Chris Haughton’s secret to image e book success

The Oh No, George! author has been writing and illustrating children’s books for the past 12 years, and he’s learned a few things about what makes them work

For years, Chris Haughton thought about writing a picture book. He’d set off on his annual trip to his home country of Ireland, announce that this would finally be the year he’d write one, and before he knew it another 12 months had passed and he’d be saying the same thing again. It even became a running joke among friends. “My studio mate said well, what you need is a deadline,” Haughton tells CR. “How about you book tickets and go to Bologna Children’s Book Fair, and you have to do the story before you go.”

True to form, Haughton says he was still finishing his idea the weekend before the trip, however he struck it lucky once he arrived in Bologna. Despite the event being aimed largely at publishers, rather than authors or illustrators, Haughton managed to impress a Korean picture book publisher, Borim Press. They signed an advance and agreed to publish Haughton’s first book, A Bit Lost – which tells the story of a baby owl who’s fallen out of its nest.

Top image and above: Spreads from A Bit Lost, Haughton’s first picture book. All images courtesy Chris Haughton and Walker Books

It marked the launch of an incredibly successful career in children’s books for Haughton, who has since released seven more titles. His eighth, Well Done, Mummy Penguin, comes out later this year with his longtime publisher Walker Books. Haughton’s books have collectively sold over 2.5 million copies, and Oh No, George! – which centres around a mischievous dog – has been turned into a stage show. While his career once revolved around illustration commissions for magazines and the ad industry, picture books are now his main focus.

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