Book giveaway: Before You Sleep by Benji Bennett
This giveaway is sponsored by Adam's Cloud
In August 2007, Benji Bennett’s life changed forever when his adored four year-old son, Adam, died suddenly of an undiagnosed brain tumour on his 37th birthday. Inspired by his deep love for Adam, Benji made a pledge at his son's funeral to share this love with other families and so he began to write.
Benji has always believed that bedtime is an enchanted time, perfect for telling children how much they are loved as they drift into their dreams. His first book, Before You Sleep, has been written to help achieve just this and is a wonderful bedtime bonding experience for parents to enjoy with their children at the end of each day.
This bestselling book was first published in Ireland on the first anniversary of Adam’s death and has since won a prestigious Irish Book Award. Before You Sleep has become such a bedtime favourite for the wonderful sense of connectedness it creates between parent and child that it even outsold The Gruffalo in Ireland. It is now being released in the UK so it can become part of your bedtime routine too.
About the book
This beautiful picture book will help you express your love for your child before they go to sleep. Through powerful verses and richly captivating illustrations by Oscar-nominated Cartoon Saloon, you are taken on journey with your child, sharing affirming adventures as you read.
With eleven evocative scenes, each one starting with, "I love you much more than..." each page is filled with direct expressions of love from the reader to the child, helping to nurture love and togetherness.
Meet the author: Benji Bennett
What are you reading now?
For me, reading a book is a rare luxury I only get to enjoy during holidays. My problem is that I read at bedtime and can never seem to stay awake long enough to read more than two pages of a book without falling asleep. Now that I’m so busy plotting a devious plan to take over America with Before You Sleep, by the time I get to bed these days even two sentences of a thrilling page-turner has me asleep. No joke!
What is the last book you bought someone as a gift?
I must say, for me, buying a book for a child is quite a wonderful and magical experience. But let me add a word of caution before I give you my answer to this question. As a kid I sometimes struggled with some of the books I was given to read. Maybe I wasn’t a great reader or maybe the books were too advanced for me. But it did hinder my confidence when it came to reading. So when you are buying books for children don’t just go by age. Try to get some information to their level of reading so the books fit their imagination and reading ability like a glove.
Now back to the answer. The idea of buying books for my kids gives me most joy particularly now that they are a little older and I can introduce them to some magical favourites I read as a kid. The idea of them being absorbed into an enchanted trance as they follow the fortunes of their favourite hero brings back happy childhood memories I am privileged to share with them. My most recent meaningful gift to Robbie, the big reader in our house, was my childhood favourite The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien.
What is your favourite children’s book?
To answer this I can only refer to my experiences as a dad reading to my children when they were small. I was lucky to have had a strong desire to bond with my children through reading at bedtime. When I started reading to Harry, our first born, I searched the books shops for something magical that would awaken my inner child and stir magical childhood memories and emotions for both Harry and I. Soon I was lucky to discover the crazy, nutty, and very clever Dr Seuss. In these books, I found infectious characters in a book that were so wonderfully weird and wacky, mischievous, dangerous and adventurous while at the time being cute, innocent and brave. A new and exciting world to explore with my boys. With crazy rhyming sequences, Dr Seuss delivered adventure, fun, love and meaning to our stories at bedtime. These Dr Seuss books have most definitely influenced my writing and are most likely the reason why I wrote Before You Sleep as a rhyming book. His books have also given me one of my most cherished memories, Adam fast asleep face up and snoring under a copy of The Cat in the Hat fully open resting on his little nose.
Do you have any peculiar writing rituals or habits?
If you mean turning the light on and off three times and burning incense to ward off evil spirits before each writing session, then the answer is no. But when I begin a writing session I close my eyes, relax my breathing and clear my mind in search of my inspiration. Nothing at first and then… I hear it… it is faint and distant at first but slowly the high pitch of Adam’s beautiful voice fills my mind and body and I am with him. The excitement in his voice thrills me and inspires me to just let him take me on a magical adventure only he could imagine possible. Always with him and interacting with him as I write, Adam holds my hand and leads me on a magical adventure of love, wonder and discovery. With my thoughts running freely in Adam’s world, I hear the giggles and laughter of my other children, as they play happily downstairs. It is this stimulation of my senses that adds the magic as Molly, Robbie and Harry enter my mind and join the adventure, adding mischief, fun and giddiness as I imagine them playing with their special brother. All I do is write down what I see and it makes me happy.
What advice would you offer aspiring writers/illustrators?
I never aspired to be an author. I was never really that good at English in school, have a pitiful grip on grammar and I can’t spell without spellchecker. So rather than giving some advice, here are some thoughts. Don’t write because you want to be a writer. Write because you have something to say. Don’t expect to gain critical acclaim and world domination. I have yet to witness a writer who has the confidence to say they are great writers. Getting published has a lot to do with luck and selling enough books to butter your toast in the morning is quite frankly in the lap of the gods, so have a back-up plan. Writing is often the easy part, getting yourself noticed is the most difficult. Use social media but develop a philosophy or core belief or mission that allows you be inspirational and original. My final thought - if you think your book is good enough for a publisher to risk money on printing and promoting it, then it is good enough for you to publish, finance and promote yourself. It is a slow, hard graft but who knows where it will take you. I first published Before You Sleep in Ireland without any expectations on sales. Now I am publishing and promoting it in UK and USA this year. If you get out there you can make it happen - it is not easy but it is possible.
"My wife Jackie and I felt blessed to have three amazing boys - Harry, Adam and Robbie. Before we had even become engaged, we had brought a caravan at Brittas Bay, Co. Wicklow. Every chance we got, we would pack the car and drive the exciting 50 minutes to Brittas determined to make magical moments by the sea for our children. Evening swims, camp outs in the sand dunes, collecting seashells, building sand castles, and rolling around in clumps of freshly cut grass one balmy summer evenings smothering my boys with hugs and kisses were all regular occurrences.
On one such evening in August 2007, while having dinner outside with Jackie, I found myself smiling and felt my heart dance as I watched Harry, Adam and Robbie giggling as they jumped on top of haystacks they built from the clumps of freshly cut grass. With the warmth of the evening sun kissing my face, I raised my glass 'Jackie we are so lucky, we have everything we could ever want and I love you so much.' It was then that Adam came in complaining of a headache. Three days later, having spent four years sharing his love with us, Adam's job in this world was done. He grew his wings and, like a butterfly, gently fluttered away to heaven as dawn broke on a new day. Adam had died suddenly and without warning from an undiagnosed vascular brain tumour.
Within moments of losing Adam, a powerful and overwhelming urge came over me to encourage parents to spend as much time as possible having fun and adventure with their children and telling them they love them every day. This is why I became an author, to share and encourage this love.
Ten months after we lost Adam, he sent us a gift from heaven - a little girl we named Molly. Knowing Adam is up there on his cloud, we are very happy and never miss an opportunity to go on an adventure, always remembering Adam when we smile and have fun. Wishing you love and happiness in your family may you enjoy many magical memories with your children."
Benji has gone on to write another seven books and has also raised over £40,000 for children’s charities specialising in childhood sickness, hospice care and parental bereavement.
Come and discover Before You Sleep and join Benji and his Adam’s Army on Facebook. Stop by, share some love, tell Benji your stories of your special family time. You can buy a copy of Before You Sleep at the official Adam’s Cloud website.
We've got 50 copies of Before You Sleep to give away to Mumsnetters to read and share their thoughts (and their children's thoughts) about it on the discussion thread. Fill in the form below to apply for your copy.
You don't have to win a free copy to take part in the discussion. Anyone who has read Before You Sleep can post their (and their children's) feedback on the discussion thread. If you miss out on a free one, you can buy a copy. All who post feedback by 6 September will be entered into a prize draw to win a £100 Love2shop voucher.
This giveaway ends on Monday 25 July
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Last updated: about 2 months ago