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Arts: Cambridge mum and daughter debut kids’ book

Lockdown led to the publication of their first children’s book, Finn and the Five Flies. As Cambridge-based artist Emma Bennett tells Velvet, collaborating with teenage daughter Molly was a dream

My 13-year-old daughter Molly and I could never have imagined that a family holiday to the Northumberland coast and then a global pandemic would result in the publication of our first children’s book.

Finn and the Five Flies is a rhyming story for early readers told through 32 pages of brightly detailed illustrations, with splashes of my trademark collage and Molly’s storytelling and eye for colour and detail.

The story is of Finn, a muddy farm dog who is followed everywhere he goes by five pesky flies, the buzz, buzz, buzz is driving him mad. Finn decides enough is enough, and asks the reader to help him get rid of the five flies once and for all. But just as things seem to get quieter for Finn, he makes an astonishing discovery, were these flies actually his friends?

Finn and the Five Flies was inspired by a family holiday staying in a cottage on a farm. Every day a thump on the front door would mark the arrival of the farm's cheeky sheepdog. The dog was the smelliest, muddiest dog we have ever seen – and we have a Labrador! Everywhere he went, the dog was followed by flies, they were just always there.

Always armed with our sketchbooks, throughout the holiday week Molly and I would make sketches of the farm, the coast and that muddy dog. On walks, we chatted and laughed, imagining the scenarios the dog would have to go through to try and get rid of the flies, like swimming in the sea, running through fields of corn, even visiting the spiders in the barn.

Although the sketches and a basic story were there, normal life soon took over. Molly is at secondary school, whilst I am an artist and creator and editor of The Cambridge Art Book and four others in the City Art Book series (with two more in production). Like everyone else, work and home-life is always so busy, not helped in 2020 with a major building project at home.

It was the pandemic and everything that has happened which I think has given people the breathing space to take more time and to do things that make us happy. I have always wanted to write and illustrate a children’s book; I have just never had the time. With Molly and I working on it together, the lockdowns provided the perfect excuse and opportunity. It has been a fantastic shared mum and daughter experience, which we have loved. My experience as a former junior school teacher has helped to hopefully make the book’s content appeal to both children and adults snuggling up for a bedtime read.

Out now in A4, Finn and the Five Flies is available at finnandthefiveflies.co.uk, priced £7.99 per copy or £15 for two with free postage

Emma’s art and other books can be seen at emmabennettcollage.co.uk

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