3rd October 2013 - Petr Horáček
Petr Horáček is one of Foyles' favourite children illustrators, the winner of numerous awards and creator of such wonderful picture books as the Silly Suzy Goose series, Choo Choo and Animal Counting.
His new book is Animal Opposites, a pop-up introduction to the idea of opposites for pre-schoolers, featuring slow snail and fast cheetah, heavy hippo and light butterfly, smooth frog and prickly porcupine.
Here Petr gives an exclusive insight in his creative process, revealing how the idea for the book arose, explaining the technical challenges of creating pop-up illustrations and sharing rejected ideas and unseen work-in-progress sketches.
As an author and illustrator of children's books, I've published a few books with novelty aspects. A couple of these books also have simple pop-ups, but none of them is like Animal Opposites.
Animal Opposites is different, with a pop-up animal on almost every page.
I wish I could take all the credit for the book, but as everybody knows, behind every good book is a good publisher, a great editor and a team of people who help things run smoothly. In my case it's my publisher Walker Books and the great editors are Louise Jackson and Denise Johnstone- Burt.
The idea for the book came during one meeting, when Denise said, "Look, you like drawing animals, so why don't you do a book just about animals?"
"Which animals?" I said. "There are too many animals, too many different sizes, different colours..."
"Exactly!" said Louise. And the idea was born. I like these kind of challenges, so I went home and started sketching.
It all seemed easy to start with, but soon I realised that it was more complicated than I thought.
Finding the right animal and matching it with another one to show the right opposite is harder than you think. Some animals may be small, but also smooth and colourful...Where to start?
You must also keep in mind that it's a book for children, and they should be able to recognise and hopefully guess which animal will pop out from the next page.
Not all the ideas were good.
I tried to keep it simple.
And then there was the pop-up aspect. Here I was lucky again. I was working with Richard Ferguson, a very clever designer. I told Richard what I wanted and he made it happen. He never said that it was impossible. Richard did a great job.
I found it tricky sometimes to draw the animals for the pop-ups. I like to have the animals a bit stylised and to keep the freshness of the drawings, so getting continuity through the book was challenging. As you can imagine, you often have to draw the animal in pieces. Legs or head separated from the body and so on. It doesn't make it easy.
I did lots of sketching.
Before the book was published I showed it to primary school children during one of my school visits. It worked well and it was really nice to see their reactions. The children's and therefore my favourite page was the last one of the book. Small ladybird and...
It's good to have the book published, but it's even better to see it in the shops. Walker Books made big pop-up stands for the bookshops to promote Animal Opposites.
These big peacock pop-ups are now in a few selected bookshops. I went to London the other day and saw this one in Foyles at St Pancras. It looked great. I was so chuffed to see such a big display of my books, so thank you Walker Books and thank you Foyles!