Interactive Storytelling with Gwyn McCormack

By Malin Hamilton Backer

Gwyn and Marvin


Telling her story of Marvin, the little boy that was shopping groceries for his surprise picnic with his Grandma, we meet Gwyn McCormack who is currently dressed up as the character Barbara the baker.


“Can anyone tell me what is next on the grocery list?” Gwyn asks whilst pointing towards the board with a picture of a bottle of lemonade. “Wine!” A three-year old little boy shout out, leaving his mum in shock and filling the room with laughter.


Gwyn story time session isn’t like most others. She dresses up as the different characters, using sound effects and handing items from the stories told for the children to feel and creates a fun, meaningful and interactive learning opportunity for all children, in particular to those with special educational needs.


Being a teacher and award-winning SEN trainer for the story of Marvin’s Market Adventure, this way of learning is close to Gwyn’s heart. “Children needs to have the real objects to hold to make sure their literacy experience is meaningful and accessible and inclusive of all children. And I think some children if you just read the book without the props to hold it’s not as meaningful. It needs to consist of language development, fine motor skills, tactile discrimination and so on… If you’re blind for instance and you don’t know what an apple is or a fish is, it’s important to hold the objects to experience what you can’t se,” she explains.


It doesn’t have to be difficult to get the children to interact with the stories or to explore the child’s everyday environment. Today Gwyn used props such as colourful flowers, a cardboard fish and even gave out a shopping bag each to the children with all the groceries the character Marvin needed.

There’s never a dull moment in Gwyn’s story telling events!

Gwyn’s top tip to parents:

“Make sure your children experience it and not just read it. It is so easily done! Count the plates in the kitchen with your children whilst setting the table and the coins when you pay for food. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.”

Ben Faulks in Barnes

By Malin Hamilton Backer

Ben Faulks is also well known as CBeebies ‘Mr Bloom’

Some of our wonderful volunteers selling Ben’s books

Who were you as a child? The clumsy one? The sporty one? Did you want to grow up to be the same as the rest of the children in your class or something completely different? Kids today might think it’s challenging to be different to their peers and feel like they all have to be the same to be ‘cool’, but could it be cooler to be different? Today Ben Faulks, the author of Watch Out for Muddy Puddles with Ben Cort, and What Makes Me a Me, appears with an important message highlighting our differences as individuals and helping children begin to see how we are all unique. 

“Something magic starts to grow!” Ben Faulks shout out to the audience at Barnes Children’s Literature Festival. The kids are ecstatic to see him and enthralled by the adventure he is about to take them on.

“Let’s pretend our fingers are tickly roots,” he says whilst putting his hands in the air. “Tickletickletickle,” he continues whilst moving his fingers. 

But what were these roots looking for? A blonde haired little girl looks are Faulks and shout eagerly: “The roots need water!” 

“You’re completely right, Water! I’m so thirsty has anyone found any water?” Faulks smiles whilst making funny sound effects. “Let’s slurp it up like a milkshake!”

Using his entire body, Faulk demonstrates what happens next. From sitting down on the floor to stretching up towards the sky as high as he can, encouraging the children to do the same, he says: “The seeds start to grow and they go up towards the sky until they are as big as they can be! And what are we now?”  

The children are convinced he now is a range of different things such as a cucumber, a carrot, a tree or even a flower, which could be true, but that is not the message Faulks intends to share. 

“A the moment guys you are a bit like seeds. Every day you grow and get bigger and bigger until you get as big as your grownups! You can be a Gartner, a teacher or anything! You can be anything you want! All these seeds are different, all these books are different and that’s what this book is about. What Makes Me a Me is about how everyone is different and that’s okay,” he finishes off before opening a chapter in his book to read.

Cressida Cowell on Inspiration and Imagination

Words by Leanna Coleman

Cressida Cowell, author of multimillion book series ‘How to Train your Dragon’, speaks about the importance of stories and the inspiration behind her own work.

The talk was introduced by 11-year-old Henry, a passionate fan of Cressida’s series. Honoured, Cressida took the stage and told the crowd; “Writers were my heroes growing-up, a kid came up to me at the start and said you’re my hero.” Clearly touched she told all the children in the room they too could be writers when they grow up.


Encouraging creativity in kids was a focus of Cressida’s talk. We were taken on a journey back to her childhood, where she spent summers on a remote island off Scotland. There was no electricity, but heaps of time for her to run wild over the hills and to let creativity flow. Cressida was always writing and drawing in her spare time.


Cressida’s dragon series explores the phrase ‘creative solution’ very frequently. Her dragons are always getting themselves into situations, that require creative thinking to solve. Likewise, children are creative, she says: “Children are the cleverest people in the world because they don’t know the rules yet. We need creative politicians”.

Cressida placed great importance on kids reading

Cressida also had advice for the parents and teachers in the audience. Cressida told the children to tell the adults: “They must read to you way beyond the age you can read”. She also talked about her campaign called ‘Free Writing Friday’, where children get the chance to create stories with no comments from teachers. Throughout her talk, she emphasised the importance of stories. “We mustn’t lose books,” she stressed.



Harry Hill’s Five Funniest Moments at Barnes

Words by Leanna Coleman


Harry Hill, comedian, presenter and newly published author of ‘Matt Millz’, took the stage and left everyone in fits of laughter on Sunday morning.

Harry pulling his classic pose at Barnes


“By watching comedians then going into school the next day and telling jokes I got attention, people laughed at me, and I liked that,” Harry admitted. He’s here to talk about he’s new book ‘Matt Milz’ , where the main character, Matt is a portrayal of Harry as a child – a dreamer who wants to be a stand-up comedian. From the passage that he read to us, Matt dreams he has made it as a worldwide comedian but it also turned him into an obnoxious child, until he wakes up. Harry left us in suspense about what happens next.

Harry used audience participation to engage the kids even more in his event

I was filled with ‘You’ve Been Framed’ nostalgia for an hour – his voice is certainly distinct. But, as expected, the talk was hilarious, amusing and the whole audience were in hysterics the moment he set foot on stage. It was hard to pick, but here are his five funniest moments, where the audience were falling off their chairs with laughter.


  1. Making a man quack like a duck and then throwing pieces of bread at him.  “How do you like it!” Harry laughed.


  1. Spraying the audience with a giant plastic champagne bottle and then hauling out a giant hairdryer. Those who faced getting wet were still laughing. Those who were dry laughed even harder.


  1. The Bob Marley TV Show Game. Harry Hill isn’t actually a bad singer. However, Harry Hill’s TV Burp is not coming back he confirmed…


  1. Five or six children shouting their favourite comedian was in fact, Harry Hill.  “You’re taking the mick now,” Harry joked.


  1. The ‘Barnes Has Talent’ segment, where ten children took the stage and told their best joke. The eleventh child represented the ‘laughometer’. His arm stopped moving after the second joke! “Has he fallen asleep,” Harry teased.

Harry used a kid from the audience’s arm for his ‘Laughometer’

David Solomons and Superheroes

Words and pictures by Leanna Coleman

Who knew superheroes were so fun to make? David Solomons, author of ‘My Brother is a Superhero’ and the series, gave an interactive talk on the imagination behind his characters and the craft behind his creation.

David spoke about inventing superhero characters


David began the talk by answering his most asked question: where do your ideas come from? “Before I was a writer I was a fan,” he explained. His last years of primary school were important in regard to his writing career. He was a big science fiction fan and inspired by Douglas Adams’ ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’.


Becoming a dad lit the fire in him to create a story for his children. Although, in order to create a bunch of superheroes, he had to conduct some research. He admitted he didn’t know much about superheroes, especially the modern ones. One of his favourite series is Star Wars and he preferred lightsabers to superpowers.


To show the crowd just how fun making superheroes is, he and the audience made a new one together. With the help of some eager volunteers from the crowd, they drew a superhero, added superpowers and named him ‘mitten man’ and his sidekick ‘lava llama’. The children had the chance to contribute ideas and David explained: “in brainstorming, no answers are wrong”.

David got the kids to design their own superheores

One child asked David if he plans out his books and he replied with an example of a spectrum that shows planners one side and ‘pantsers’ the other. He uses a brief plan and doesn’t usually brainstorm. “I like to know the end and a little bit of the middle. You want to be surprised yourself when you’re writing,” he stated. His wife, Natasha Solomons, also a novelist, reads over his work and has good suggestions he confirms. Creating a novel, he says, is “frustrating but hugely enjoyable”.


His fifth book is going to be the last of the series and David will begin writing it in a month.

Lots of kids took the opportunity to get their books signed by the author

Axel Scheffler – In His Own Words

Read our exclusive Q&A with Axel Scheffler, winner of the acclaimed Illustrator of the Year award at the British Book Awards 2018, and the man behind the legendary Gruffalo series, among many other favourites. Here he talks about the method behind his work, what he loves to draw and what’s next for his career….

By Lucy Patchett

Barnes Children’s Literature Festival: What’s your favourite part of presenting at the annual Barnes Children’s Literature Festival?

Axel Scheffler: I like Barnes, I like the atmosphere of the festival very much – it has a village feel. As an illustrator, of course drawing is my favourite, I think people find that [the process] interesting so I usually show some sketches on the powerpoint slides and talk a little bit about my work.

BCLF: You mentioned in your talk that you illustrated your newest publication, The Ugly Five, with a different mindset, preferring them to be realistic and have dignity. What did you mean by that?

AS: Yes, that’s the last one published, next year there will be another new one. This book was a bit different because it was real animals and I felt they had to be recognisable, but I found the concept of animals being ‘ugly’ quite questionable. …Obviously, the children didn’t find them ugly, they were more quirky. There was an idea to make them more like caricatures but I wanted to make them as realistic as I can.

BCLF: Next year is The Gruffalo’s 20th Anniversary, are you planning anything special for that?

AS: Yes, next year. It’s more the publisher planning things. But yes, there’s going to be events around the birthday and, I think, all through the year.

BCLF:  Do you prefer to draw animals or people?

AS: I like the variety. I’ve been illustrating for more than 30 years, I’ve done lots of animals. It’s nice to vary between people and animals, but I think I find animals easier than many illustrators do.  

BCLF: How do you choose how to do the clothes for characters like The Highway Rat?

AS: Some stories lend themselves to more humanised clothes. Yes, I think he [the Highway Rat] needed them. I always saw the animals being dressed as funnier and more fun to draw also.

BCLF: How do you bring humanistic characteristics to make-believe illustrations such as The Stickman books?

AS: I don’t know how I do it, I just sketch a stick-man and make it look like a person. But I think The Superworm was the hardest so far. He only has eyes and a mouth to express, and that’s quite hard if there’s nothing else – no arms, no legs, no nose. But it worked. I thought whether he could have a superman cape, but that didn’t work because there’s nowhere to attach it. He’s very popular so I must have made it work.

BCLF: Is there anything you still haven’t done that you aspire to do?

AS: No, I do whatever comes along, whatever Julia [Donaldson] comes up with. It’s going to be aliens next time around, so I’ve got a bit more freedom. That’s the new thing. We’ve done all the subjects on earth so now we’re moving into space.

BCLF: Have you got any inspirations for how you’re going to do that?

AS: I’ve started drawing the characters. We had a meeting with the editor and designer and we talked about the characters a little bit. That’s the starting point. The main characters are called Janet and Bill, it’s a sort of Romeo and Juliet love story between two alien families.

BCLF: What tips would you give to aspiring book illustrators?

AS: Just draw a lot, be curious about books and what other illustrators do. I think practicing is the main thing. You need to try out different media, different paints and pencils, and different types of paper.   

BCLF: Do you take any inspiration from other illustrators?

AS: Yes, there’s a Franco-German illustrator, Tomi Ungerer, who was a great influence on me. He’s been published here by Firon. I discovered him when I was a teenager, so I didn’t have his books when I was little.   

BCLF: Is their anything else we can look forward to (e.g., books, events)?

AS: The alien book is coming out next autumn, so I’ve got until the end of the year to finish it. There’s a Pip and Posy Christmas book coming out this autumn. I’ll be at the National Trust Children’s Book festival, and I’ll be in Croatia for a children’s book festival.












Thank you Axel Scheffler.

Sunday’s Spotlight on Volunteers by Alexandra Potter

We couldn’t do it without you!


Everywhere you look at the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival you’ll see distinctive red aprons emblazoned with our logo, dotted among the crowds. Wearing those aprons is our team of wonderful volunteers who make this festival possible. If they’re not helping out behind the scenes, taking tickets at events, helping families find their seats or authors find their venue, they’re providing refreshments, taking photographs, writing up exciting copy for our website and a million other things to ensure it’s a fun-packed weekend for all the family.


So what inspired our volunteers to get involved and what did they think of the first day of the festival?


“I thought it sounded really fun and a great opportunity to hear some really interesting authors speak and gain some experience in the book industry. Hearing Judith Kerr and John Burningham talk today was truly inspirational.”

Katherine Archer

“I’m doing the Children’s Literature MA at Roehampton University so thought this festival would be a wonderful opportunity. Today was a fantastic experience.”

Maike Bamberg

“As a writer myself I’m fascinated by it all. “

Henrietta Grant

‘It’s been really interesting seeing how it’s organised and all the work that’s gone on behind the scenes. Seeing the kids today makes all the hard work worth it!”

Gwen Clark


“A great community event, with talented authors and inspiring children.”

Mary & Jo



The Not So Feeble Tor Freeman

Want to learn how to draw an emotional sausage (who doesn’t, right)? Tor Freeman is your lady! Renowned and prolific children’s illustrator, Tor, is coming to Barnes with author Michelle Robinson to talk about their latest book, the infectiously funny Ten Fat Sausages. You may well already have some of her books in your kid’s collection – her drawings have featured in Michael Morpurgo writings and The Wind in The Willows, and she has her own popular Olive series too. Well worth a look for little ones from around 4 years old. Just don’t mention walking sharks, OK?

Barnes Children’s Literature Festival: What would you be doing if you weren’t an amazing illustrator and author?

Tor Freeman: I would love to have been a botanical artist or a wildlife photographer.


BCLF: The best thing about what I do is…

TF: There are so many great things! I like meeting other authors and illustrators, I like talking about books, and I love drawing characters that make me laugh and hoping they’ll make others laugh too!


BCLF: My favourite word is …

TF: Feeble.


BCLF: My greatest fear is…

TF: Sharks growing legs.


BCLF: My hidden talent is…

TF: I can move my ears up and down.


BCLF: My superpower is…

TF: I’m fairly handy!


BCLF: Who is your favourite literary villain? 

TF: He’s more of an antihero than a villain, but I absolutely love Geoffrey Willans’ and Ronald Searle’s Nigel Molesworth.


BCLF: If you could ask another author a question, who would you ask and what would the question be?

TF: I would ask PG Wodehouse to put me as a character in one of his books, and then I’d show off to everyone about it!


BCLF: You’re the fantasy festival programmer. Who would you love to see come to Barnes?

TF: Now: Carson Ellis. From the past: William Steig.

Sophie Kinsella on Spiders, Snape and Scary Rides….

You probably already know the name Sophie Kinsella. Best known for her wildly successful Shopaholic series (the first two book were turned into a film starring Isla Fisher), Sophie has now turned her talented writing hand to a series of books for younger readers and – good news alert – she’s coming to Barnes to talk about them. Hurrah! Sophie’s workshop on her Mummy Fairy and Me books will be great for kids of 7 and over and will feature making your own spells and magic as well as hearing Sophie read from the book and find out about Mummy Fairy’s special kind of magic.

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

 A ballerina.


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Slow down. Enjoy the moment. I have a tendency to live my life in a total whirl, and I’m always thinking ahead. Sometimes it’s good just to think about what you’re doing right now.


And the worst?

Try everything once. There are many things I wish I’d never tried – including most of the rides at Thorpe Park…


My favourite word is …



My greatest fear is…

Facing up to a spider on my own.


My hidden talent is…

Wiggling my ears.


Favourite book as a child?

I loved Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I got it for Christmas one year and read the whole thing in one sitting. It taught me how powerful and engrossing a book can be.


Who is your favourite literary villain?

Well everyone loves to hate Professor Snape, of course. But I’d probably go with the White Witch from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, which I’m reading again to my children now and just adore.


Tell us a joke  

A knock-knock joke in French:

“Frappe frappe”

“Qui est la?”


“Alorsma qui?”


Get it?

5 minutes with…. Ross Montgomery






Ross Montgomery, author of Alex, the Dog and the Unopenable DoorThe Tornado Chasers and Perijee & Me, is coming to Barnes to talk about his latest book, Max and The Millions. This fascinating book, in the vein of childhood favourite The Borrowers, is all about a deaf boy who discovers a microscopic fantasy world of tiny people living on his bedroom floor no bigger than ants. Ross, who came to writing via the interesting route of pig farming, post delivery, and primary school teaching, will feature loads of fascinating facts about the tiny invisible creatures living around us in his interactive workshop. There will also be activities where the kids can try to imagine what it would be like being ant-sized in a human sized room! The event will feature British Sign Language interpretation. Want to know more about the man behind the books? Read on….


Barnes Children’s Literature Festival: What did you want to be when you were growing up? 

Ross Montgomery: A writer! Or a puffin.


BCLF: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

RM: “Stop writing for the day when it’s good, because if you don’t you’ll keep writing until it’s bad, and then you’ll just be in a bad mood all evening.”


BCLF: And the worst?

RM:  “Don’t read while you’re writing, because you’ll end up writing like the book you’re reading.”


BCLF: My favourite word is..

RM: Gastarbeiter! The German word for “guest worker”. I could say it all day, and I probably have once or twice.

BCLF: My greatest fear is..
RM: …swimming in the deep ocean.


BCLF: My hidden talent is… 

RM: …having weird thumbs.


BCLF: Favourite book as a child?

RM: It would be a no-holds barred fight between Horrible Histories, The Twits by Roald Dahl, and Double Act by Jacqueline Wilson!


BCLF: Who is your favourite literary villain? 

RM: I’m not sure that Mrs Coulter (from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy) can be improved upon.


BCLF: Tell us a joke. 

RM: A sandwich, a pork pie and a sausage roll walk into a bar. The barman says, “Sorry, we don’t serve food.”

The Mysterious World of…. Angus Mackinnon and James Thorp

The Elephant in the Room is the fantastically surreal new ‘whodunnit’ book from James Thorp, complete with psychedelic illustrations by local artist and creative Angus Mackinnon (he’s a Sheen resident and a parent of East Sheen Primary). The duo are coming to Barnes on Sunday 13th May to host an interactive reading of this hilarious, madcap mystery. Come along to find out who really did smash The Elephant in The Room

Barnes Children’s Literature Festival: What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Angus Mackinnon: The Incredible Hulk.

James Thorp: I wanted to be the man who rakes the sandpit in the Olympics long-jump finals.


BCLF: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

AM: Flip your knickers inside out to keep them fresh.

JT:  Move toward the things you like.


BCLF: And the worst?

AM: Don’t trust men with beards.

JT: Leave your swimming goggles at home.


BCLF: My favourite word is…

AM: Haystack.

JT: Changeable.


BCLF: My greatest fear is…

AM: Forgetting to pack my fingers.

JT: Being eaten by a bogey.


BCLF: My hidden talent is…

AM: Being able to talk to animals.

JT: …silence.


BCLF: Favourite book as a child?

AM: Mrs Moore in Space by Gertrude L Moore.

JT: The Yellow Pages.


BCLF: Who is your favourite literary villain?

AM: HAL 9000 (from Arthur C. Clarke’s Space Odyssey series).

JT: The Devil.


In conversation with… Frances Hardinge

Novelist Frances Hardinge has a style of all her own, both in her atmospheric and accomplished writing and with her appearance thanks to her signature black fedora hat. Perhaps most famous for her Costa Award-winning novel, The Lie Tree, Frances will be at Barnes discussing how this book changed her life, and also talking about her latest book A Skinful of Shadows,  a dark, historical tale of a mysterious family’s hidden secrets, and a young girl’s quest to shape her own destiny. An event not to be missed for anyone who enjoys her work and wants to hear more about the inspirations of an acclaimed author.

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

As a child I always had a shortlist of things I wanted to be, and this changed a bit over time, but “writer” was always on the list, as were “artist” and “international spy”.


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

A good friend told me that I shouldn’t get daunted when reading brilliant books that I knew I couldn’t have written. She said that I should remind myself that the authors I admired couldn’t write my book – I was the only person in the history of the world who could write that one. Somehow that idea is very heartening!

Another useful piece of advice was the suggestion that rejection notes should be treated as trophies rather than disappointments. If you collect a load of rejections, that’s proof that you’re taking your craft seriously.


And the worst?

I’ve always been a habitual hat wearer, long before I became an author. Before the publication of my first novel, a very nice public speaking tutor tried to persuade me to ditch my customary Fedora, rather than wearing it to my events. It would be harsh to describe this as bad advice… but in the long run it really wasn’t going to happen.


My favourite word is …

One of my favourites is “sesquipedalian”. It means wordy, and it is wordy. It’s also really satisfying to say, because of its rhythm.


My greatest fear is…

It’s hard to pin down a single ‘greatest fear’. Mind you, when I was young I had a dread of doppelgangers…


My hidden talent is…

I’m quite good at remembering song lyrics.


Favourite book as a child?

When I was ten, my favourite was definitely Watership Down.


Who is your favourite literary villain? 

I’ve got lots of favourite villains, and couldn’t narrow it down to one! Mind you, Rupert of Hentzau from The Prisoner of Zenda does have a certain panache.


Tell us a joke…

Here’s one from Spike Milligan:

“Two hunters are out in the woods in New Jersey when one of them collapses. He doesn’t seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy whips out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps, ‘My friend is dead! What can I do?’ The operator says: ‘Calm down, I can help. First, let’s make sure he’s dead.’ There is a silence, then a shot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says: ‘OK, now what?’”

The (not so) Magical World of Emily Gravett

Emily Gravett is a name that features on most kids’ bookshelves. Her distinctive, interactively illustrated picture books are a firm favourite with kids and parents alike, and have won two Kate Greenaway awards (no one has won three). Her books, including ‘Orange Pear, Apple Bear’, ‘Meerkat Mail’ and ‘Little Mouse’s Book of Fears’ are vastly re-readable (a must for books for tinies!) thanks to their witty use of language and interpretive illustrations. Her workshop at Barnes is sure to be bursting with drawing tips, as well as her giving us a sneaky peek of her upcoming book ‘Cyril and Pat’. Get your tickets while you can!

Barnes Children’s Literature Festival: What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Emily Gravett: I really wanted to be a witch when I was growing up. It soon became apparent (through an unfortunate incident) that I did not possess the requisite magical powers. It was a massive disappointment.


BCLF: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

EG: When I was little my Mum and Dad told me that art (as a school subject) was just as important as maths or science.


BCLF: And the worst?

EG: When colouring in you should stay in the lines.


BCLF: My favourite word is …

EG: …actually not English. I recently learned the Mandarin for ‘Bus’ is ‘Gong gong qi che’ which I think sounds wonderful.


BCLF: My greatest fear is…

EG: Putting aside all the big fears (the future, stuff happening to my family etc) I think I’m going to have to say wasps, or maybe the dentist, or . . . Actually I’m not listing any more for fear of looking like a real wimp.


BCLF: My hidden talent is…

EG: I don’t have any hidden talents. Why would anyone hide a talent?


BCLF: Favourite book as a child?

EG: My favourite book as a child was John Vernon Lord’s ‘Giant Jam Sandwich’ It was about a village invaded by wasps. The drawings were intricate and engaging, and it had a fantastic rhyming text.


BCLF: Who is your favourite literary villain? 

EG: The Big Bad Wolf, although I feel he gets unfairly portrayed far too often. All he really wants is a quiet life, and a good dinner.


Duncan Beedie on elbows, aircrafts and annuals…


Duncan Beedie’s career as a children’s author started with a bang, when his debut picture book, ‘The Bear Who Stared’ was shortlisted for the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize 2017. He’s gone from strength to strength with his latest two offerings ‘The Last Chip’ and ‘The Lumberjack’s Beard’, both packed with the punch of his trademark, cartoony illustration style, developed while working in animation. Come and see Duncan’s artistry in action at Barnes on Sunday 13th May, where he he will be hosting an interactive story time and live drawing from ‘The Last Chip’, his book all about a hungry pigeon….

Barnes Children’s Literature Festival: What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Duncan Beedie: As my dad was in the RAF, I wanted to be a fighter pilot. I got to see lots of jets roaring through the sky as a child.

BCLF: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

DB: ‘Keep your elbows in’. It works for a great many scenarios.

BCLF: And the worst?

DB: ‘Drinking an entire bottle of Jim Beam over 24 hrs is a good cure for flu’. (I assure you… it isn’t.)

BCLF: My favourite word is …

DB: ‘Remittance’ (one my fellow freelance author/illustrators will appreciate, I’m sure.)

BCLF: My greatest fear is…

DB: Dying horribly.

BCLF: My hidden talent is…

DB: As a kid living near air bases, I can now identify pretty much any military aircraft at a glance. Geeky, I know!

BCLF: Favourite book as a child?

DB: Any of the Major Tom & Oddball series by Peter Longden. My 1985 Banana-Man annual was very precious to me as well.

BCLF: Who is your favourite literary villain?

DB: I wouldn’t say ‘favourite’ due to the inexplicable level of evil they represent, but the Trio from Cormac McCarthy’s ‘Outer Dark’ are the characters whose villainy has scared (and scarred) me the most.

BCLF: Tell us a joke…

DB: It’s a puerile one, but it might just pass the decency threshold! Here goes….

Why did the baker have brown hands?

Because he kneaded  a poo.

Jay Jay Burridge on Dinos, Darth Vader and Dr Seuss

Jay Jay Burridge, author and creative, is bringing dinosaurs back to life. His epic six part book series, ‘Supersaurs’, (books 1 and 2 are out now) tells the tale of what would happen if dinosaurs were still walking the earth. They have an augmented reality aspect and come complete with illustrations that will burst to life with the use of the Supersaur app. Intrigued? So were we, which is why we have invited him along to Barnes to talk more about his passion for dinosaurs, how they were first discovered and what they might be like if they really had survived and evolved.


Jay Jay Burridge with the first book in his epic six part series


Barnes Children’s Literature Festival: What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Jay Jay Burridge: I’ve always wanted to be an artist for as long as I can remember.


BCLF: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

JJB: “Never underestimate the power of the force” – Darth Vader.


BCLF: And the worst?

JJB: “Trust me”.


BCLF: My favourite word is:

JJB: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. It’s the place with the longest name in Britain and for some reason I can say it perfectly!


BCLF: My greatest fear is:

JJB: Climate change.


BCLF: My hidden talent is:

JJB: I can make over 100 things out of a paper plate.


BCLF: Favourite book as a child?

JJB: Am I allowed to say all the Tintin adventures?


BCLF: Who is your favourite literary villain?

JJB: ‘The Grinch’ by Dr Seuss


BCLF: Tell us a joke

JJB: Why did the T.Rex cross the road? Because chickens hadn’t evolved yet.

Andy Stanton on yellow snow and prehistoric sharks

Looking for belly laughs from your Barnes Kids Lit Fest experience? Andy Stanton’s your man. The massively successful author, who wrote his first book in several hours one Christmas Eve as a festive present for his family, will be talking about his wickedly funny Mr Gum series. He will also be talking about his latest one-off book of hysterical/historical stories, Natboff! One Million Years of Stupidity, which lives up to the fantastically surreal promise of its title. We can’t wait for this one – see you there!


Barnes Children’s Literature Festival: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Andy Stanton: ‘Watch out where the huskies go and don’t you eat the yellow snow’ – Frank Zappa


BCLF: And the worst?

AS: I don’t remember bad advice. Once I’ve turned it over in my squishy little brains and decided it’s not for me, I invariably forget all about it.


BCLF: My favourite word is…

AS: Cromulent.


BCLF: My greatest fear is…

AS: That an absolutely enormous prehistoric shark, probably a Megalodon, is zooming up towards me from a vast underground ocean beneath wherever I happen to be situated at any given moment and that it will burst through the floor and the last thing I’ll see is this huge open mouth lined with six-inch-long serrated triangular teeth.


BCLF: My hidden talent is… 

AS: I can waggle the tendon in my left ankle just by thinking about it. It’s horrible.


BCLF: Favourite book as a child?

AS: ‘The Eighteenth Emergency’ by Betsy Byars


BCLF: Who is your favourite literary villain?

AS: Randall Flagg or Pennywise – both Steven King creations so not recommended for my general readership just yet.


BCLF: Tell us a joke…

AS: A man walks into a pub. Ouch! It was an iron pub.

Bloom in Barnes!


He’s best known as CBeebies Mr Bloom, but did you know that Ben Faulks, the man behind every kid’s favourite allotment, is also a children’s author? Good news alert – he’s coming to Barnes! He’ll be here on Saturday 12th May to talk about two books – ‘Watch Out for Muddy Puddles’ with Ben Cort, and ‘What Makes Me a Me?’ with David Tazzyman. His workshop is ideal for ‘tiddlers’ (3 and up) and will be an entertaining adventure about what makes us unique and how to get prepared for fantastical puddle jumping excursion! Just don’t get him started on eggs, OK?

Barnes Children’s Literature Festival: What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Ben Faulks: A space man.


BCLF: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

BF: Go to work on an egg.


BCLF: And the worst?

BF: Those that ask, don’t get.


BCLF: My favourite word is…

BF: Jumbo.


BCLF: My greatest fear is…

BF: The power of social media.


BCLF: My hidden talent is…

BF: Being an egg chef.


BCLF: Favourite book as a child?

BF: ‘In the Night Kitchen’ by Maurice Sendak.


BCLF: Who is your favourite literary villain?

BF: Randall Flagg (the character from the Stephen King books).


BCLF: Tell us a joke…

BF: What is brown and sticky? A stick (Ka Boom Ching!)


A Family Sing Song with Nick Cope

Monkeys, bears, socks and mud – this man sings about all the things children love! If you haven’t seen singer/songwriter/illustrator/author/all-round kids entertainment guru, Nick Cope, in action yet, you’re missing out. But fret not, he will be at the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival! You can catch his Family Songbook Session on Saturday 12th May at 5.30pm, where he’ll be keeping the kids (and their grown-ups) singing and laughing with his acoustic folk-rock ditties inspired by the day-to-day of family life. For tickets, click here –

Nick had international success as the lead singer/songwriter in The Candyskins in the ’90s


Barnes Children’s Literature Festival: How would you describe what you do and what would you be doing if you weren’t doing it?

Nick Cope:  I think of myself as a songwriter who does a bit of drawing and, with help from amazing people, I will be publishing some books! If I weren’t doing what I’m doing I would hope to still be involved in something creative – I enjoy animating my songs so maybe something in the animation/ film world.


BCLF: The best thing about what I do is…

NC: …when I perform a new song and the children ask me to sing it again straight away. That’s always a good indication that all the hard work has been worth it.


BCLF: My favourite word is ..

NC: …“little” – it’s a great word to add a few syllables and rhythm in a song.


BCLF: My greatest fear is…

NC: …balloons.


BCLF: My hidden talent is…

NC: I can skateboard a little bit.


BCLF: My superpower is…

NC: …stunning a crowd of people into silence with an old sock and a cardboard bowl of peas.


BCLF: Who is your favourite literary villain?

NC: Katie Hopkins.


BCLF: If you could ask another author a question, who would you ask and what would the question be?

NC: Though no longer with us, Charles M Schulz. I’d ask him, what he thinks of the CGI Peanuts movie.


BCLF: You’re the fantasy festival programmer. Who would you love to see come to Barnes? 

NC: My dog Norman as I don’t think we have anyone to look after him on that day!

Polly Faber: Children’s Author, Pet Picker and Tortoise Impersonator


2018 is a busy year for children’s writer Polly Faber. The author of the ‘Mango and Bambang’ series (about the adventures of a girl and her tapir best friend), has penned another three books! Each guaranteed to be heading to a kid’s bookshelf near you this Spring. Picture book ‘Grab That Rabbit’, ‘Pony on the Twelfth Floor’ for older kids and, the book that her and illustrator Clara Vulliamy are coming to Barnes for, ‘Picking Pickle’. Phew! ‘Picking Pickle’ is all about the painstaking process of picking the right dog for you, and their workshop at our festival will include an inventive reading of the witty book, followed by an opportunity to design your dream dog…



Barnes Children’s Literature Festival: What did you want to be when you were growing up?


Polly Faber: Everything! But in no particular order, some favourites were to be a cooker (‘gas or electric’ asked my big brothers…), a pony, a golden retriever, a private investigator, a naturalist, a fairy and a film star.




BCLF: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?


PF: It’s OK to feel sad sometimes because you can’t ever really know what happy feels like without it.



BCLF: And the worst?


PF: That all I had to do was follow the recipe and my gingerbread castle would come out fine.



BCLF: If you could ask another author a question, who would you ask and what would the question be?


PF: I’d ask Clara Vulliamy whether we could make another book together soon please? And what’s her favourite way to eat potatoes?


Polly in conversation with co-creator Clara Vulliamy



BCLF: My favourite word is …


PF: ‘Puggled’ is a good one. It’s from Yorkshire I think and it means very tired. I use it a lot.




BCLF: My greatest fear is…


PF: Plummeting. I don’t like tall buildings or planes much. I’m not verylikely to bungee jump or skydive. Or go across that glass bridge in China…




BCLF: My hidden talent is…


PF: I can do a good tortoise impression.




BCLF: Favourite book as a child?


PF: Depends on at what age but probably Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. I was a very big Asterix fan too.




BCLF: Who is your favourite literary villain? 


PF: I scare easily, so I tend to only choose the setting ‘Very Mild Peril’. I used to sometimes skip past the baddies in books I knew well! Miss Slighcarp in Joan Aiken’s The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is properly awful.



BCLF: Tell us a joke!

PF: What do you call a French man wearing sandals? Philippe Phlop (you need to say it with a terrible French accent)

Lisa Stickley: On Books and Blancmange


The lovely Lisa Stickley is an all round creative power house, bursting with beautiful design ideas (she is creating the Barnes Literature Bookshop window for the festival in May) and writing and illustrating the cutest children’s books (Handstand, My New Room, Dress Like Mummy and her latest offering, The New Baby). We couldn’t wait until Barnes Kids Lit Fest in May to to see her unique brand of magic in action, so we caught up with her to chat about books, blancmange and everything in between (just don’t mention FROGS!)

Barnes Children’s Literature Festival: What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Lisa Stickley: A hairdresser. We had such a lovely hairdresser and I think I just wanted to be her!  Plus, it was fun to practise. I remember trying to put my younger sister’s hair in rollers, but discovering we had none, so instead I collected all the combs in the house and I ‘rolled’ her hair up in those. It was fun until they didn’t unroll! I wasn’t very popular after that…. Honestly though,  I feel very lucky with my career. Really, I always just wanted to create and I love what I do now.


BCLF: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

LS: Don’t dwell on the past. Keep moving forward.


BCLF: Who is your favourite children’s writer? 

LS: Roald Dahl. I am a bit obsessed with him at the moment, and keep looking for podcasts and documentaries with more information about him. I am particularly fascinated by the writing shed he used to work in.


BCLF: And who’s your favourite literary villain?

LS: Mr and Mrs Twit. They are quite repulsive but also very funny. The tricks they play on each are hilariously vile. I mean, the bit where they are stuck on the ceiling at the end. Everyone remembers that!


BCLF: What would your superpower be?

LS:  Well, I’m not sure what mine would be, but when I was a a kid I loved Hong Kong Phooey (a dog with martial arts superpowers). I named my goldfish after him and he lived for 11 years. So I think the superpowers transferred to him!


BCLF: What’s your greatest fear?

LS: Those green things in the garden that hop around…. I can’t even say the word! It’s a genuine fully-blown phobia. My husband was very impressed because I drew one the other day (albeit in a rather abstract way!) I’m not sure where it stems from, perhaps from when I fell in the pond at home once? It’s their actions and their unpredictability that really gets me.


BCLF: What’s your favourite word?

LS: Blancmange. I mean, what’s not to like? It’s good to say and even better to eat.

Writing Tips and School Assembly Slips by Lisa Thompson

Lisa Thompson is one of those rare authors that seemed to burst into children’s literature to instant and spectacular success. Her first book, ‘The Goldfish Boy’ was published in 2017 and quickly became a bestseller that was published all around the world and nominated for a raft of awards including the Carnegie Medal. Her second novel, ‘The Light Jar’ was published this year to similar acclaim. Read on for her advice on getting started with writing and what she’d be doing if she weren’t wowing kids around the world with her thought-provoking yet deeply entertaining reads. Clue: It’s not singing.



Barnes Children’s Literature Festival: What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Lisa Thompson: I wrote the start of a book when I was around 10 (about a girl who rescues horses) and found I loved being lost in a world that I was in control of creating – so the first thing I ever wanted to be was an author.  In my teens I wanted to work in film production, something behind the scenes… and then I had a spell of wanting to be a singer (before I realised I wasn’t good enough) but being an author was always niggling away in the back of my mind.


BCLF: What would you be doing if you weren’t an amazing author?

LT: I worked in radio production for many years and I loved it. I’d still be doing that I think.



BCLF: The best thing about what I do is…

LT: …when you get an emotional reaction from a reader. It sounds a bit wrong but when a reader says they’ve cried over one of my books I do a little punch in the air…



BCLF: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

LT: You don’t have to know the ending before you start (or the middle or much of the beginning).



BCLF: And the worst?

LT: Write every day. It feels too much like homework if I do that.


BCLF: My favourite word is …

LT: Perpendicular.


BCLF: My greatest fear is…

LT: Doing a school assembly and my Powerpoint presentation not working.


BCLF: My hidden talent is…

LT: Singing. (Badly. See above answer.)


BCLF: My superpower is…

LT: I have hypermobility so my arms bend round more than they should…



BCLF: Who is your favourite literary villain? 

LT: The aunts Spiker and Sponge in ‘James and the Giant Peach’ are deliciously rotten.


In conversation with Nick Ostler and Mark Huckerby

Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler are the Emmy-winning and Bafta-nominated writing partnership behind most of your kids favourite TV shows – Peter Rabbit, Danger Mouse and Shaun The Sheep, to name but a few. Excitingly, they are also currently scripting a new TV show of some of our all time favourite kids lit characters, The Moomins. We can hardly wait! Not happy with conquering the world of TV, this eye-wateringly busy writing duo are a force to be reckoned with in the world of kids books too. If your kids haven’t tried their fantastic adventure series, ‘Defender of the Realm’, we highly recommend it. The third book in the series ‘Defender of the Realm: King’s Army’, is due to be published just after their visit to Barnes Children’s Literature Festival, so book your tickets now and get the low down on what’s in store in the latest instalment.


Barnes Children’s Literature Festival: What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Nick Ostler: Apparently my parents thought I should be a bank manager,
because I liked counting my pocket money! But once I had a say in it I
thought I’d prefer to be the next Gerald Durrell or David Attenborough
– but although I’ve kept my interest in the Natural World I was never
good enough at science to do it for a living, sadly.

Mark Huckerby: An actor. It was the only thing I thought I was remotely good
at. I went as far as looking at drama schools but ended up diverting
to the University of Nottingham where I mostly messed around acting
even though it wasn’t my degree.


BCLF: What would you be doing if you weren’t an amazing author/illustrator?

Nick: Just before we decided to give scriptwriting full time a go, I
was applying for Journalism courses (my degree was Politics) and I
think I would have enjoyed that too – it would certainly be an
interesting job to be doing right now!

Mark: Failing as an actor.


BCLF: The best thing about what I do is…

Nick: I could say the wonder of creating stories from my head every
day, but I think I’ll go with a five minute commute with a view of the
South Downs and no boss.

Mark: Getting paid to day dream. I mean, there’s more to writing than
that of course but in a nutshell, that’s what I’m doing. The idea that
my ideas and thoughts have an actual value blows my tiny mind.


BCLF: My favourite word is …

Nick: The End.

Mark: Coffee.


BCLF: My greatest fear is…

Nick: Planes.

Mark: Spiders.


BCLF: My hidden talent is…

Nick: Bird identification.

Mark: Cooking. I make excellent Turkish flat breads.


BCLF: My superpower is…

Nick: Redrafting.

Mark: Procrastination.


BCLF: Who is your favourite literary villain?

Nick: I have a new one – The Gorm in Kieran Larwood’s brilliant ‘Podkin’
series – creepy, dark, they really get under your skin – perfect kids’
fantasy villains.

Mark: Mr Victor Hazell from ‘Danny the Champion of the World’ was the
first villain I recall. I distintctly remember being aged eight,
sitting cross-legged in front of my teacher as she read the book and
feeling really angry about him.


BCLF: If you could ask another author a question, who would you ask and what would the question be?

Nick: I’d ask Douglas Adams if he hid any unknown manuscripts anywhere
as I’d love to read them.

Mark: Not a question, but I sincerely wish I could have said a
heartfelt thank you to Sheila K McCullagh for helping me learn to
read. I was a (very) late starter but her Tim and the Hidden People
reading scheme not only taught me to read but instilled in me a
life-long love of the fantasy genre and ghost stories.


BCLF: You’re the fantasy festival programmer. Who would you love to see come to Barnes?

Nick: For entertainment value, May Evans (‘Who Let The Gods Out?’), for
inspiration and to make us all better writers, Phillip Pullman and
because I haven’t met him yet and would love to tell him how much I
love his books Kieran Larwood. Maybe they’re coming already, I
don’t know!

Mark: Sarah Waters, Phillip Pullman, Don Winslow…


BCLF: I’m reading…

Nick: Have finally got to ‘Book of Dust’ by Philip Pullman – great so far!

Mark: ‘The Light Jar’ by Lisa Thompson.  It’s excellent.

Paper bags and potholes by Clara Vulliamy

Clara Vulliamy is an author and illustrator who has children’s books running through her blood. As it turns out even her jokes have a literary twist. The daughter of Shirley Hughes (who doesn’t own Dogger or an Alfie book?) Clara chose to follow in her family’s footsteps with a career in illustrating and writing children’s books. Hugely successful, she has trodden her own distinctive path. You will know her as the illustrator and writer of many well-loved book series including Dotty the Detective, Mango and Bambang, and Martha and the Bunny Brothers books. Just don’t ask her to go potholing (or look in a paper bag), OK?

Barnes Children’s Literature Festival: What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Clara Vulliamy: I only ever wanted to be an illustrator, possibly running a kitten sanctuary on the side.

BCLF: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

CV: I’m not sure it’s the best but it’s the strangest: my mum told me never to look in a paper bag, and that her mum had told her the same. But WHY?! I love paper bags, and they often have good things in them.

BCLF: And the worst?

CV: ‘Don’t marry an artist.’ This advice was given to me by an artist, actually. Well, I did, and 30 years later I have no regrets. Plus if you run out of Cerulean Blue in the middle of the night there’s always someone to borrow from.

BCLF: Favourite book as a child?

CV: My favourite books were the Mary Plain stories by Gwynedd Rae, and I’ve loved them ever since. My dream came true last year when I re-illustrated them in a new edition.

BCLF: My favourite word is…

CV: Today it’s aposiopesis – suddenly falling silent as if unwilling to go on.

BCLF: My greatest fear is…

CV: Small spaces. Pot-holing would be my worst nightmare.

BCLF: My hidden talent is…

CV: Since Polly Faber taught me how, I can now imitate a sad tapir on the swannee whistle.

BCLF: Who is your favourite literary villain? 


Miss Slighcarp from The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken: brilliantly, unforgettably horrible. Anyone yet to discover this series is in for a huge treat.

BCLF: If you could ask another author a question, who would you ask and what would the question be?

CV: I was recently marveling at and wondering about William Nicholson’s Clever Bill, a sublimely perfect picture book. So I would go back to 1926 and ask, ‘Mr Nicholson, this book has so few words and these illustrations seem so swiftly made: did you put it all together very quickly? It’s been said that Clever Bill paved the way for the modern picture book – is that what you thought you were doing?’

BCLF: Tell us a joke…

CV: Oh dear I’m not very good at jokes! Okay, here goes…

The past, the present and the future walked into a bar. It was a bit tense.

Everyone’s favourite poet: Michael Rosen

It was standing room only in the big tent for the one and only Michael Rosen, and from the moment people started filing in – and Michael started directing the flow of traffic – he was just as warm, funny, brilliant and clever as usual.

Michael started out explaining to the kids that he was born at the end of the Stone Age, 3,071 years ago. (He knows it was the Stone Age because Michael Gove told him so. Don’t get him started!) Back then they watched rocks instead of television. Slept on rocks. Sat on rocks. Went to bed on a rock. You get the idea…

Soon enough a chorus of fans were joining in as he slipped seamlessly into some of his best and boldest poetry.

Michael: “We had a teacher who was so strict,
you weren’t allowed to breathe in her lessons
She used to stand at the front going,

Every child in the tent: “NO BREATHING!”

There were more joys to come from Michael’s Big Book of Bad Things and towards the end he even remembered to talk about his new book, Uncle Gobb and the Green Heads, before signing hundreds of copies – a warm smile and a quick word for everyone who waited patiently in line to meet him.

Images by; @LieselBockl

The magic of Hogwarts

Wands were at the ready for this hilarious one-woman Harry Potter fan show, led by the spectacularly energetic Fleurble Laffalott, super-assistant to the Professor of Potter. “Put two hands and your feet in the air if you’re a Harry Potter fan!” she roared, and every hand (and foot) in the Barnes Book Marquee was up in seconds. (more…)

Lost in time with Adrian Edmondson

ade 2 Not content with being a legendary comedian, actor, television presenter, amateur chef, director, and chart-topping musician, Adrian Edmondson is now trying his hand at children’s literature. Arno Bryant reports. (more…)

Top tips on writing mysteries from Laura Wood

Author and academic Laura Wood came to the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival to talk about the third book in her ‘Poppy Pym’ mystery series. Sian Kissock went to pick up some tips.

Poppy was abandoned as a baby at a travelling circus, and in term-time she attends a boarding school. The series is about her rather unconventional life with her new family of circus performers. (more…)

Sit down with Jarvis

He goes by one name. Jarvis. He is the mind behind picture books like Mrs. Mole, I’m Home!, Alan’s Big Scary Teeth and Ready Set, Build!. And his impersonations of the characters he brings to life on paper are so wonderful in person that it’s hard to believe he has only been a picture book maker for three years. Nohely Gedeon meets him. (more…)

Incredible women with Kate Pankhurst

Author and illustrator Kate Pankhurst, a descendent of Emmeline Pankhurst, brought history’s most incredible women to life with drawing, doodling, dressing up and inspirational words of encouragement! Bethany Park was there to find out more.

From the fly high tales of Amelia Earhart to the bold and vibrant paintings of Frida Kahlo, Kate  discussed some of her favourite strong female role models. She provided families with an exciting sneak peek into her book, Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World. (more…)

Make your own animation with Peter Bunzl

IMG_8138 (2)Animator and author Peter Bunzl’s series ‘The Cogheart Adventures’ was inspired by his fascination with automatons, explains Sian Kissock. (more…)