We recently received a gorgeous review copy of brand new book, Bella & Bentley. First in a series by author Suzanne Lees, the lovely children’s story tells the tale of two year old French bulldog, Bentley.
Bentley is slightly alarmed about his new ‘sister’ baby Bella joining the family. Throughout the book, this sweet duo’s bond develops, offering joy and happiness all round. Although we don’t have a dog, I do think the way this book explores how to approach that relationship between an established pet and a family’s new baby is very important.
Also featuring delightful illustrations c/o the talented Sarah-Leigh Wills, Bella & Bentley is cosy, heartwarming and a lovely read for children and adults alike. The kids and I have loved curling up to read our new paperback over the weekend. Published in November, Bella & Bentley is priced at £5.99 and would make a perfect stocking filler for mini animal lovers. The beautiful packaging comprises a box plus paw print and tissue paper wrap.
I chatted to Suzanne, finding out all about the inspiration behind Bella & Bentley, and her exciting upcoming projects…
1. Tell us a bit about Bella and Bentley?
Bella is my granddaughter and Bentley is the family dog, he is a French Bulldog. My daughter had had Bentley for nearly 2 years when Bella was born. He was her baby first and so we all thought, how is he going to feel or behave now Mummy’s attention is not all on him? Before Bella was born Bentley had a big operation on his ears. It’s a common problem in Frenchies and one of their many health issues because of how they’ve been bred over the years. He sadly had to have his ears closed and he now hears perfectly well through two small holes below his ears, amazing really. When you read the book it gives you a true account of Bella and Bentley’s first year together. We needn’t have worried about them together; even with all his health issues he honestly has the loveliest nature. In fact, he is quite protective of her and Mummy.
2. Where did you gather the inspiration for your book series?
The inspiration for this book and my books to come, is of course, my huge love of animals and especially dogs. I read quite a bit and when I don’t have my nose in a book, I’ll often to be scanning through social media and it was whilst I was online one day that I noticed with all the animal charities worldwide quite a few of the dogs they had for rehoming were there because ‘baby had arrived’. Sometimes the dogs were over two, five or even 10 years old! I was so shocked because I could only think of the feelings of the dog. They wouldn’t understand why they were in a kennel and why strange people were looking at them? I could understand if the people were worried for the safety of their new-born because of jealousy maybe. In most cases that fear is entirely uncalled for and no doubt it would have broken their hearts to let their dog go, and also their dog’s heart too because they would not have understood why. It’s all just so sad and I wanted to show how if you made that extra bit of time, and included your dog in the arrival of your child, things really can work out and they will more than likely end up the best of friends! Bella and Bentley is a happy story, and a story told through a dog’s eyes! That said, I should point out that it is wise to exercise caution and I would never advocate leaving a dog and a very small child alone because, like us humans, they too can be unpredictable.
3. When did you first know you wanted to become an author?
I was about 14, writing lyrics to music, and attempting sometimes to write my own music! Then everyday life takes over and the time passed so quickly. In my early 30s I started again with short stories, I still have a lot of them, thinking I’ll do something with them one day. Well, that one day has arrived and here we are. I have loads of ideas buzzing around in my head and can’t sleep because of them sometimes. I always carry a pen and notepad with me for when inspiration strikes!
4. How do you like to relax when you’re not working?
To relax? Ooh I find it really hard to relax. I love to get lost in good films especially the old black and white Ealing Studio ones, thrillers and sci-fi, quite a mix. I love how they’ve done some remakes of Disney, my favourite is Maleficent at the moment, watched it about 6 times with or without children! Also music, the radio is always on and if I’m not reading I’ll listen to a story… And if Nanny is needed I love being with my children and grandchildren and cooking a big roast dinner for everyone!
5. What are your top tips for aspiring authors/writers?
If I were to practice what I preached it would be: organise your day, set yourself times when to work and above, all enjoy it!
6. Which items are on your Christmas wish list?
I can honestly say there’s nothing, nothing I need in any case, but if I could have a Christmas wish apart from all my family being happy and healthy, I’d love my book to do well because that in turn helps my family and gets me on the road to realising my dream of opening my own dog sanctuary here on the Island.
7. Who will you be spending the festive time with?
We will be spending Christmas day for the first time in I can’t remember how long, on our own. My parents are with my sister’s family and all three of my children are spending it at home, so Ian and I will enjoy a quiet day at home and maybe wrap up warm and go for a walk along the beach with our little dog, Mishca.
8. Finally, do you have any upcoming projects you can offer us a sneaky insight into?
Ooh, well ‘Bella and Bentley’s Day Out’ is out at Easter, but I have a book I’m writing for young readers, for 7 years and up which is set in France during World War Two, about a young girl and her dog. It’s called ‘Stay with Hannah’. I am hoping it will be ready for the end of 2017 if not sooner. I think, if you’re an animal lover, especially dogs you’ll love it.
Bella & Bentley is priced at £5.99 and was gifted to us for the purpose of this blog. Apologies in advance if the book makes you dog broody, as it has done to me….
Find out more over on Suzanne’s website: suzannelees.co.uk.