A butterfly, which when pursued, seems always just beyond your grasp, but if you sit down quietly may alight upon you.
Time and time again when working in my gardens or hiking through fields a butterfly will land on a flower or bush poised so perfectly it nearly takes my breath away. By the time I locate my camera or get it out of my pocket, it's moved to another position. Not deterred by this I follow, getting as close as possible. Without fail, just as I am about to push the shutter, the butterfly takes flight again. I continue my pursuit for as long as possible.
There are others who wish to capture a thing of beauty permanently. In his new title, Shh! We Have A Plan (Walker Books, UK and Candlewick US, September 9, 2014), Chris Haughton introduces us to four individuals, three of whom believe they have a strategy for success. The fourth has an entirely different approach.
Three net-carrying beings have entered the darkened woods. A fourth, the smallest of the group, stands silently in the rear. An eloquent, colorful bird is perched on a lower branch in a small clearing.
Not privy to the grand scheme or not wanting to be a part of the bird's imprisonment, the little one calls out
The others shush him once, twice and finally the last one reveals
we have a plan.
Holding their nets, they are going to sneak up on him. When they get as close as they can, on the count of three, they will catch this winged wonder. When they cry out, the bird, like my butterflies, takes flight.
Next spotted on a much higher bough in a tree, the shortest member of the crew utters his familiar greeting. After reminding him about the need for silence, the trio continues as before with an added device. The score now is bird two, netters none.
Wait! There's the bird again resting on a branch above the water in a pond. It's a repeat of the entire routine except the threesome has altered their procedure with a new prop. Let's give another point to the bird.
This time the littlest tries his idea. Glorious goodness surrounds him. The others are dumbfounded but determined until they have to quickly rethink their position. Lesson learned...or not?
Use of spare repetitive text by Chris Haughton acts as an element in pacing, in creating an opening for the illustrations to tell large portions of the story and providing an invitation for readers to participate. When each character repeats the same words on the second sighting of the bird, the pattern is established. This pattern, working splendidly with the pictures, creates the captivating comedy which continues to build until the final page.
The color palette shown on the book case is used on all the pages with the exception of the bird; red, purple and magenta standing out boldly brilliant. In two shades of violet Chris Haughton decorates the opening and closing endpapers in stylized birds and ... (I'm not going to tell you what is on the back as it will spoil the ending.) The initial title page is white with the four figures tip-toeing across the page, shushing. The formal title page and verso are a two page spread showing them going down a hill toward the woods.
Haughton shifts his visual sizes from double pages framed in a wide white border to single pages with the blue background and then a single page with a white background. They, like the text, are placed to create symmetry. The eyes on these individuals are absolutely hilarious in their depiction of an array of emotions.
One of my favorite illustrations is the first of two wordless two page spreads. Its vivid display is a tribute to the smallest being's accomplishments. His plan is the best plan.
I guarantee you will never hear the words Shh! We Have A Plan again without smiling or thinking of this book written and illustrated by Chris Haughton. Reading it aloud is pure joy. I can hear the sounds of laughter already. This is ideal for a reader's theater.
By following the first link embedded in Chris Haughton's name you will be taken to his website. He talks about his other books, shares activities and downloads, and lists other projects. The second link takes you to his blog. His explanation for making this book is well worth the read especially the process for the illustrations. This link is to a Pinterest board titled Getting to Know Chris Haughton. Walker Books has a PDF you can download with Classroom Ideas for Shh! We Have A Plan.