Accidents, acetate and an amazing book

posted in: PatrickGeorge | 4

ryanlerch_thinkingboy_outlineGo to any author or illustrator event, and a question that nearly always gets asked is “Where do you get your ideas from?“. It’s like the holy grail, especially for young children who may be aspiring book creators themselves – they are understandably keen for advice on where to locate that imagined treasure store of inspiration.

Nearly always, however, the answer is somewhat frustrating: “Everywhere!”, “Anywhere!”, “All around me!“. (Although recently I was at a talk by a bestselling children’s author who “admitted” he got his ideas by rifling through Philip Pullman’s bins for Philip’s cast-off ideas!).

When I interview authors and illustrators I try to avoid the inspiration question, or at least frame it so I can get a more specific answer. But sometimes you come across a book and you can’t help but puzzle in wonder over the idea that has come to fruition in your hands. The idea can be so clever, so simple, so effective that it feels like some sort of magic must have been involved. And for me OH NO! by PatrickGeorge is one such book.

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Like several of their earlier books, PatrickGeorge’s OH NO! makes extremely effective and clever use of acetate pages between paper pages, with each double, wordless spread showing you a “before” scenario, and then once you’ve flicked the acetate page over, the “after” situation. So you might see a boy powerfully kicking a football in a garden… and then the broken window…

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…or a young girl buying a bunch of balloons… which then lift her off the ground!

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There are 13 such scenes in total, all playing on the humour we find in watching accidents as long as they don’t involve ourselves (think of the giggles programmes like You’ve Been Framed/America’s Funniest Home Videos induce and you’ll get the idea). My personal favourite involves parents driving off having forgotten their kid at home (please don’t over analyse what that says about me!).

The acetate pages, and the inherent drama of the before and after scenarios make this a book that readers can’t help but interact physically (as well as emotionally) with. It reminded me of the brilliant Press Here by Hervé Tullet – both take a very simple premise but truly engage their readers, drawing them into a magic world, where the child (or adult) has the power to change things quite literally with their own hands. Like Dahl’s Matilda, we can make the cup spill and what an exciting sense of empowerment that gives us.

There’s magic in the concept, and skill in the execution; subtle details go unnoticed until the acetate page turns and then you see the clues that were always there to make the pictures work so well. As with a good conjurer’s trick, each reveal is satisfying and impressive. Kids may not be able to articulate this, but you will definitely hear them laughing and giggling, and asking for this book to be read again and again.

Naturally enough, my girls were very keen to make something themselves using acetate after playing with this stylish book. For a short while we tried to come up with our own ideas of before and after – extra pages, if you like, to add to OH NO!, but we found this a very difficult task (which only added to my admiration for the book, and furthered my wonderment at how they came up with their ideas).

I thought of trying to use acetate to explore colour mixing, partly inspired by the wonderful looking The Adventures of the Three Colors from the creators of Barbapapa, but whilst I was gathering material for this, the girls did the best possible thing and started on their own project: using the acetate to make a stained glass window.

They wanted to use Pritt stick (glue) on the windows but, trying not to crush their creative impetus, I suggested we use transparent contact paper instead.

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I cut the paper to fit our front door windows and then we used double sided sticky tape to stick the non-sticky side of the paper to the window. Once the paper sheet was peeled off the sticky sheet, the girls got stuck in with their squares of coloured acetate.

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It makes our previously rather humdrum hallway feels rather grand now, even if we still have some way to go to get to this amazing vision (Thanks Julien!)

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Whilst making our stained glass we listened to:

  • Oh, No! by Mary Sue & Cari – a lovely song about drawing on the walls!
  • Oh No by Zucchini Brothers, which has a reggae vibe and is all about keeping going when you’re having a bad day.
  • Oh No! by The Wonder Stuff (the video is fun as it’s about a superhero looking for a sidekick, although just so you know there is brief bit of violence and beer drinking…)


  • Other activities which could work well alongside include:

  • Using acetate to make a secret decoder, as per this tutorial from bookhou crafts.
  • Learning some simple magic tricks which involve movement – so there is a before and after situation, apparently created just by your mind! I like this trick where you can make a straw move (the Surfing Scientist has a detailed explanation here.)
  • Trying out Shrinkies – this plastic has magic properties that most kids adore – it shrinks and thickens as it cooks. We really like the range available here (and no, I’m not affiliated to the company in anyway, but I am very happy with the service I’ve had from them.)


  • Fancy sharing your own “Oh No!” moment with us? I had a terrible one when I was a teenager, leaning out of my bedroom window to take a photo of the sunset, only to fall out of the window and through the conservatory roof below! (I tried to blame it on the cat…)

    Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher. I was under no obligation to review the book and received no payment for this post.

    4 Responses

    1. What a simple yet clever idea! My son loves shrinkies as well. He would adore the stain glass window task, might have to make a visit to the craft shop!
      Stephanie recently posted..Bryony Bird

    2. Your window looks so fabulous! I adore the photo of your girls looking at each other in front it! Your Oh No! moment, falling out of the window sounds painful. My Oh No! moments aren’t as dramatic, I am so clumsy that they occur daily! Broken cups/plates/glasses, bumping into things and other random silly little accidents 🙂
      Melissa @ Honey Bee Books recently posted..Keeping it Real: Tom the Outback Mailman

    3. This sounds like such a brilliant book, one that I think the boys and I would enjoy very much. I also love the stained glass window idea – it looks so striking and seems as though it would be something even I could manage to pull off! Thanks so much for a great review and for a great activity as well 🙂
      Rosalind recently posted..Books featuring people wearing glasses

    4. […] Playing by the book: Accidents, acetate and an amazing book Read the full article here […]

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