Petr Horacek's BLUE PENGUIN - Guest Post

How I wrote Blue Penguin
by Petr Horacek

     “Blue Penguin” is my latest book and was published exactly two years after I had the idea of writing a book about a penguin.
     I travel every autumn to the Czech Republic, the country where I was born. I love autumn and I love the Czech countryside.
     My good friend lets me stay in his cottage. The house is on a hill, it has a small apple orchard and woods surround it.
     It’s one of the most beautiful places I know. I stay there on my own. I walk and paint in the woods and I think about new ideas for my picture books.
     Every year I come home with some ideas. Not all of them are good of course, but I always have some material to work with.
     Two years ago I was in this cottage and I was raking leaves in the orchard. I thought about one of my friends who was always himself and because of it, he didn’t make his life exactly easy. People don’t like it if somebody is different. My friend Richard was a bit different and I liked being his friend.
     The idea of writing a book about a penguin that was different came from here I think.
I enjoyed making up the story about a blue penguin, his loneliness, his dreaming up a whale who will rescue him one day and take him far away from his loneliness. He will finally meet a friend who understands him and appreciates his talent. These two will become friends.
     In the very first version the blue penguin would finally separate from his new friend and he would leave with the white whale, but the story was a bit too sad.
     My editor and I worked on the text for a very long time. I’m very lucky to be published by Walker Books and work with such a great team of people and editors who won’t let go until the book is just right.
     I wrote many versions and it was quite frustrating since I was desperate to start on the artwork. I knew exactly how I would like to paint the pictures and I was looking forward to it.
     Here are some of the sketches for the book.
I think I must have at least fifteen versions of Blue Penguin.
     Finally, after many months on and off rewriting the text, I was allowed to get on with the artwork.
     Painting the picture was fun. I like to get messy and I use collage, print and scratch in to the picture. I like texture and colours and this book needed it.
     I don’t know how long it took me to finish the illustrations, but I remember feeling a bit sad when it was all over. Somehow I wished the book had twice as many pages.
Quite unusually even when the book was finished and ready to be printed, we decided to make a few more changes. That wasn’t easy, because I had to get rid of this picture.
     It wasn’t easy, but it was a good decision. The book was finally finished.
     I enjoyed writing and illustrating Blue Penguin and I hope you will enjoy reading it.

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