The making of: Goodnight Everyone

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The idea for this book came from visiting my sister Jan’s Montessori school. She was showing me some of the games and toys she uses in her class of 3 and 4 year olds.

She had a series of blocks to explain the powers of ten 1/10/100/1000. 1 square block, 10 stuck together to form line, 100 blocks together to form a plane and 1000 blocks making a 10x10x10 cube. We were talking about how ideas like scale can be shown visually so much easier than can be explained and it occured to me that it could be the perfect subject for a picture book. I like using images rather than words to tell a story visually and this is a very visual idea so it might work. I began thinking of Charles and Ray Eames’ ‘Powers of 10’ and if there was a way to create something similar to this that could be understood by very young children.

In fact I wrote another blogpost about powers of 10 here.

The first idea was a story about an ant who wants to know how big the world is and meets larger and larger animals along the way. She climbs to the top of the grass and meets a beetle, and then to the top of a bush to meet a lizard, a monkey on a tree, and an elephant who takes her to the top of a mountain. Each sequence would be an order of magnitude larger than the last and it would be fun to show the world zooming out all the way out from an ants point of view to the whole world. Note the lizard hidden on the bush in the top right.

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The ant was exploring the world of the very small and there were lots of exciting worlds and things to draw.


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However, the story was too linear and so becomes a little boring and predictable after the first sequence. As well as this, the whole premise seemed a little contrived. Ants don’t want to know how big the world is, and neither do very young children, it is much older children who become interested in a question like this. I couldn’t resolve this after more than six months I ended up abandoning the idea and instead created a different book (SHH! We have a plan).

Two years later I came back to it. A simpler way to explain scale to very young children is by acting it out. An action can be made big/bigger/biggest. I decided to abandon the ‘how big is the world’ idea in favour of a simple action simply getting bigger by being acted out by larger and larger animals. Different sized animals in order doing actions such as eating/moving/tickling have potential to build drama to a punchline. I drew it in a sketchbook on the beach.



After trying a few actions I hit on the idea of a contagious yawn that went from a tiny ant all the way to an elephant. The cut pages increase in size as the yawning animals get bigger a little like the sequence in the hungry caterpillar and other books. The animals then go to bed and the scale again increases, but this time rather than larger cut pages the scene zooms out further and further until we see all the animals and say ‘goodnight everyone’. The youngest children are not interested in the concept of ‘scale’ but they can notice the animals in the pictures get larger or smaller as the pages turn. It is introduced to them in ways they can understand.


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We created a dummy book in pretty much the form it is now but my editor and art director had doubts about it as a book. It didn’t really have a story as such, and was a little different to my other books so it again got shelved and I tried out different ideas…


…an ant who was tickling larger and larger animals.


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but the ant and insects seem threatening if they are coming to tickle you and are too realistic. So I abstracted them a little…


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she finds bigger and bigger animals to tickle until she gets tickled back in the end.

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That year I became an uncle, and at Christmas I spent a few weeks with my eight month old twin nieces. I was reading my books to them but at that age they were a little too young to properly follow the story, so we were mainly just pointing out things on the pages. I showed them my dummy books to see what caught their eye. Goodnight Everyone was the biggest hit. They loved the sequence where the larger and larger animals are revealed behind the leaves, and wanted to turn the pages themselves. When they turned them we would make yawning actions and after a few goes they began yawning too. They had been having terrible difficulty sleeping as they had come to Ireland from Australia for Christmas. One of the twins, Joanna, was very bad and it was as if she was fighting sleep, she seemed to be scared of it. Every time she noticed herself nodding off her face had a look of terror and she bawled crying. We just wanted to reassure her that going to sleep was nothing to be afraid of but of course you can’t explain that to a child so young. The only way you could really attempt explain that to a very young child I think is through pictures. I came to the conclusion that doing a picture book with no story and just a reassuring message about going to sleep was a good thing to try to do.

We used the book in their routine to put them to sleep and it worked so well that my sister and mum said really should forget my new idea and go back and publish this instead.

My two guest editors Joanna and May:

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I took it back to Walker after Christmas and we agreed that actually with some tweaks it would work well for the very young. It would be for a younger age group than the other books. As I began creating the artwork I realised that it looked a bit weird having ants and beetles yawning and snuggling up to sleep. Birds and mammals yawn, but insects don’t, so I dropped the ants and beetles (although they are still there on the sleeping mice page). The elephant got dropped too once I realised i could make a link to the Ursa Major and Ursa Minor constellations. The two bears then become the lead characters (thanks to Alice Beniero for inspiring this idea)


What I try to do in my books is to simplify and reduce the words to communicate to the youngest children. What I am most excited about with this book is that it is told through actions which would be acted out rather than read, so I would hope a small child can understand without any language at all.

The first sequence begins with a small yawn…. which grows larger and larger until everyone goes to bed.
The final sequence begins with a snore…. which grows larger and larger until little bear gets a kiss goodnight and everyone is asleep.
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The book is a mirror of itself, each page on first sequence is turned to reveal the animals, the mice, the hares, the deer etc
And each page on the last sequence is on the verso and so the animals are covered with each turning page, almost as though they are being tucked in one by one.

The final sequence zooms out from the little sleeping mice to the whole of the night sky. On each page we say goodnight to each of the sleeping animals. A dandelion seed is dislodged by the snoring mice and passes from page to page and past the constellations on the endpapers to return to the beginning of the book and grow a new dandelion. It passes the quote at the beginning which reads ‘No dreamer is ever too small, no dream is ever too big’.

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The ‘day time’ front endpaper is the southern night sky with the earth and the solar system seen from the south, you can see the antarctic. The ‘night time’ back endpaper is the northern night sky with the earth and solar system seen from the north, you can see the arctic. The book from beginning to end is a zoom through the earth as it turns from day to night.

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day time

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night time


I am now building a version of this in 3D and I hope I can make a free app to explain night and day and the seasons as well as the solar system and the constellations. Coming soon!

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GOODNIGHT EVERYONE comes out in the UK at the beginning of August. It comes out in other languages very soon too:

Spanish: Buenas noches a todos
Catalan: Bona nit a tothom
Italian: Buonanotte a tutti!
Swedish: Godnatt allihop
Danish: Godnat allesammen
Dutch: Welterusten Allemaal
Norwegian: God natt alle sammen
Finnish: UNEN AIKA
German: Gute Nacht Allerseits
Russian: Всем спокойной ночи
Chinese/Japanese coming soon.

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By | 2017-11-26T12:19:26+00:00 July 12th, 2016|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments

Skype workshop in India

I just did a skype presentation to the students of the Srishti School of Art Design and Technology in Bangalore India. They are doing a really interesting project developing inventive ways to produce quality cost effective picture books for families who would usually be unable to afford them. I have been twice to Srishti to lecture and do workshops and I think they are really one of the most interesting colleges i have ever visited. very forward thinking in many ways. Its the first time we did this skype talk but it worked really well. Thanks very much to Matt Lee who got me involved 

 ‘a book in every child’s hands’
read more about the project here


By | 2017-09-02T02:16:51+00:00 March 27th, 2012|Tags: , , |1 Comment

A Bit Lost: Worksheets

I was just sent these great worksheets by my lovely spanish publishers. Please feel free to print out and use. The animals are all on A4 but the forest scene can be printed at any size.
To download them all as a zipped file click  HERE







26th Feb
Reading and workshop 2-4.30pm


27th Feb
People’s Supermarket. Fair Trade Exhibition.
Runs for 2 weeks 27th Feb-12th March


 29th Feb 4.30-5.30
Englands Lane. Reading and signing


1st March. I will be doing signings in the following shops. pop in if you are in the area.
Foyles CXR
Foyles STP
Museum of Childhood
Tate Modern


2nd March  I will be doing signings in the following shops. pop in if you are in the area
The Lamb Bookshop
Waterstones Piccadilly
More TBC


3rd March
Book Launch Night (Victoria Park Books)


4th March
Discover Book event. Talk and presentation.
Stratford 1.15-2pm


5th Talk.
Fair Trade Design Talk at the Peoples Supermarket





7th March
PIVOT exhibition of visual curiosities
Childrens Workshop 
Filmbase Temple Bar 


Irish Design Shop signing event 5-7pm


8th March
TV3 Ireland AM
signings around Dublin
Easons event


9th -11th March





15th March
Presentation London YLG AGM
16th March
Start of Blog Tour 


17th March
Prix des bébés lecteurs de Nanterre
18th March
Paris Book Fair signing 4-6pm
19-22nd March
Bologna Childrens Book Fair
OH NO! what is george doing now? drawing worksheet: please feel free to download/print.
By | 2017-09-02T02:18:28+00:00 February 19th, 2012|Tags: , , |0 Comments

Oh No, GEORGE!: The making of…

FINALLY…! this book has been two years in the making…! This post is just to show where the idea came from, and how the book took shape. its also quite useful for me to put together this post because its always such a long process that i kind of forget where the ideas came from to begin with.

My first idea for this book was a cause and effect sequence called Oh No!… it was an idea for a sort of elaborate circular accident… i may come back to that idea in future in fact…


I was toying with that but was reluctant to settle on it. Another idea was ‘Bad duck’ about a duck who was bad at being a duck.. swimming and quacking etc… its was a bit like a version of the Ugly Duckling and was sparked by seeing a worried looking duck in London who seemed to be swimming about 2 inches below the water level of his friends
A third idea featured ‘clown man and clown dog’ which i think also could be quite good in the future…


i didnt realise it at the time but all these ideas revolved around the idea of characters somehow messing up (which i thought would make entertaining drawings) I realised its a lot funnier if there is intention from the character to not mess up, so in the end i scrapped clown man and sort of fused all three ideas to make the dog the comic lead character.


One part of the picture book i try to make use of are the page-turns.. they can be great fun when reading aloud if there is bit of a build up so i decided to build up to a page-turn where the dog messes up somehow… that was how the basic idea came about … i jotted it down on 3 pieces of A4 which it turned out hardly changed at all from this first sketch.
some initial character sketches…

I usually draw from my head without using much reference but i found myself googling ‘guilty dogs’ to see if i could find some good material. It turns out there’s a lot about this on the internet. the video below is really worth watching if you havent seen it.



most of this work was done while i was in kathmandu. I went over to get more involved in my fair trade work and ended up staying between there and India for more than 8 months in 2010. I was lucky to work on some super projects there which was the main reason i was very late for my book deadlines. In fact this book was 9 months late and was supposed to have been out last august (!)


I did most of the sketches for george from this room..

and i sent the bologna draft from this internet cafe (the monks were on facebook)


this is me trying to finish it off the last images in the airport on my way home, i had to meet my editors deirdre and lucy the following week and i hadn’t done half as much as i had said i had… (!)



This is the part of the book im most proud of.. the first page builds up in three images to a large close up of george with the text ‘what will george do?’ When the page turns the following double page spread tells us exactly what george has done.. OH NO!!!





as you can see george does some pretty terrible things, but all is forgiven in the end




the end-papers are a kind of before and after



i quite liked having a little quote on the title page for A Bit Lost. i decided to go with this one from the stoic philosopher epictetus for George.




the final proofs and tweaks were all done in a very intensive few weeks with the help from deirdre and dan when i got back to the UK (my room was being lived in so i did all this from my next door neighbour’s place!)










Oh No George is out on the 1st March 2012 or available for pre-order in these countries, im told there are more to follow soon

Oh No, GEORGE! IRE/UK              here
Stoute Hond Netherlands                here
Oh Non, GEORGE! France              here
Oh Nein, PAUL! Germany             here
Voi Sinua SULO! Finland                here
¡Oh no, Lucas!   Spain                    here
Oh no, Charlie!   Catalan                here



Kirkus Review USA
The Guardian UK
Childrens Book Council USA
Oh Nein Paul! Germany




Nominated for the Leipzig Book Fair Prize 2-6 category

White Raven selection 2013 

Winner of the 2013  Je lis, j’elis‘ 2013 Award for picturebooks

Nominated for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize
Nominated for the UKLA Awards
Nominated for the Irish Book Awards
Nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Kate Greenaway Medal
Nominated for the Waterstones Prize
Winner of the Junior Magazine Picture Book of the Year
Nominated for the CBI Awards Ireland
Nominated for LoveReading4 kids Reader’s book prize 2013
Nominated for the Coventry Inspiration Book Awards

US’s top 10 picture books of 2012
Winner of 2012 ‘Little Awards for Big Books’ Picture Book category


Nominated for the Carouge Story Book Award

 The making of ‘A Bit Lost’ is here