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Shh! We Have A Plan, Q&A with Chris Haughton - Children's picture book of the year 2014 - WINNER

What the brand says, what the judges thought and where to buy...

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What is your name and job title? 

Chris Haughton Author/Illustrator/Designer

What makes a picture book special?

When you can sit down with a very young child and enjoy the same story together there is something quite magical. A sophisticated adult has a very different sense of humour than a toddler but i think when there’s an overlap it’s a very interesting area. The humour comes from something universal and human, it’s not culturally learned and so it has the ability to transcend culture and languages.

How would you describe the story of this picture book?

It’s a plan to catch a bird that goes wrong. Like the road runner cartoon, the plan always ends up backfiring. I try to find a theme for my books that everyone can identify with and I think we can all identify with plans that go wrong!

What would Junior readers enjoy most about the book?

My favourite thing about this book is it’s a lot of fun to read out. There are very few words but there is plenty of material to do silly voices and generally horse around. All the characters are shushing each other as they clumsily climb a tree or paddle out into a lake. It’s my favourite book to read aloud out of all my books.

What was the inspiration behind the story?

I was looking at slapstick and clowning. The three stooges, the Keystone Kops and the road runner cartoons. Also, early on I had the idea to make the bird in the story very colourful and by the way he flies he leads you and the characters through the book from page to page. To heighten this contrast I made the forest and the other characters in a monotone silhouette and so when all the birds come together at the end there is a nice visual payoff.

In today’s modern, digital world, why do you think it is important that we still buy books for our children? 

To instil a love of reading for pleasure in a child is something invaluable they will have all their lives. Reading is a completely different experience and requires very different skills than digital media. All books, even books with pictures make the imagination work hard to interpret narrative rather than just have it fed to us. It takes work to decode the narrative but the end result is a much more powerful story. I dont think physical animation can compete with the animation that happens inside the mind between the pages of a book. In addition, for the very young I think a physical book being read aloud with tactile pages turning has an engaging theatrical quality which is unbeatable. I have actually spent the last 3 years developing an app (Hat Monkey) which i am extremely proud of but i have spent a long time thinking about these questions and am absolutely convinced that apps will never replace reading. They both have very clear advantages over each other but neither will replace the other.

 Why did you enter this book into the Junior Design Awards? 

I didn’t enter the book for this award (my publisher did!) but I am designer myself and a big fan of the Junior brand. My last book OH NO GEORGE won the Junior design awards a few years ago.


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Talkback: Shh! We Have A Plan, Q&A with Chris Haughton - Children's picture book of the year 2014 - WINNER

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