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.
The ant was exploring the world of the very small and there were lots of exciting worlds and things to draw.
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.
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.
but the ant and insects seem threatening if they are coming to tickle you and are too realistic. So I abstracted them a little…
she finds bigger and bigger animals to tickle until she gets tickled back in the end.
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:
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.
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’.
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.
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!
GOODNIGHT EVERYONE comes out in the UK at the beginning of August. It comes out in other languages very soon too:
French: BONNE NUIT TOUT LE MONDE 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.
In the beginning i thought i could make a simple app myself with a little help from a programmer friend, it didn’t exactly turn out like that. Through a series of twist and turns and introductions it snowballed into something much bigger and better than i thought possible. Its been a very interesting journey so i thought i would share it here.
I’ve always been interested in animation and in fact my degree show project in art college was an interactive character built in flash. When the iPhone came out I was very excited by the possibilities and began looking for ways to get something made. i went to a few LEG Up meetings and Ars Electronica and tried to rope some animator friends into a project together but as I didnt have much money and only a vague plan, nobody was exactly jumping at the idea. Around 3 years ago my programmer friend and neighbour David Muth came on board as a partner. In the meantime i have actually been approached a few times to make my books into apps but i turned those down. I think of books and apps as quite different things. What works well as a story does not necessarily work as an interactive app.
In theory a story with added movement, sound and interaction should be much more engaging than a story without it, but somehow this doesn’t seem to be the case. My own way of storytelling is looking for the essence of a story and trying to heighten that by stripping out everything but it’s essentials. The way the characters look, the pacing, the imagery and text is all designed to focus the story. Adding interaction and other distractions to this way of storytelling is not enhancing the story but the opposite. Throwing distractions such as interaction into the pages would only ruin my storytelling, the audience would be distracted.
In my mind apps are something quite different. They are interactive and need to focus on enhancing that interactivity. With this in mind i began looking at different inspirations that have interaction at their core. The first that came to mind was the lift-the-flap type novelty books, Pat the Rabbit, Eric Hill’s brilliant Spot the Dog etc, these are the sort of books that animation and sound would enhance. What would be the most engaging prompt to interact? I thought ‘helping’ would be a nice engaging interaction. I thought about making an app called HELP where you have to help different characters stuck in different situations, an upside-down turtle or a cat stuck up a tree. I could make their eyes and emotion appeal to us and do a funny reaction when we do help. The only problem is that without any thread connecting them it just becomes a series of unrelated tasks. It seems repetitive after a while. It would be better is if there is one character, if we are requested by the same character each time we can get to know her and her character can then be a source of humour.
Initially my character was going to be a fish because it would require very little animation …they dont have legs! I quickly ran out of interactive things to do with a fish though… i realised to maximise the interactions I needed a humanlike character with arms and the ability to use objects and devices. I made the character a monkey so that he could do all the things a human can do. I gave him a hat and called him ‘Hat Monkey’, because he arrives unannounced at the front door a little like Dr. Suess’s cat. Finally i decided that actually this monkey would be much more appealing to children if he was just like them. He is 3 feet tall and needs help to do all the things that young children cannot do. He cannot reach the door and the light switch, or turn the pages of a book. I thought it would be a nice twist and perhaps quite satisfying for the children if they could help a monkey do all the things that they cannot do in real life.
So i had the idea finally. I was going to animate it all myself and David was going to knit it together in code. My original idea was to have three animations for each scene, a prompt, then a looping animation and finally an on-touch reaction animation. With this simple format we could create every interaction we could think of, throwing a ball back and forth, opening a door, giving monkey a banana, even answering a phone call or a text. After some time news spread about our app and we were introduced to Berlin based publisher Fox and Sheep. They wanted to buy the app but when they saw our prototype it was clear that my animation wasn’t really up to it. David was also spending more and more time on the project and it started turning into a full time job for him which he couldn’t commit to. Fox and Sheep took over and eventually managed all programming and animation. Which was a relief because it was getting pretty difficult!
It was pretty frustrating to me initially that all our work and many months of my tedious animation ended up scrapped, but this was all recreated and improved beyond anything I could have done. I’m very lucky to be working with Fox and Sheep, their apps Nighty Night and Petting Zoo are two of my absolute favourites (read Christoph’s excellent blogpost). As publishers they’ve had great advice and input on how to improve and enhance the interactions and flow. My simple ideas for reactions have turned in multiple responses and actions and even microphone sensor for my phone scene idea so that you can actually talk to monkey. The sound and music is all created by Matt Wand who’s work I have been a big fan of since college. He does the sound and music for my trailers and animation projects and for this he seems to have got so excited about making monkey noises and music that actually we could only use a tiny fraction of them in the final app. It’s a shame because there was SO many nice tracks but we could only use so many. He is in fact releasing them all along with other recent tracks as in his new album which i highly recommend downloading. The amazing animation was created by Egmont and his team at Red Rabbit, all together this app is far better than i imagined it would be when i started out.
I think we have had a very successful collaboration, Fox and Sheep have a lot of experience and helped me understand what would and would not work, I had a lot of wacky ideas similar to the phone scene which were not fully formed. On the other hand I fought to keep the text screens in the app and so make it more like a book than an app. That way it can function as something shared between adult and child as a read-aloud, as well as a purely solitary activity. Like my books, it has very simple text and can also double as a satisfying early reader with a nice payoff for each sentence read. I think through this push and pull we have made something that is quite unique and I look forward to doing more apps together. We have plenty more scenes to add in over the next few months (they will update automatically) and i have several ideas for other Hat Monkey apps, and other apps in general. Please check back very soon for the next one!*
*hopefully less than 3 years!!
I gave a 20min talk about creating HAT MONKEY at the Kids Want Mobile conference in Berlin
HAT MONKEY is launching in 14 languages now!
I hope you enjoy it, please do send reviews and feedback, we are working on more apps together in future and i hope they can be the best they can be. I’m really excited to be creating these apps alongside my books.
One of the things i have been trying with my books is to tell stories as much as possible through images rather than through words. If the story can be read without language, it should have the ability to be understood by the very young. I would like to think all my books are told in a way that someone without language could understand but I think the story in this book could be the most visual of the three, it certainly has the least text. In fact, the total word count is only 103, and ten of those words are ‘shh!’ which I am not sure is a word but I counted it anyway, I even counted the five words of the title which is a trick i picked up at school. It is a bit embarrassing then, that it took more than 2 years to write. I worked out on average I wrote one word every six days. Not exactly the writing speed most writers aim for… anyhow…
I started sketching out ideas for this book thinking there must be some way of making a ‘chase/catch’ type book. It was sparked by seeing an incredibly inspiring show at the Edinburgh fringe by Mr. Bunk called Swamp Juice. It brought me around to thinking of the Road Runner cartoons where there there are elaborate plans which could all work very well visually. Quite suddenly three goon type characters trying to trap a bird popped into my head, that it would be great if there were three, each with a different plan. What I liked the best was there could be a drawn out pantomime effect, similar to A BIT LOST and GEORGE, with an anticipatory page turn between ‘ready/steady’ where the three position themselves to catch the bird and GO! ..where of course they miss.
Finding the ending was easy as i had sort of come up with it in the beginning (!) the really tricky part was fitting the ending into the story. I originally had three other ‘good’ characters who were feeding the birds instead but it seemed very abrupt to introduce them midway. It seemed best to have a character with the answer the whole way through. The book seemed a little clunky and wordy when mocked up with four/five characters on every page, so together with my art director, Deirdre, we hit on the idea of a conversation happening across a page. There was lots of comic potential with this, i really loved working on it. If you think of books like Martin Waddel’s ‘Owl Babies’ it makes use of a repeated conversation across the page, each character repeats the same thing, over and over again. It is predictable but also has a pantomime effect and great for doing silly voices. We had so many great lines we had to work on editing it down and in fact I think there is enough material for another picture book in there if we are lucky.
For my other two books, i am always asked if i used paper cut, as they look quite like it, but in fact I did not use paper cut at all when creating the artwork and it was all pencil and digital. For this one though because it had five characters on each page it needed some sort of drastic simplification for it to be read clearly. Not only that but I was keen for the conversations to read across the page, matching each line with the action of the character. There was so much shifting of compositions around on the pages that it became clear the best way to compose each page was by collage. In fact it made perfect sense to create a mainly silhouette image from paper cut and in fact the design of the birds also benefitted from it too.
some character sketches
some pages showing papercut to digital.
For the final artwork i was keen that that the bird seems somehow from another world, brightly coloured and abstracted and removed from the world of the characters, it focuses all our attention on the relatively tiny bird on the page, leads the reader through the pages of the book and gives a punch of colour at the end. My other books are very colourful so it was quite satisfying to try to work almost entirely in silhouette for this one. In fact there was a lot of really interesting experiments with the colour. Usually full colour printing is in CMYK, but the whole of the book is printed in only CMK (blue,magenta,black) and the only yellow that appears in the book at all is in the colour of the birds. It was our hope that with this approach the bird would stand out completely from the rest of the book.
I am hugely indebted to my art director and editors, Deirdre McDermott and David Lloyd at Walker books ( i posted about them here) for all their feedback and help on this book. It improved immeasurably with their help and I consider myself very lucky to be working with them.
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 Oh No, GEORGE! USA/CANADA 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
Before I had my idea for my little lost owl story I had actually wanted to do a different story about birds in a forest. The birds in the first story come down from their tree top roosts to the bottom of the forest and meet all the other animals of the forest along the way. They pass all the forest animals who want to eat them and eventually manage to find food near the forest floor. The last spread would then be a panoramic of them back perched at the top of the trees at the end of the day overlooking all of the life of the whole forest. I had the idea because I wanted to introduce all the animals and have the interactions of the forest in a sort of Arne Naess story of deep ecology and interconnectedness.
This image was the trigger for the story. It’s a screen print I did for the fair trade company People tree. I really liked the image because I had the idea of hiding figures in the complex background (see the little cat in the bottom right)
An early prototype of the pop-up for People Tree. You can see it animated here. They should be available to buy soon from people tree’s site actually.
I liked the silhouetted running shapes of the birds. They eventually evolved into the running owl and squirrel in the finished book.
The birds here hide from a tiger (also a snake and an elephant)
The birds in their perch for the final image. They look across at the whole forest and see the web of all the animals that we met in the story.
In the end I sort of had to scrap the idea, I didnt like the way the birds interacted with the other animals of the forest. They were not engaging with them as such and it left a sort of lonely tone to the story. I may try it again another time but for this book I decided I wanted to do something that was more engaging and somehow a little like pantomime. Without engaging with little funny questions and cause and effect (Uh oh! is he going to fall off?/ Uh oh! Is it Mummy? etc) a very young audience tends to lose interest quickly.
The breakthrough came when I made the bird fall from his nest. That way he was lost and had to engage with the other animals in a way that wasnt about avoiding being eaten. In order to give the bird a range of expressions, forward facing eyes is much better graphically so I chose an owl instead of a bird. Also owlets apparently have a habit of falling out of their nests. I had imagined somehow that owl babies were cute until i actually looked them up on the internet
In the end my story turned out very different. Although the story had changed, there were a few things that I kept the same. The main thing was for the story to be able to be read without words so that children can understand everything just by looking at it. I also wanted there to be other visual interests in the book that children can find themselves. In the first story there were glimpses of the berries that the birds were looking for all along throughout the story, and in the final lost owl story it is the mum looking for her child.
The first images of the new owl story
Although I changed the story, you can see the patterns on the owls were similar to the original birds and I was using all the same colours.
some character sketches
i got some character ideas from handicrafts i bought in Mexico (this one was made by Tejiendo Arcoiris in San Cristobal)
…more bold graphic toys for inspiration…
and a bit of henri rousseau.
I had the idea of doing a leporello (non-accordian) fold-out so that you can follow the path that owl takes as he falls. I ended up dropping this idea too. But there is still a half page where little owl drops on the opening spread.
Eventually I lost most of the pink colour from the owls too. By now it has now become almost unrecognisable from the original story
some more colour tests…
i started going a bit mad with all the trees….
one thing i like about these is the only white on the page is the white of the eyes of the characters. It focuses attention on them in what would otherwise be a very busy image.
I did the typeface for the book with help from the brilliant typographer Andreas Pohancenik
i quite like squirrel playing peek a boo in this early version of the cover.
I did half of the book in Korea …it was published first by the AMAZING Borim Press. Check out the post I did about them here. Their set-up is very interesting.
…and the other half in Mexico ..so i could concentrate fully on it. I had to stop working on other jobs so i was running out of money by now!
i had some reference images spread out on the hotel floor and was worried the were going to get tidied up.
the final spread of the owl falling
in the finished pages you can see the mother hidden in the top left as her child is running around looking for her. the silhouettes of the running animals were inspired by the earlier work with the running birds.
The panoramic final scene is also based on the imagery from the earlier story
The final cover as it is now in English
If you want to see more you can see the first few pages of the book HERE