She’s been named one of the most borrowed authors in the library. Now Holly Webb returns with a sequel to one of the most famous children’s books of all time. And brings another hit event at the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival, says Sagal Mohammed.
Best-selling children’s author and self-proclaimed reading addict, Holly Webb was welcomed to the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival by an excited crowd as she discussed her latest release, Return to the Secret Garden, before creating colourful flower pots with her enthusiastic audience.
“The idea for the book came about five years ago,” she said of her follow-up to The Secret Garden, the much-loved 1911 classic by Frances Hodgson Burnett. “My editor and I were talking about our favourite childhood books and we both loved The Secret Garden…so she suggested I should write a sequel.”
However, being the creative genius that she is, Holly decided to add a special twist to her version of the story, setting it in 1939 – 28 years later than the original book. “I didn’t want it to be just another copy of the original – I needed to have something that made it my own, I needed new characters. What gave me the idea for the new characters was realising how old the children from the original book would be,” she said before reading aloud extracts from the book.
When asked what the most difficult part of penning a sequel had been, the editor turned writer – who’s written over 100 books and has been crowned one of the most borrowed authors in the library – admitted that she struggled to visualise the actual garden in the first book in order to write about it in her own. “The descriptions are very beautiful but they’re not very accurate in terms of what is actually in the garden, so I had to keep flicking through to pick out things she had said.”
Nevertheless, she described the process as “exciting and different” – just like the flower pot decorating extravaganza that followed.