Ben Mantle June 14, 2021 – Posted in: Book News, Great Picture books

Ben Mantle

A new window means we got chatting to Author and Illustrator, Ben Mantle and interviewed him about his hilarious new picture book Frog vs Toad.

Heres what we learnt…

Frog or Toad?

Frog! (There was absolutely no hesitation in Ben’s answer)

Can you tell us a little bit about your new book?

It’s About a frog and toad who both catch the same fly, who mistakes them both as frogs. This is very offending and upsetting for them. It’s all about seeing the similarities rather than differences, realising that we have more in common with each other than we think.

Ben Fact: Did you know Frogs can rotate their eyes 360 degrees and have teeth!

How did you come up the idea for Frog Vs Toad?

I Already had the idea of a silly Story about a frog and toad but didn’t know how to put it into a book.

I was watching the news one night and they were talking about Donald Trump wanting to build a wall, he wanted to separate people and couldn’t see past the differences I thought that’s it, it would quite a fun idea to do a silly book but with a serious message.

Their empathy is down to an alligator (who frog and toad mistake as a crocodile) at end of a book.

I like how during the mud fight in Frog vs Toad, the ladybird and fly are eating popcorn while watching

When I originally wrote it, it was just a big fist fight and quite rightly the publishers went “mmmm” so I changed it to a mud fight-bit more child friendly, the book was maybe a bit too dark originally, Frog and Toad both got eaten

Who was your favourite character in the book to illustrate?

You know, I really like worm, he pops up occasionally and gets mocked in one of the spreads – im drawing him on your window today.

How did you get into illustrating?

I have an Animation background, I managed to get an internship on a Tim Burton film and was asked back to help in production. Towards the end I got to do a job called blocking, which was much more creative. I enjoyed character and background design and was producing lots of illustration in my spare time, I was quite lucky with timing. I moved to Brighton and got an agent and the work that I was doing was what they were looking for at the time so got given a book to illustrate. So many illustrators are trained in animation and start there.

Do you prefer to illustrate yours or someone else’s books?

I Really like both, I enjoy being handed a story and letting my imagination go on someone else’s idea. Making your own book is lovely, its your baby and you have full control. I do a lot of fiction covers too and I really like being handed a brief and just getting to draw.

When illustrating someone else’s work do they tell you what kind of thing they want?

Usually, I just get a word document and very rarely the author will give ideas but then I just draw. The best Authors are the ones that leave room for your imagination. Illustrators very rarely have contact with Authors during the process and tend to only meet at events afterwards.

Whats your favourite biscuit

 Choco Leibniz (this proceeded a rather lengthy conversation about biscuits and what we actually discovered was Ben basically loves any biscuit, however has cunningly learnt that if he has Garibaldi’s in the studio then no one else will eat them and he doesn’t have to share)

Do you find it easier to Illustrate or write a book?

No question about it illustrating is easier. I find writing takes forever. Picture books are so hard because you have to condense a story right down. You are also limited to a word count and words you can use, which makes it harder. (Word count is usually no more than 1000 words)

Whats your favourite book you’ve illustrated?

Toms Magnificent Machines because it was really varied and I could make it autumnal which is my favourite season. I also really enjoyed Lucy Rowlands, Dracula spectacular, I thought it had a really good message, although subtle but also who doesn’t like illustrating Halloween stuff.

How long does it take to illustrate a book?

Usually about 3 – 4 months

Any advise for future picture book authors?

I would advise if you are starting out, never get a book illustrated yourself. Publishers like to pick an illustrator who they think would suit the book, they also know what style will help sell the book.

What 3 childrens books would you recommend?

Jolly Postman – It’s just the perfect book. Amazing ilustrations, its just incredible.

The Storm Whale – Benji Davies just does beautiful books, lovely illustrations and very good at capturing moods.

The DoDos Did It – Really good. Funny, bonkers and utterly mad kind of book – Which actually sums up Alice.

Thanks Ben x

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