straight up fun with Jim Smith

By Saskia Calliste

Jim Smith author of Barry Loser is coming to Barnes Festival to indulge us in non-stop laughter. Join the Roald Dahl Funny Prize winner for an afternoon of storytelling and a workshop on how to draw his iconic characters, it’s not to be missed!

What’s the funniest book you’ve ever read?

Probably Adrian Mole, I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as much while reading a book as I did while reading that book, which I read while laughing a lot – more than any other book I’ve ever read, in fact.

If you could meet any literary character, who would it be and what would you say to them?

Adrian Mole. I’d tell him how much I laughed while reading the book about him I’d read while laughing really quite a lot.

What’s your top tip for writing funny characters?

Make them funny. If they’re not funny, it won’t make people laugh a lot while they’re reading the book that they are supposed to be funny in.

What’s your favourite Barry Loser quote?

I can’t remember, but I thought one up today about how people have bad tempers, except they say they lose their tempers like that’s a bad thing. Wouldn’t it be good to lose your temper if you had a bad one?

Tell us a joke?

Q. Why is it good when someone loses their temper?

A. Because tempers are bad, so it’s in the interest of the people around the person who has lost his/her temper that they lose said temper.

There’s more than meets the eye with Steven Butler

By Saskia Calliste

Steven Butler, author of ‘The Nothing to See Here Hotel’ series, weirdly and wonderfully illustrated by Steven Lenton, is coming to Barnes this year with his ragtag band of monsters in tow. Shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, Steven is treating us to an afternoon of monstrously good fun that is not to be missed. Here he tells us about his love of all things deep sea, his fantasy pet monster and the fourth book in the series — result!

Q: What’s your favourite thing about Sea-ing is Believing?


A: I’ve always been fascinated by marine life and I loved the idea of setting book three in a magical coral reef at the bottom of the sea. Sometimes deep-sea creatures are far stranger than anything you could invent. Have a look at Anglerfish and Oarfish… they’re SO WEIRD!!


Q: What’s the inspiration behind the series?

A: I have always loved books about magic hiding in plain sight and the Nothing To See Here Hotel was my chance to contribute to that genre. I don’t think there was any one inspiration for the series, but my love of magic and comedy and adventure all played a part in it.


Q: If you could have a magical power, what would it be and why?

A: I’d want to be like Maudlin Maloney and be a master of charms and hexes. I’d also like her chicken-powered caravan as well. I could fly off on adventures in it.


Q: What would be your dream pet monster and what would you call it?

A: I really love Frankie’s pet pygmy soot-dragon, Hoggit, from the books. I think I’d steal him. Steven Lenton’s illustrations of the little creature are really lovely and he always has pride of place on the front cover of the books.


Q: Will there be another ‘Nothing to See Here Hotel’ book and if so, can you tell us anything about it?

A: Yes! Book four is in the making as we speak. I can’t give too much away, but I can say it’s the first time we leave the hotel entirely and go to a completely new location. I can also tell you that you might just get to meet Prince Grogbah’s mum, Queen Latrina!


Q: Any advice for your writers on writing funny books?

A: I have two rules when it comes to writing funny books. Number one is “BE UNPREDICATABLE!” and number two is only use jokes you find funny yourself. If a gag or storyline doesn’t make me chuckle as I’m typing away, it doesn’t go in the book.

Kicking things off with Tom Palmer…

By Saskia Calliste

When it comes to all things football, one name comes to mind… Tom Palmer. From the Football Academy series to The Squad Series to Armistice Runner, Tom brings his love of football and reading back to Barnes Festival 2019 and we couldn’t be more excited!

Which football team do you support?

Leeds United.


If you could meet one footballer, past or present, who would it be?

Jack Cock, scorer of England’s first goal after WW1 – and subject of my children’s book, Over the Line. (And I mean it. I’m not just saying to advertise my book.)


Were you good at sports as a kid?

Not bad at football.


What is it about sports you enjoy writing about most?

The action and tension. Two sides to every story: a winner and a loser. And the unpredictability that leads to great cliff-hangers. But – mainly – it is a chance for people show resilience and never-give-up-ability.


What’s coming up next?

D-Day Dog. Based on a true story about a dog called Glen who parachuted in on D-Day to help liberate Europe from the Nazis.

Inside Jeremy Strong’s naturally funny mind

By Saskia Calliste

From the The-Hundred-Mile-An-Hour Dog to the My Brother’s Famous Bottom series, funny man Jeremy Strong has written over a hundred books! He will be bringing some of his first class hilarity to Barnes Festival 2019 and introducing his latest book Armadillo & Hare. And this is no ordinary hare of course. For starters, this one plays the tuba… We can’t wait to hear more!



What’s the funniest book you’ve ever read? 

Oh, I have read so many really funny books. I love Andy Stanton’s MR GUM series and for adults I love anything by Bill Bryson and also Spike Milligan’s works. They both have a really off-beat, surreal sense of humour. I also adore P G Wodehouse. When he is on top form nobody can beat him for style and perfectly poised sentences. Millionaire Wooster identifying with the working class is hysterical! I also love the Asterix series and the crazy use of Latin.

If you could meet any literary character, who would it be and what would you say to them? 

I would like to spend some time with Bertram Wooster, the casually unaware hero of P G Wodehouse’s ‘Jeeves and Wooster’ series. I would tell Jeeves that I have a very smart black and white cat named after him – and he is my butler. He always follows me around to make sure I am ok. As for Bertram Wooster I would simply like to sit down in a comfy armchair and chat to him about the world and listen to him telling me about his aunts and his view of the world – always optimistic and idotically misled.

What’s your top tip for writing funny characters? 

Make them funny! Ha ha! Actually this is a difficult question to answer and one I have never really thought about. I have a feeling that if I had to ’think’ about making a character funny it wouldn’t work. You can’t force humour – at least that’s what I feel. My mind tends to think ‘funny’ quite naturally. It’s a trait that doesn’t work well in a serious situation. Also I often shoot out something I think is funny and people just ignore it or look at me as if I’m from somewhere way beyond our own galaxy. I see my jokes nose dive into the ground and crash and burn. I still haven’t learned to stop myself from speaking!

What’s your favourite My Brother’s Famous Bottom quote? 

I haven’t got a clue!  I remember in MY BROTHER’S FAMOUS BOTTOM TAKES OFF Dad returns from their trip to America and gets arrested for stealing a sheep. It refers back to something much, much earlier in the story that the reader will have forgotten about, so it comes as a big surprise and I think it’s very funny too. Maybe you have to be caught up in reading the book to understand!

Tell us a joke?

It’s actually a poem by Ogden Nash called REFLECTIONS ON PARSLEY.


Is gharsley.

That’s all of it! I read this when I was about 12 and suddenly realised that you could play with words and have fun with them!

Sophy Henn on her love of animals

By Saskia Calliste

There might not be anyone else on the planet who loves animals as much as Sophy Henn. Sophy is a friend to all things furry and she’s bringing some of that love to this year’s festival: thank you Sophy! A first class picture book maker; she’s the heart behind the highly acclaimed ‘Where Bear?’ and the ‘Pom Pom’ series. If there’s anything more she enjoys than being around animals, it’s illustrating them… unless it’s horses and unicorns. Join us in welcoming Sophy at the festival for non-stop animal fun and her latest books ‘Lifesize’ and ‘Lifesize Dinosaurs’. You’re guaranteed to have a dino-mite time.

Sophy Henn

Tell us about your first pet?

My family always had loads of pets when I was growing up, the pets preceded me! But the first pet that was actually mine was a dog, a Lhasa Apso, called Crackers on account of us getting her around Christmas. She was quite the character and my Dad had a theory she was his mother reincarnate on account of her love of tea.


If you could have any animal in the world as a pet, what would you choose and why?

There is not an animal I do not like, so that is a very tough question. But these days I think I would only have rescue animals as pets as there are so many that need good homes. And if I am totally honest I might have been browsing the Guinea Pig section of my local animal shelter recently…. I LOVE them!


What’s your favourite animal to draw?

Bears. Always bears. My sketch books are filled with them. I think I find them comforting!


What’s the hardest animal to draw?

Horses. Actually horses AND unicorns, I dread being asked to draw them at live drawing events. Someone far cleverer than me suggested that if I am asked, I should draw a box and say the horse is in the box. Sneaky!


Who is your favourite illustrator?

OOOOH now that is an impossible question to answer, I have so many…but I will say that recently I have been enjoying looking at a lot of the old paperback covers Dick Bruna (creator of Miffy) illustrated and designed. I love the simplicity of his work, which is often the hardest thing to achieve. Genius.


A quick catch up with Candy Gourlay…

By Saskia Calliste

Candy Gourlay, the author of Bone Talk and Is it a Mermaid?, joins us for this year’s festival, hoorah! Candy, originally from the Philippines, is a dab hand at writing for different cultures and inviting the reader on a fascinating journey that grips and delights you. Candy is the BookTrust’s writer in residence and she’s coming to Barnes to share her experiences and reveal all about the mysterious dugong, a creature who might just be a mermaid – so it’s definitely not to be missed.

Candy Gourlay


What did you want to be when you were growing up?

I wanted to write books for children. I also wanted to become an actor except I only wanted to play the boy roles. And a cartoonist.

If you could give a piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?

I would just give myself a pat on the back and a wink and say, you’re doing great!

What does being the ‘BookTrust’s Writer in Residence’ mean to you?

I feel honoured and responsible and a little bit scared because there’s so much I want to say and do!

Can you share one highlight from your time at BookTrust so far?

I have gotten together with some cool artists from Bontoc, the setting of my book, Bone Talk. We are developing an event for Filipino children living in London using Bontoc music and dance to tell stories. I am so grateful to BookTrust for enabling and supporting this event!

Which book would you take with you on a desert island?

The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean. I never tire of re-reading it. May I take two picture books? Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love and Town is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz and Sydney Smith. I could gaze at those books forever.

Christopher Lloyd on Elton John, R2D2 and the difference between man and machine…

By Saskia Calliste

From dinosaurs to robots to your standard 30 cm ruler, the man behind the best-selling Absolutely Everything Christopher Lloyd is one of many who will be delighting us at this year’s festival. Three cheers for Chris! Christopher Lloyd is the resident expert on, well, everything. His books include The What on Earth Series and The Story of the World in 100 Species. Lloyd is coming to Barnes to delight and fascinate you about the worlds 13 billion year history, in just 50 minutes. Wow! Bring nothing but your enthusiasm and quizzical questions because if anyone can give you the answers, it’s Chris!



What did you want to be when you were growing up?

A steam train driver – I know it’s not a great career choice and I guess I got over the reality of not being able to be a steam train driver by about the age of 7. There is something so impressive and sensuous about all the hissing steam, the fire and the smell of the coal – it totally transfixes me every time I get to see or go near a steam train. After the age of 7 I realised I had a (small) gift for playing the piano, singing and making up songs, so the steam train thing was replaced by me becoming the next Elton John. It took quite a while to get that out of the system, I am afraid – but I am so thrilled with my career as it has turned out, even if I am not the Rocket Man I once dreamed of!


If you could time-travel to your favourite historical moment, where would you go and why?  

I guess I would have loved to have spent time with Charles Darwin – maybe we could be on the Galapagos Islands together, marvelling at nature and trying to puzzle out some of the mysteries of life on Earth. The 1830’s were remarkable for all kinds of things. When I get back to London from the Galapagos perhaps I could visit the Royal Institution in Mayfair, London, and see Michael Faraday demonstrating the first electric motor. Wow!


If you had a robot, what would you call it?

I would call is ‘Dryware’. That’s because as robots get ever more sophisticated it’s really important to remember what it is that makes us human and what it is that makes a robot a robot. The giant difference between us is water – we are ‘wetware’ because all the chemistry for life has to happen in solution. No liquid water, no life. So, the robot isn’t ‘wet’ at all – it’s ‘dry’ and just to make sure there is no potential for confusion between man and machine in future, let’s use its name to remind us.


If you could invent any household gadget, what would it be?

I’d quite fancy a holophone – it would be a device, like the one R2D2 uses in Star Wars to project Princess Leia onto a table. I get so frustrated with communicating in text messages and emails that to have someone I am speaking to projected in full 3D onto my kitchen table or living room floor would be so much better. They could even come and sit on the sofa in the living room and we could chat – full facial expressions and body language included!


What’s your tip top for writers on making history fun for kids?

Connect it all together. Make the stories of the past relevant to the lives of kids today and their hopes for the future. That’s why in my timeline books I write up the stories of key moments in history in the style of a newspaper. Because it’s written as if it happened yesterday, it includes the drama and the emotion of the present – it makes you feel connected with what’s being told. The other tip is to make the voice of the narrative read like someone is saying it out loud. Storytelling began as an oral, spoken tradition thousands of years ago and it’s especially important to try to keep that voice alive if the story is being written down.

Travel back in time with Caroline Lawrence

By Saskia Calliste

Who wouldn’t want to discover the untold story of how the remains of a 14-year-old girl ended up buried with an ivory knife in Roman London? Caroline Lawrence, an author who needs little introduction after her widely successful award winning The Roman Mysteries, is here to catapult you back in time with her latest book The Time Travel Diaries. With the help of her new protagonist, Alex Papas—a schoolboy who has been roped into travelling back to 260 AD by an eccentric millionaire — Lawrence is doing what she does best, taking you on an exciting journey through Roman London, leaving just enough time for us to meet her marvelously talented self at the festival. Result!


Photograph of Caroline Lawrence by Ed Miller’.


Caroline Lawrence’s latest book The Time Travel Diaries.


What is the inspiration behind The Time Travel Diaries? 

Recently the Museum of London displayed the bones of a 14-year-old girl with an ivory knife buried in Roman London. DNA and other chemical studies showed that she grew up in North Africa but had blue eyes! They also tell us that she came to London aged 9 and died five years later. I was obsessed with her so decided to write a book about what her story might have been.


Why did you decide to make it a Time Travel book? 

I had the idea when visiting the London Mithraeum, a temple to a mysterious god called Mithras that has recently been re-opened in the city of London in its original position 7 meters below ground. As you go down black marble steps, letters etched into the wall tell you that you are now at the level of World War Two bombing, then at the Great Fire of 1666 and then at the coronation of William the Conqueror in 1066. In other words, as you go down you ‘go back in time’. That gave me the idea for a time travel book, where someone goes back to find her.


Why did you make your Time Traveller a 12-year-old London schoolboy rather than, say, an adult? 

Because I write for kids! I came up with an idea that for every hour an adult spends in the past it takes a year off their life expectancy, but kids only lose a month for each hour spent in the past. An eccentric bazillionaire named Solomon Daisy is obsessed with the girl with the ivory knife but can’t go back himself so he recruits Alex Papas, a boy who does Latin club!


What else inspires you? 

Ancient artifacts! The London Mithraeum has hundreds on display. So does the Museum of London. I got inspiration for one scene in the book from a pair of Roman leather bikini bottoms now on display in the Museum of London. Experts think the bikinis might have belonged to girl acrobats! Those, along with a wonderful model of the port of Roman London, gave me the idea that Alex and his friends have to cross the original London Bridge, which is at a standstill because of wheeled traffic, by walking along the guard rail like acrobats walk on a balance beam!


If you could go back in time when would you go and who would you see? 

I’d love to see what Cleopatra and Marc Anthony were really like in the privacy of their inner chambers!

How to Create a Picture Book with Benji Davies

By Malin Hamilton Backer

Benji Davies talking about the Grotlyn


How does an idea occur? And how can you get inspired to get an idea for a story? Benji Davies, an illustrator, author and animation director, gives us a quick rundown of his 4 top tips for creating a picture book and where he normally looks for inspiration for a story.


  1. Imagination:

Use your imagination to come up with a story. The Ideas can come when you least expect it.


  1. Ideas on paper:

Once you’ve got an idea type it up. It can either be with pen and paper or even the computer. It’s easy to forget an idea once you’ve come up with one, so it’s very important to write it down quickly.


  1. The Order:

After writing down the ideas it’s good to plan what order the pictures and the words would go in. Make sure it make sense and creates a story.


  1. Colour it in:

The last thing I do is to colour the pictures in. I always start out with a rough drawing of what I want, then when everything is almost finished I colour it in!

Immersed in Benji’s books

Top Tip for Inspiration:

Analyse different photographs. Each photo has a story. Ask qustions! What are they doing in the photo? Why are they there? What kind of place is that? Is there someone else making the individual be there?

For example: A picture of a tunnel of trees: where is it going? Who would be going down there? A picture of under the sea: What does it look like? Does the plants look like a forest? Maybe there’s an underwater city with lots of characters. Who would live there?

You can also take your own photographs. If you are in a place with a cool building that you like. Take a photo of it and draw it up, you can use it in your story!