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The Perfect Present: A Guest Piece by Petr Horacek

I do a lot of school and festival events during the year. I get gifts of small drawings from children. I keep some of them and from time to time I make copies of such drawings. There is always something new I can learn from doing this. I love the way children can tell a story in an interesting way by using, for us adults, an unusual composition or perspective in their art.

I also like the way children talk to themselves when they are drawing and how they give you a long explanation about what is in the picture.

When my daughters were younger, I loved to see them drawing and playing in my studio. Watching children play is a fascinating source of inspiration. It brings back memories. Memories from my own childhood. In fact, I started to write my first picture books after my first daughter was born.

Spending time playing with my children, sitting on the floor, seeing the world from a different perspective once again and trying to see everything as if you are seeing it for the very first time…looking back, it all helped me with my writing.

My latest book The Perfect Present is inspired by memories from my own and my children’s childhood. It is a book about imagination. A book of colours, games and unfinished stories.

I wanted to create a book which can inspire a conversation, interaction between the reader and child. It’s a book for daydreamers.

I remember how I used to look into a glass marble, holding it against the light, turning it slowly in my fingers. I could see the whole universe. Two armchairs turned against each other were a sailing ship. All you needed to explore a deep African jungle was just one long stick, a shrub and a couple of trees at the bottom of the garden. There is no limit to imagination.

I enjoyed working on The Perfect Present. Painting each picture was a treat. Now, when the book is published, I look at the pictures and I’m not quite sure how I did it. This happens to me often. I work on a book, have a good time and then comes the time when I have to decide that the book is finished and have to let go. Completely. Forget the book at least for a while. There’s no other way and that’s the reason why I often look at my work as something I did a very long time ago.

This applies to the characters too. I get asked: “Who are Tom and Mot? Are they cats?” I don’t know. I wanted to have two characters who are exact opposites. One is black and the other white. One is called Tom and the other Mot… The story changed over the time I was writing it, but these two characters stayed how I sketched them for the very first time. I wasn’t sure who these two should be. I just sketched two characters who look like cats, minus the tails. I liked them and decided that there is no reason to change them. Once again: Let the reader make up their mind.

It’s hard to write about your own picture book, but as I mentioned before, writing and illustrating The Perfect Present was fun. It was like one long game, like playing in my room once again.

If you can sense this from the book and if you like it, I’m happy.

The Perfect Present is published by Otter Barry Books on 25th August 25 2022, HB £12.99.


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