Peter Bently and Jim Field: Winners of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize 2011
Congratulations on winning the Roald Dahl Funny Prize! What does it mean to you to win this prize?
PB: It is wonderful to win the prize, especially among such wonderful competition. I am especially delighted to be honoured with an award that commemorates Roald Dahl, one of the very greatest and funniest of children's writers.
JF: Thanks very much Booktrust. The prize means a great deal to me, this is my debut into the world of picture books coming from an animation background, so I'm chuffed to bits that it won amongst such a strong selection of books. All the hard work has definitely paid off and this award is a great calling-card to help me to pave my way into the industry.
What was your favourite funny book growing up/today?
PB: I loved Dr Seuss and still do. A superb master of rhyme and image - I'm so jealous!!!! Julia Donaldson is a modern genius. Roald Dahl is a master of hilarious mischief - think of The Twits and the come-uppances of other villains - The Trunchbull in Matilda, Mr Victor Hazell in Danny, Champion of the World, and George's granny in George's Marvellous Medicine.
JF: I was a huge fan of Roald Dahl growing up, in particular The Twits. It was grotesque and funny and I loved Quentin Blake's depictions of the vulgar couple. I really like absurd stories, Shaun Tan's book Tales from Outer Suburbia and Mick Jackson's Ten Sorry Tales are a couple of recent favourites of mine.
Peter - where did the idea for Cats Ahoy! come from?
PB: I wanted to write a story about cats to follow up my book The Great Dog Bottom Swap. My wife suggested explaining why cats say Meow - was it 'Me, How?' So it started with the punchline. The fishy theme was inspired by living in Devon. Captain Trelawney P. Craddock is definitely a Westcountryman!
Jim - talk us through your illustration technique. What was it like to do your first picture book?
JF: I wanted the illustrations for the book to have mood and atmosphere, as if it was a still from an animated film rather than a graphic illustrated look, to me it felt it suited the story with these ghostly pirate cats at sea. It was a tricky balance to get right as most of the book is set at night. I wanted it to be dark and moody but I also had to keep the image bold and colourful as it is a children's book after all!
I illustrated all the outlines of the spreads in pencil, and the textures such as the fur on the cats and wood grain on the boats is hand drawn in ink, it was then digitally art worked on computer. I really wanted to avoid it looking like it had been done on computer as I like to see the handy-work of the artist, so I tried to make it look as 'painted' as possible, using lots of layers as if building up a real painting.
The mist was particularly tricky and it went through several phases until the chalky texture gave the spooky desired effect. It was fantastic working on this as my first picture book. I have to thank Chris Inns (Art Director) and Hannah Ray (Editor) for pairing me up with Peter and for them taking the punt on me. I'm currently working on the second book with Peter Bently and Macmillan and hopefully more to follow!
Peter Bently lives in Totnes in South Devon with his wife Lucy and their two children, Theo and Tara. He wrote stories as a child and has always been fond of rhyming (including writing his brother's best man speech all in verse).
A Lark in the Ark was Peter's very first picture book and was shortlisted for the 2009 Red House Children's Book Award. He has written many other books for children, including King Jack and the Dragon, which was shortlisted for the 2013 CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal. He has twice been shortlisted for the Booktrust Roald Dahl Funny Prize, which he won in 2011 with Cats Ahoy! His latest titles include Diggory Digger and the Dinosaurs for Egmont, illustrated by Guy-Parker Rees.
Jim Field is a lead-driven, pencil-pushing, 25-frames-per-second, Led Zeppelin fan. He is also a hugely talented illustrator and animation director whose previous clients have included Waterstones, Sainsbury's, Oxfam, The Independent, The Guardian, The FT, Channel 4, Virgin Mobile, Nokia, GQ, Haymarket and BAC. Cats Ahoy! will be Jim's first picture book, and his vibrant, energetic style and witty detail is sure to delight children and adults alike.