THIS WEEK author and illustrator, Benji Davies, creator of The Storm Whale and Grandad’s Island, launched his highly anticipated picture book, The Storm Whale in Winter. Benji describes the book as being like the journey home; just asStorm Whale takes us out to sea, the sequel carries us back, as we find that Noi’s kind deed to the little whale was never forgotten.
Nostalgic and gentle, this book is beautifully crafted, with filmic, sometimes panoramic illustrations and a plot line that will give the reader goosebumps (in a good way) — so strong is the message and sense of there being a true friendship between boy and whale.
So after a wonderful book launch, hosted by our brilliant colleagues at Simon and Schuster, and in anticipation of our cosy Christmas story time, where Benji will be reading us his heart-warming story, I wanted to find out a little bit more about the man behind the books… LM
What made you decide to choose a whale as the subject?
The choice of the whale came seamlessly at the point of inspiration as I remember it. The idea that a whale could be in the bath was so misplaced as a concept that the story began forming around that starting point.
Is the beach based on a real place?
The first drawings I made were of Whitstable in Kent, but the rest of the setting grew around that and became somewhere else, on a chain of islands in the middle of the sea… somewhere. People often relate it to lots of places — Scandinavia, Scotland, Nantucket… I think it has a sense of being somewhere we’ve all been or would love to visit.
Where does the name Noi come from?
Noi is an Icelandic name that I once heard in the title of a film, Noi Albinoi. I liked the sound of it – NOY – I’m not sure if my pronunciation is correct to the original, but it stuck with me.
It stems from the name Noah and I like the connotations this has for a boy who takes a whale home.
What were your favourite books as a child?
I don’t remember a huge number of picture books from when I was little but Judith Kerr’s The Tiger Who Came to Tea was a big favourite.
From The Tiger Who Came to Tea, by Judith Kerr. Published by Harpercollins.
I also loved the Frog And Toad books by Arnold Lobel, and when I was bit older theAnimals of Farthing Wood by Colin Dann. My all time favourite is The Little Grey Men by BB.
Has there been a particular person who influenced you – an artist or author for example, or someone completely other?
My grandad was big influence on me when I was growing up — I think he was responsible for giving me a love of books and the natural world.
From the award winning Grandad’s Island, By Benji Davies, published by Simon and Schuster.
I was heavily into animation at the age of 12 or 13 and the early work of Aardman Animations. Some of the early films by Nick Park and Peter Lord were really inspiring to me as a teenager. And I’ve always been a big fan of artists who lean into the cartoonist bracket: Raymond Briggs, Carl Giles, Bill Watterson, Hergé.
From The Snow Man by Raymond Briggs. Published by Puffin.
Calvin and Hobbs (Bill Watterson), Tin Tin (Hergé) and Giles (Carl Giles)
Did you rescue injured animals as a little boy? Just thinking of Noi and the care he takes of little storm whale.
I did actually. I once rescued a hedgehog at school. It had got itself tangled in the cricket nets and I had to cut it free with some scissors, then wrapped it in a jumper so I could pick it up and put it into someones back garden at the side of the school field, whilst all the time hounded by the threat of some boys who wanted to kick it like a football. It was a daring feat and he lived to prickle another day.
Huge thanks to Benji for taking time out amidst book launch chaos to answer my questions!
Pictures from the launch of The Storm Whale in Winter, which took place at Waterstones in Tottenham Court Road, hosted by Simon and Schuster.
Founder and MD of The Bright Agency, Vicki Willden-Lebrecht getting a signed copy of the book for her baby who is due any day now!
There is a blog tour coming very soon, so keep a look out!
And finally… If you’d like to meet Benji and get a signed copy of any of his books, he will be joining us for our Christmas story time at The Bright Emporium on Sunday 11th December. We know this will be a very popular event, so it’s best to book your tickets well in advance. If you’d like to get updates from us, you can sign up for our newsletter which goes out twice a month with details of Emporium events and workshops. Just visit our website and at the bottom of the home page where you can sign up.
Tickets for Benji’s event will be available in November.
You can contact the gallery team on firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
We look forward to seeing you!