Prague-born Petr Horacek is a prolific author and illustrator who published his first children's book in 2001, after becoming a dad. He has gone on to produce award-winning and cherished children’s tales including Night Night, Puffin Peter and his latest tome, Animal Opposites.
What inspired you to create Animal Opposites?
I’ve been drawing and painting animals for some time and they are almost in all of my books. My editor asked why don’t I do a book just about animals if I like drawing them so much? “But where to start?”, I said, “there are so many of them, different sizes, different shapes and colours…” “Exactly!” said my editor and the idea was born.
The book is an interactive experience - do you think that’s important for young children?
The most natural thing to children is being investigative and the other thing is a desire to play. I love seeing children trying to found out how the pop up works, how the big elephant fits into the much smaller book. Interactivity is a game and games are the best way to learn.
Who are your favourite children’s authors and illustrators?
One of the best books I’ve recently seen is Jon Klassen’s I Want my Hat Back. I love Eric Carle’s Dream Snow, Polly Dunbar’s Penguin, Sara Fanelli’s Dear Diary. I like illustrators who are not afraid to use different materials and textures, and authors and artists who can be adventurous, but still can make books appealing to children.
Which children’s character do you identify with?
Probably The Very Hungry Caterpillar up to the point when she changes into a beautiful butterfly.
What books did you love growing up?
I grew up in the Czech Republic, so as a child I had beautiful pop up books by Vojtěch Kubašta. I loved books about a robber called Rumcajs written by Václav Čtvrtek and illustrated by Radek Pilař. The book character, which British adults may remember, is Krtek (Krteče) from The Little Mole created by Zdeněk Miler. I mustn’t forget probably the most important Czech illustrator, puppet maker, animator and writer Jiří Trnka.
What were your other hobbies as a child?
As a child of my generation we spent lots of time playing outside. We played in the woods, I played football, tennis, cycled, and I did judo as well. I like sports, but have never been really good at any of them.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I remember wanting to be a gamekeeper. Looking after animals in the woods. It was probably the wood I was interested in the most. I love walking in woods.
Have you got any tips that you would give to a child who wanted to be an illustrator?
If you have an idea write it down and start sketching. It doesn’t matter if it turns out to be a bad idea, or if you don’t finish it. It is the practice which counts and one day you will finish a story, which could be a masterpiece..
What projects will you be working on next?
I recently finished the sequel to my book A New House For Mouse. It will be called The Mouse Who Ate The Moon and it will be published next spring and I’m in the very early stages of the third book with the same character. I’m also working on two board books for very little ones. Board books are not taken as seriously as they should, they are the first contact a child has with art and literature. Making a good board book is harder than people may think and I love working on board books.