By Melissa Grant
Caring for a sleep-troubled baby put Philip Bunting on the path to becoming one of Australia’s most popular children’s picture book authors.
Philip and wife Laura would read picture book after picture book to their son Leo in a seemingly never-ending battle to get him to nod off.
“When our son Leo was born, he was a terrible sleeper,” the Eumundi dad explained.
“For the first year and a half of his life he didn’t sleep for more than two consecutive hours.
“But the thing that always got him was reading.
“We read heaps of picture books to Leo when he was little – we were probably reading about 20 a day.”
Philip is now a prolific children’s author, having published 23 picture books in just four years.
He writes and illustrates the books. His illustrations are distinctive, although he jokes this is because he can’t actually draw.
His first book, Mopoke, actually started out as a self-printed first birthday gift for his daughter, Florence.
“A couple of people said to me, you should send some copies off to the printers,” he recalled.
“I remember thinking ‘oh yeah, I’ll see what happens’.
“I sent them off to eight publishers. I had eight offers in two weeks – they all wanted it!”
Mopoke, a cute story about a little owl’s struggle to find peace, was the first of four books Philip had published in 2017.
The father-of-three is now averaging seven to eight books a year after becoming a full-time author in mid-2019.
Beforehand, the English native was in magazine publishing. He worked for Time Out Magazine in the UK, Dubai and Sydney before moving to Brisbane to be closer to Laura’s family. They moved to Eumundi in 2017, a place Philip describes as having a “solid community“, good schools and great outdoor adventures with mountains and beaches.
Philip says simply being a parent has taught him what works when writing children’s books.
“A good book always has to work on two levels. You are writing for the adult and the child at the same time,” he explained.
Good humour is a must, and it’s good to have a simple message although sometimes a book can just be a platform for fun between parent and child, he added.
Philip has co-authored books with his wife Laura, who was a journalist before she became a mum, and has also collaborated with others, including comedian Dave Hughes.
Philip and Laura usually only read their books once to their children Leo, 8, Florence, 6 and Arthur, 3.
“It’s probably because Laura and I have seen the book so many times that we don’t want to read it to the kids,” he said.
It’s an exciting year for Philip. Apart from publishing four books and another three due for release, one of his titles is in the running for a coveted award and another has been read from space.
Not Cute is on the shortlist for the Children’s Book Council of Australia Picture Book, a highly sought after award.
Give Me Some Space! was selected as the book for National Simultaneous Storytime. The book was read by astronaut Shannon Walker from the International Space Station on 19 May.
But there’s another book he holds close to his heart.
“The one that means the most to me is Mopoke as it represented the biggest change in my life. As soon as that book was done and signed I knew I wasn’t pursuing the dreams of my 20s any more – I was on a different path.”
You can check out Philip Bunting on Instagram and at philipbunting.com