Thursday 3 March 2016

Book of the month: Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise

From masterful storyteller Sean Taylor and exciting, celebrated graphic artist Jean Jullien, comes the laugh-out-loud tale of Hoot Owl.  

Hoot Owl is no ordinary owl – oh no! – he’s a master of disguise! And he will use his expert camouflage powers to trick his unsuspecting prey into succumbing to him! Tiny animals of the night ... beware! But, somehow, Hoot Owl's prey keeps escaping... Hmmm, perhaps he isn't quite as masterful as he believes. Will he ever succeed in catching himself some dinner? 

We went behind the scenes with illustrator Jean Jullien to find out all about the making of the book...

You’re well-known for your graphic-design work, and Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise is the first picture book you’ve illustrated. Can you tell us a bit about the process?
Thank you! My work has a very naive feel, which I use to talk about darker issues in a light way. There’s a double level of reading in everything I do; first it looks a bit simple and charming, then you read it and understand that there’s actually a message behind it. With that in mind, I’ve always tried to stay away from doing kids’ material, as I found it annoyingly straightforward. However, the intelligent team at Walker Books made me understand that this doesn’t have to be the case and that we could do a lot of things with this book. I really enjoyed working with them, as it was a first for me and I learned a lot. My work is usually very spontaneous, so there was a real challenge in redoing the pages to get it right. Hopefully I did!

You’ve had success working in different media, including illustration, photography, video, installation, and clothing. Can you tell us a bit about your philosophy when it comes to art? Is there something you particularly enjoy creating?
Illustration is my original medium and the one I’m the most comfortable with. But I love a good challenge, which is why I regularly take on projects I’m not comfortable with. I learn a great deal every time I try something a little bit riskier than my usual work. I like to engage the viewer in every project I do; it is at the center of my practice. I often comment graphically on the news: sometimes in a lighthearted way, and sometimes in a dramatic way. I use social media a lot, as it’s a great way to share and see people’s reactions. I don’t like the idea of staying in my ivory tower, creating work disconnected from the world we live in. I try to make it as relevant (and fun!) as possible. Humor is a very powerful tool that allows me to talk about pretty much anything.

Did you have a favorite book growing up? Are there any children’s book illustrators who inspire your work?

Oh, yes! I’m a big fan of Tomi Ungerer, William Steig, and Quentin Blake. But as far as my favorite book goes, growing up or now, it is definitely Where the Wild Things Are by the wonderful Maurice Sendak. I know it’s not a very original choice, but there’s a reason it’s such an acclaimed book.

If you were a master of disguise like Hoot Owl, what would you try to eat, and how would you disguise yourself?
I’d disguise myself as a diner waiter and gulp a juicy burger!

Jean Jullien is a graphic designer who works in a wide range of media, including illustration, photography, video, installation, and clothing. His clients have included the New Yorker, New York magazine, the Guardian, and the Pompidou Center. Originally from France, he now lives in London and regularly exhibits his work in both places. Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise is the first picture book he has illustrated. Check him out on Instagram!

Check out the animated trailer:

Hoot Owl is SO FUNNY that it has been shortlisted for the inaugral Lollies Awards! Vote for it here.

Join in the fun and download the free activity sheets here. You can pick up Hoot Owl in paperback from your local bookshop.