Exploring the Klaus Flugge Shortlist with Petr Horáček

18 June, 2024

Illustrators Petr Horacek and Mariajo Ilustrajo with fellow Klaus Flugge Prize judges Olivia Ahmad and Alex Forbes.

Petr Horáček is an award-winning author and illustrator whose rich, textured, child-centred illustrations are instantly recognisable. Some of his acclaimed titles include Strawberries are Red, Puffin Peter and Silly Suzy Goose.  

Petr loves going into schools and making art with children and encouraging them to send him their artwork. He believes that picture books are for everyone and that good picture books don’t just teach children to be readers, but develop a child’s imagination, encourage creativity and teach them to be observant and investigative too. 

As one of the four judges for this year’s Klaus Flugge Prize, Petr has enjoyed exploring and discussing the work of some of this year’s most promising new picture book illustrators. In this blog he shares some ideas and activities to enable teachers and pupils to explore the six shortlisted titles together.

The Value of Picture Books

I spend lots of time during the year travelling and visiting primary schools, where I do talks, read, draw and run workshops with children. I always enjoy looking at children’s art, their drawings and paintings. The quality of the work may vary, depending on the school and teachers, but the enthusiasm, the joy and children’s willingness to make art is always the same.

Images and visual art are with us right from the beginning of our lives. Through visual art, we learn language and a way to communicate. Children are extremely observant and they learn from things they see. This is one of the reasons why picture books play such an important role in a child’s life.

A picture book is a specific form of art where language – the text – is in perfect balance with the art – the illustrations. Before a child can read, they are already able to analyse the images, the pictures. I like picture books where the text doesn’t describe everything in the picture and where the illustrations deliver an important part of the story. It’s great when a dialogue between the reader and a child is created and when observation of the illustrations plays a part.

Developing an Eye for Detail

Picture books are often a child’s first contact with visual art; they provide the moment when a child notices shapes, colours, texture, composition. Paying attention and discussing the artwork in a picture book with a child is incredibly valuable and important. I really like it when a child approaches me to tell me how I drew, or painted a certain animal or picture. I love their enthusiasm and pride in letting me know that “they know”, and that they can perhaps do it themselves. Perhaps this is a reason why I don’t use a computer in my artwork and why I’m quite happy to show imperfections in my work such as an extra pencil line, spilled paint, or a colour splodge. I like using a variety of materials and texture in my artwork too. I believe that children notice that and it can inspire them to pick up a pencil themselves.

Pointing out to a child the variety of materials used in the artwork, talking about the characters in the story and how they were created is always interesting and inspiring, and not just for children. It’s fun for adults to copy a drawing with children and get inspired too!

Ideas to Inspire

This year’s shortlisted books for the Klaus Flugge Prize represent a great variety of illustrating styles and techniques and will interest a wide range of children.

The Crown by Emily Kapff is a beautifully illustrated book with realistically drawn illustrations that tell the story very well. Her pictures are full of detail and should inspire older children to have a go at copying their favourite illustration from the book, using similar materials such as graphite and watercolours, or attempt an observational drawing of their own.

The Dream Book by Bia Melo is a book which makes you want to pick up a pencil and coloured crayons and have a go yourself! Drawing a dream is a rewarding challenge to try with young children.

Henri and the Machine illustrated by Olga Shtonda is a beautifully designed book where collage plays a big part in the artwork.  I use collage in my work a lot. I often paint the main characters, some of the details in the book and the background separately and then collage them together. Using collage with children is always a good idea, since it allows them to analyse the artwork better. It’s a more playful way of creating a picture, where they can use different materials and techniques to make varied surface textures. Give it a go!

Farah Loves Mangos by Sarthak Sinha is a funny book with loveable characters. A workshop to create a short story board in a couple of pictures is one idea that came to mind from sharing this book. A girl and a dog are looking at a mango hanging from the tree… What happens next? The point is to come up with a simple story, perhaps a joke, and to keep the continuity in the pictures and in the characters. Developing a main character is part of the fun.

The Fossil Hunter by Kate Winter. Looking at the beautifully painted illustrations and the subject of the book I immediately thought about an activity in which children create a lift-the-flap version of the illustrations. Lift the flap featuring a painted dinosaur and discover a fossil of the animal underneath!

Bright Stars of Black British History illustrated by Angela Vives. Similar in some ways to The Crown, these illustrations are well observed and are full of interesting details. Looking at period costumes and old paintings, then painting the main characters and using collage to add them into printed out images of old master paintings would be a fun and creative way to engage children with art and raise their curiosity about history.

These are just some of the ideas that popped into my head as I was looking at this year’s beautiful collection of shortlisted books. Making art should be fun and any time spent with a picture book is time well spent. Have fun with these different but equally wonderful books!

You can hear more about this year’s shortlisted artists and their artistic process in these short video interviews.

Logo for Klaus Flugge Prize