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Picture Book of the Year 2013 *Winner* Oh No, George by Chris Haughton

A mischievous mutt stars in Chris Houghton's morality tale

Oh No, George by Chris Haughton, winner of Picture Book of the Year in the Junior Design Awards 2013
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Oh No, George by Chris Haughton (Walker, £6.99) 3+

On the very first pages of Oh No, George, before the story really begins, a citation of ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus reads “Freedom is secured not by the fulfilling of one’s desires, but by the removal of desire… No man is free who is not the master of himself.” Pretty lofty words for a picture book, you might think, but therein lies the charm of Chris Haughton’s winning tale which is as chin-strokingly thought-provoking as it is rib-ticklingly amusing. While toying with the vaguely philosophical concept of a character caught in a cycle of behaviour, graphic designer Haughton moved from sketching a blundering mallard “sparked by seeing a worried looking duck who seemed to be swimming about two inches below the water level of his friends,” to Googling “guilty dogs” (a great pastime, incidentally). Eventually, he landed on the idea of utilising the page-turn as a comedic device. “It can be great fun when reading aloud if there is bit of a build-up,” says Haughton. “So I decided to build up to a page-turn where the dog messes up somehow.” Which is where “Oh no” comes into play. 

Sage opening wisdom aside, the most instantly striking element of Oh No, George is its distinctive illustrative style. A limited palette of saturated reds, purples and blues really pop against alternately pure white and burnt orange backgrounds, with tonal shading somehow redolent of both a jagged schoolroom collage and Sixties’ Hitchcock posters. Intermittent neat graphic lines provide the perfect foil for this naïve style, reminding us of Haughton’s digital design chops. “Oh no, George!” cries the refrain as our well-intentioned family pet battles his mischievous cake-eating, cat-chasing urges with limited success. The giggles roll in waves as we repeatedly see our sweet canine, wide-eyed and rigid with restraint, as the text teases “What will George do?” followed by an invariably chaotic scene as he succumbs. Then, after a dressing down from his otherworldly green owner, Harris, George appears to mend his ways. But can you really teach an old dog new tricks? Suffice to say, the story concludes as a pungent aroma fills the air, and there is nothing George likes more than rubbish…


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