Ben Faulks and Ben Cort talk children's books, muddy puddles and children's TV

Published on: 26 September 2016

As part of our back to school focus, we asked CBeebies presenter Ben Faulks (Mr Bloom) and illustrator Ben Cort to tell us a bit about their new picture book, Watch out for Muddy Puddles!

Watch Out For Muddy Puddles!

Tell us a bit about Watch out for Muddy Puddles! And do you secretly (or not so secretly) enjoy a good splash in a muddy puddle now and again?

Ben Cort: The story is all about the weird and wonderful things that might be lurking within puddles and the fun you can have with them if you dare. I definitely liked nothing better than splashing about in puddles as a child, but I have to admit that nowadays I leave that pleasure to my kids!

Ben Faulks: The book was inspired by the walk I do with my kids to school - we have to walk through a series of rutted lanes which always fill up with water when it rains. To keep the kids as dry as possible we'd always try to navigate AROUND the puddles rather than ploughing straight THROUGH them.

So I'd fabricate reasons as to why we should steer around the puddles and keep our distance. There were monsters in some and crocodiles in others - that gave me the idea for the book.

It goes without saying - there's a time for a good old splash in muddy puddles, it's just not on the school run at 08:45 on a Monday morning!

What books did you love when you were young?

BC: One of my favourite books as a child and the first one I can recall was called Little Oleg which was written and illustrated by my parents Margaret and John Cort; it has recently been republished to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

BF: Maurice Sendak's In the Night Kitchen, Dr Seuss and David Mckee's Not Now, Bernard.

Ben Cort and Ben Faulks

Is there anything you particularly love drawing? Crocodiles, frogs, puddles? Is there anything you don't like?

BC: I really like painting and drawing people and animals, but especially love working on fantasy subjects such as aliens, monsters, pirates, dragons etc... particularly as there are no restrictions as to how they should look.

One subject I illustrated many years ago and that I have no great desire to do so again, though, was a shopping trolley!

How do you think your work with CBeebies has helped give you an insight into what children enjoy reading?

BF: I'm not sure that CBeebies has provided an insight into any literary matters! Far more, I'd say it's my own family - what the kids choose at bedtime, what they choose when we're in a waiting room. What their friends like. What books they re-enact at playtime.

Watch Out For Muddy Puddles!

What are your top tips for illustrating a picture book?

BC: Always, where possible, try and illustrate subjects that inspire and interest you, as you will find the whole process far more enjoyable. As picture books are primarily character-led, it's important to create strong, interesting, appealing (or unappealing!) and distinctive ones to populate the story.

Changes of scale, colour and composition will all help to create more exciting and interesting images. Also be prepared to work very hard, as picture books can be exceedingly time consuming - I often spend 6-8 months on a book! But above all, love what you are doing.

What are your top tips for writing a picture books?

BF: Make sure the idea you're working with excites you and drags you out of bed and over to your desk. If it's crying out to be wrestled into order and written down, then you're onto something!

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