Guest Post from Petr Horacek : The Picture is First


To celebrate this special day, we have a lovely post from Petr Horacek, author and illustrator of 'Blue Penguin', one of my favourite picture books. His bold, colourful illustrations really appeal to us and in this fascinating post, Petr tells us a little about where his ideas come from and how they develop.

My latest published book is 'The Mouse Who Wasn't Scared'. It is the fourth book with the character of Little Mouse.


I wasn't planning to write a series of books. It somehow happened. I suppose I just fell in love with the mouse who is childlike, nosey, always jolly and who makes me smile. 

I like walking and drawing in the woods. The idea for 'The Mouse Who Wasn't Scared' came to me after going though some of my sketches. I like the contrast of the grey colours of the tree trunks and the colours of the outside world. 


I'm often asked what comes first, the story or the pictures. With me it's always a picture.

I studied fine art and I think ‘in pictures’.

In all my books I can point out the exact image that started the book.  I don't mean just the story, but also the exact way I wanted to illustrate the book.

For 'The Mouse Who Wasn't Scared' it was the mouse jumping from the toadstool.

I like the contrast of the grey tree trunks, the colour of the mushrooms and mouse's socks. I like the idea of Little Mouse having fun and playing games in the woods.

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Here is another example. This is a picture from one of my favourite books, Elephant. I did a drawing of a boy, whose best friend is an elephant. 


'What can happen when you invite elephant home?' The story started here.

The idea to write the book ‘Silly Suzy Goose’ came from this sketch

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and it was followed by this picture. There was something funny about a goose trying hard to look different.

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Suzy Goose appears in two other books: ‘Look out Suzy Goose’ and “Suzy Goose and the Christmas Star’.  ‘Look out Suzy Goose” – I really enjoyed illustrating the wolf and once again, painting the interior of the woods.

Look Out Suzy Goose.jpg

‘Suzy Goose and the Christmas Star’ – started with the goose flying towards the star. I think this picture makes the book.

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The Fly.jpg

This illustration is from the book 'The Fly'. It is a story of an ordinary day of a fly, told by the fly itself. Once you know that, the picture makes perfect sense.

Those who know my book 'The Greedy Goat' won't be surprised if I say, that the 'starting' picture was the goat eating the farmer’s pants.


'Puffin Peter' is about friendship and the story starts with Peter getting lost in the storm. It was the first image which came into my head.


The illustration may seem a bit gloomy, but the other pictures in the book are jollier.


With 'Blue Penguin' it was a bit more complicated. The book took me a long time to write and we were editing the story even as I was illustrating it.

Blue Penguin.jpg

This picture was the picture I like the best, but in the end it never made it into the book. This can also happen sometimes.

I don't think my way of making up stories is in anyway unique. Somebody starts their book with a text, somebody with a picture, but I'm sure that every illustrator would have their favourite page in their book.

When I look at another illustrator’s work I often wonder what was their favourite picture?

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Thank you so much to Petr for this post. 

The Mouse Who Wasn't Scared 

Walker Books     ISBN: 978-1406374575

You can read our post about 'Blue Penguin' here.