What would be a Ridiculous Present to give an Animal that Lived in the Woods?

Was the question that inspired Ben Mantle to make his new children's book who was voted book of the month by Momsnet earlier this summer

Tell us about your book?

The book is called The Best Birthday Present Ever! and is published by Macmillan. It is about a Squirrel who is struggling to find a Birthday present for his best friend Bear. But more than that, he wants to get something extra special, a gift you can’t buy. It was recently awarded the Mumsnet Book of the Month, which was such great news.

What inspired you to do it?
It started with just a silly idea. I was cycling along Brighton seafront, when I thought, what would be a ridiculous present to give an animal that lived in the woods. Instantly, I thought a stick! Because, well…there’s lots of sticks in the woods, so why would you gift one? And that’s where the idea of what would make that stick special enough to give, came from, and that a present need not be expensive but have meaning or potential for fun.
Best Birthday Present Ever 23-24
What type of projects do you mainly illustrate for?
For the last 7 years I have mainly been Illustrating Children’s picture books, but I have also designed games for Marks and Spencer and recently illustrated a cover for US magazine High Five. My background is in Animation, so I do occasionally design characters and backgrounds for short films/promotions.
What would be a typical day for you?
I really try and keep to a normal working week, although I often work evenings and weekends when necessary to meet those pesky deadlines. I share a studio in the North Laines with 6 other guys who all do something creative, which is really handy when I need advice on say, the colour of an alien for example. But, it really depends on the job. If I’m writing, then I tend to just be at my computer all day, but when I’m creating artwork I’ll often be at my drawing board with my watercolours. There might also be the occasional trip to one of the local pubs for lunch, but I should stress, not every day.
 
How did you become an illustrator?
All I have ever wanted to do was draw. So to get to do that for a living is pretty great. I don’t get that dreaded Sunday feeling that you used to get as a kid, when you realise Monday is slowly creeping up on you to sap away all the fun. So that’s nice! And also, I get to makes kids laugh, or distract them, or help them to read. What’s not to like?
 
What are you working on now?
I have recently finished the sequel to The Best Birthday Present Ever! which is called The Best Christmas Present Ever! and that is published really soon out for this Christmas. I have also completed another book with the same publishers but it is totally top secret so I really can’t say anything about it….oooh mysterious.
 
How long have you lived in Brighton for?
I have lived in Brighton for around 9 years. I actually commuted to Brighton from London for a while, so basically the opposite way round to most people. But the train was always delightfully empty. Then, I just thought, what am I doing!? So myself and my girlfriend moved down here and have loved it ever since. Brighton really is a great place to live.
 
What is your favorite thing about Brighton?
This is easy. It has to be the Sea. But not in the middle of Summer. Spring or autumn time, when the crowds aren’t quite so crazy. Plus Brighton, is so close to amazing countryside, like the Downs  or Ashdown Forest, which are perfect for nice long walk, which is closely followed with a trip to the pub for a good Sunday roast.
Best Birthday CVR_HB

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