Go 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.
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…
…or a young girl buying a bunch of balloons… which then lift her off the ground!
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.
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.
Whilst making our stained glass we listened to:
Other activities which could work well alongside include:
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.