Review: Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton
Shh! We Have a Plan
By Chris Haughton
Admission: I’ve edited books on the fly. In a school library setting, the clock is king, and I’ve had to trim a sentence or paragraph when running out of time with a class. It’s rare when I have to do it, but most of the time, the story stays relatively intact. This would not be the case with Shh! We Have a Plan, a book where each and every word is essential. Chris Haughton (Oh No, George!) brings his striking style to a crew of bumbling bird thieves. It’s efficient. It’s beautiful. It’s one of the best picture books of the year.
LOOK! a bird
we have a plan.
Four chums are walking through the woods when they spot a bird. Nets and cage in hand, the band of thieves is prepared to capture the pretty thing. They try and try (and try), but fail every time. Comically so. But this crew isn’t entirely dim-witted – the smallest member is wiser than the rest, and lures the bird in a different way.
I read this to groups of kids this week, and the repetitive text is well suited for the audience. After the first few pages students were able to join in for some choral reading – finishing each line and “shh”-ing right along with me. It was also fun to see childrens’ exasperation grow each time the thieves miss the bird.
In a recent interview on the Let’s Get Busy podcast (see the link below), Haughton talked about using actual cut paper for these illustrations. The note at the front of the book, however, calls the artwork digital. Must be some combination of the two (EDIT: The illustrations are a combination – don’t miss this excellent post about how they were made). However they were created, Haughton’s graphic style is instantly recognizable. The guy knows his way around a color palette, selectively using bright hues to draw the eye. Every aspect of the artwork serves the story. Were it eligible, I’d be calling for Caldecott. But since Haughton is a Londoner by way of Ireland, I’ll be pulling for Kate Greenaway instead.
I don’t know what else to tell you – Shh! We Have a Plan is well-crafted in every sense of the word. Plus, it will work well in a read aloud setting. This is the sort of picture book that your collection needs.
Review copy from the publisher.
Watch the book trailer for Shh! We Have a Plan:
About Travis Jonker
Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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