The Ones That Got Away


A couple of years ago I developed a project for a publisher with a pair of books full of holes – Peepholes: Paws and Claws and Peepholes: Fins and Flippers. The idea was that the child reading would spot a tiny bit of an animal through a hole in the page, then turn over to see if they had guessed what it was correctly. It was great fun but a very very fiddly job getting the holes to appear in the right places – so that you could see just enough without it cutting into the image on the left-hand part of the spread.


Despite the publisher’s enthusiasm, sadly when the books went to Frankfurt and Bologna they didn’t get any co-editions, and therefore became financially unsupportable (the holes add to the production costs). The word was that it was too sophisticated for a very young audience, yet too simple for older children. We even re-formatted it to be simpler and squarer, with fewer holes – but still the international buyers didn’t bite, and unfortunately the book wasn’t to be. But I’m still proud of the project, and I thought enough time has now passed to show some of the spreads from the book here. The yellow spread with the moose is an early version – the publisher said these animals were too ‘educational’ so I re-drew them in a less realistic way. Looking back though, I think I prefer this original version. I’m rather fond of the cheeky monkey playing the guitar.


I was experimenting a lot with textures at the time – in the spreads shown here there’s some sawn timber, a view of the skyline in Berlin, gravestones in Hackney and windfall golden plums. Every picture tells a story! I do feel sad that this book never saw the light of day, but at least I did get paid. And I certainly learned a great deal from the experience – not least, that nothing is ever certain.





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