Ben Davis on Lenny Lemmon and illustrated chapter books for kids

Lenny Lemmon and the Invincible Rat by Ben Davis

The book we've sent our Parakeet subscribers this month is a hoot! Lenny Lemmon and the Invincible Rat is a laugh-out-loud, highly-illustrated chapter book for younger readers. It's completely chaotic, hilarious good fun with brilliant illustrations throughout. We love the school setting and the relatable characters, and the fact that it's the first in a fab new series that is perfect for newly independent readersHere author Ben Davis tells us all about who inspired the hugely relatable characters and which other illustrated chapter books he thinks you should read next.

What inspired you to write Lenny Lemmon and the Invincible Rat?

I was given a little bit of a brief for the book, basically: ‘a boy who tries to help but ends up causing chaos.’ I loved the sound of that and got cracking straight away. For some reason, my mind went back to my own time at Primary school, when we had to do a Victorian Day. They went all out: old fashioned lessons, the catechism, super-strict teachers. I hated every minute of it and would have loved to have disrupted it in some way! The idea of Lenny bringing in a rat to try and create an authentic Victorian atmosphere, and, more importantly, win the school Olden Days competition, followed pretty quickly. And everybody knows that if you introduce a caged rat, it is going to escape at some point.

Are any of the characters in the book based on real people?

Oh yes! The character of Sam is partially based on one of my son’s school friends. I won’t say which one, but he’s a very thoughtful lad with an old head on his shoulders. The character of Jess is pretty much me going, ‘How about Quint from Jaws but as a ten-year-old girl?’

What do you think makes Lenny, Sam and Jess such a good team?

I love writing comedy trios! Lenny, Sam and Jess in some ways follow a classic formula which goes back to the likes of the Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges. You’ve got the one that comes up with the wacky schemes (Lenny), the one that helps make them happen (Jess), and the one that is smart enough to know it’s a terrible idea that will end in disaster, but goes along with it anyway out of loyalty (Sam).

If you could spend a day in any historical period, which would you choose and why?

I’d go back to the days of the Roman Empire. Mainly because I’m a big fan of those helmets with brushes on them. Very snazzy.

Can you tell us anything about what happens next to Lenny and his friends?

Yes! Without giving too much away, the next book in the series involves a surprise school inspection, which of course Lenny is determined to help them pass, and a troublesome dog called Crumbs.

Why did you choose to create books for this age group?

I’ve always wanted to write for this age group, but the right idea never came along until Lenny popped up! You can have so much fun with it, and really focus on laughs and action. I love how visual the books are, too. Seeing James Lancett’s wonderful illustrations bring the characters to life was a joy.

Do you have a favourite place to write?

I wish I could say I had a fancy study or better yet, a pavilion, where I get all my words down. Sadly, I mostly get it done in the kitchen, dangerously close to all the snacks.

Which other illustrated chapter books for younger readers would you recommend our subscribers read next?

My son is a big fan of Pamela Butchart’s books, but who isn’t? Marv and the Mega Robot by Alex Falase-Koya was also a big hit and I’m looking forward to reading the other books in the series myself!

Copies of our Lenny Lemmon and the Invincible Rat pack, including a copy of the book and loads of fun activities to go with it, are now available for individual purchase. Grab a copy while stocks last!

This post includes affiliate links to our page, meaning we receive a small percentage of the sale should you purchase through them. Additionally, a percentage from all sales on the platform goes directly to local UK bookshops which is an initiative we're delighted to support!


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