Benji Davies, the children’s writer and illustrator reveals the good, the bad and the oh-so honest about life as a new father
What has life been like since having your daughter, Esther, three months ago?
Very busy! My wife Nina and I were both keen from the outset to not feel like we were stuck at home so we’ve made lots of effort to be out and about. We even managed a week in Norfolk in the first month! I’ve been able to take about six weeks out of my schedule, which has been amazing. Now I’m on the verge of ramping things back up on the work front in my studio at home, so I’m sure there are plenty of challenges to come…
What has fatherhood taught you so far?
It’s introduced me to a whole new level of emotion that I never knew existed, especially in the first few days of Esther’s life. Also, that you should never expect your mug of tea to be hot again. Ever.
What advice would you pass on to other new dads?
The best piece of advice is to not listen to too much advice. Each baby and each new set of parents are different, so no two experiences will be the same and I think you have to explore things in your own way. Listen, but take it all with a pinch of salt. There’s no point trying to make things harder for yourselves by following someone else’s idea of parenthood.
Tell us more about your book, The Grotlyn.
It’s a mystery told through the eyes of the children who live in a dusty old town. Things go missing – an oil lamp, a toolbox – but nobody knows who or what has taken them. After The Storm Whale and Grandad’s Island, it’s my first rhyming picture book. It might feel a bit spooky for kids at the start, but I urge readers to carry on and see who The Grotlyn is because the book is about finding out that not everything is what we might think at first. It was a lot of fun to write.
How did you get into children’s books?
I worked for years as an animation director on TV commercials and music videos. What I really wanted to do, though, was make short films. But it’s hard to make a living from that. I had also been working on some projects as an illustrator for children’s books, so decided to delve more into that. When I got to write my own, that’s when it all fell into place. It gave me the chance to explore everything I love about filmmaking in a different format.
What aspect do you love the most?
I love to indulge my imagination. It’s such a luxury to be able to daydream. All children have the right to be given that opportunity. Staring out of windows is a good start.
Was there a book from your childhood that was particularly special for you?
The Little Grey Men by BB [Denys Watkins-Pitchford]. It’s a fantastic story of three gnomes who set off down the river to find their lost brother. Reading it as a child made me believe you might one day stumble across a real gnome if you look hard enough. And I do still keep looking…
The Grotlyn (£12.99, HarperCollins Children’s Books), available 7 September