Peter Bently is one of my favourite children’s authors, he has a unique style of writing and is extremely humorous. His abstract ideas have an air of Roald dahl, which I think highlights his real understanding of children. Both of my boys love his stories, with ‘The Great Balloon Hullaballoo’, ‘The Great Dog Bottom Swap’ and ‘The Great Sheep Shenanigans’ being among their favourites. I was lucky to grab an interview with Peter Bently himself, where we discuss inspiration, favourite children’s authors and the importance of reading to children.
1. Why do you feel it is important for parents and guardians to read with their children?
More than important: it is essential. Sitting together sharing stories (oral stories, not just books) has been proven to increase the bond between adult and child, reduce stress (for both), and enhance learning. My own son started to read when he suddenly twigged, aged 3, that the words I was saying matched bunches of letters on the page. I can never forget the moment he pointed to one bunch of letters and asked, “Is that ‘the’?”
2. How would you describe your style?
Generally: humorous! I try not to write anything children will not understand. All the same, I think it’s fun to drop in the odd colourful or rhythmic word like ‘shenanigans’ or ‘methodical’, just for the sounds they make. It also provides an opportunity for the child to pause and ask a question.
3. Now I have to ask this, where do you get your inspiration from? Tha Great Balloon Hullaballo I wonderfully imaginative.
Thanks! Inspiraton can come from anywhere. That story came from a random remark made by my wife about “shopping in space”. It often works like that. The more I try to think of ideas, the less I’ll find something that provides that sudden spark of inspiration.
4. You moved around a lot when you were growing up, often travelling to other countries. How has that influenced your work?
I’m not sure really, although some of the adults I encountered during my dad’s army days abroad were a great source of amusement (usually unintentional), from pompous colonels to teachers at the numerous schools my brother and I attended.
5. You work with several different illustrators for your books, do you work with different people for any particular reason?
Mainly because I work with several different publishers. They know loads of illustrators – especially new talents – and are very good at pairing up texts with the right illustrators. I do have the right of veto, mind, if I really don’t think someone’s style is right.
6. Do you have much of an input with the illustrations?
Yes, I get to see the rough sketches and give my input as we go along, as do the editor and art director, who coordinate everything. We keep going until everyone is happy, then the artist does the full-colour final artwork.
7.Who is your favourite children’s autor?
I don’t have one favourite author, but several I admire greatly A.A. Milne (for his perfect knowledge of how children think), J.K. Rowling (for astonishing storytelling), Philip Reeve (for breathtaking imaginative worlds), Dr Seuss, Julia Donaldson (great rhymesters) and many more!
8. Out of your own children’s books, which is your favourite and why?
It depends on my mood! I’m fond of The Great Dog Bottom Swap, King Jack and the Dragon, Meet the Parents… and a few others that I think get everything just about right, which of course includes wonderful illustrations by such fine illustrators Mei Matsuoka, Helen Oxenbury and Sara Ogilvie.
9. What are the key moments in your career so far?
The proudest moment of my career so far is probably getting my first book, A Lark in the Ark, accepted by Egmont back in 2005. (It was was published in 2008.) That is followed closely by winning the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, which I was dead chuffed about. I was also delighted for Jim Field, because it was his first picture book. We have a similar sense of humour – maybe something to do with the fact we both went to the same school in Farnborough.
10. What are your plans for the future?
More books! I’d like to write a mega-hit like ‘The Gruffalo’!
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