‘Hide and Seek,’ by Anthony Browne – with exclusive Q&A!

As I’m sure you must know, Anthony Browne is an acclaimed author, illustrator and twice winner of the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal.  ‘Hide and Seek’ is Browne’s 50th picture book and is steeped in the same illustrative magic as his other beloved titles: Gorilla, Willy the Wizard, The Tunnel (to name but a few).

I had the pleasure of listening to him do a workshop at The Globe Theatre last Summer and get one of his books signed, but am even more delighted to have him on my blog today, answering my questions about ‘Hide and Seek.’

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Bored, waiting for their dog, Goldie, to return after running away, Poppy and Cy decide to play hide and seek in the woods.  But after counting to 10, Poppy can’t find her brother anywhere…

The tension and fear mount as Poppy ventures deeper and deeper into the woods with elements of classic Hans Christian Andersen fairytales and foreboding forests coming into play.

Watch out for hidden details in the glorious illustrations which echo the character’s true feelings and themes within the story.  My sons and I spent a long time trying to find them all and guessing the stories they may, or may not, link to.  A beautiful tale of childhood, fear and family bonds.  Surely another classic in the making.

And now we get to hear from the man himself, answering questions about his inspirations and motivation:

1. In ‘Hide and Seek,’ an innocent game takes a foreboding twist. Is this based on personal experience?

I often played hide and seek with my older brother in a field which led to a wood at the back of the pub we lived in and I remember the thrill of hiding was always accompanied by the fear that he would go home and leave me there (he never did).

2. Woodland settings feature heavily in several of your stories. What is it that draws you to them?

I find great inspiration whenever I go into a wood – they are so theatrical, mysterious and varied, full of subtle colours, wonderful scents, fantastic shapes, dramatic light and darkness.

3. Do you have favourite woodlands which you use as inspiration for your illustrations?

Yes it’s a wood fairly near where I live and it’s both familiar and different every time I go in.

4. Several of your books draw on traditional fairy tales, particularly Little Red Riding Hood. What is about these stories which have made them an enduring source of inspiration for so many?

These stories have lasted for so many years for a reason and although many of them were written for adults they still speak to us all. Picture books were few and far between when I grew up but my childhood was filled with them. Then, as now,

I was a little frightened but totally excited by them.

5. I love the search-and-find elements in ‘Hide and Seek’ (and your other books). Why did you decide to include these additional details.

The hidden details nearly always crop up in my books usually as little clues to what the story is really about, that perhaps show us how someone is feeling or thinking. Here I wanted to empathise the themes of the book – lost and found, hide and seek – and to encourage the reader to really look.

6. The final pages show Poppy, Cy and Goldie running back home. Seemingly to an isolated dwelling in the woods with no adults present. Why was this? Where are they?

I hope that the pair of wellington boots outside the caravan is a clue to a comforting presence inside . . .

Thank you so much to Anthony Browne for taking the time to answer my questions and to Penguin Books for organising it and sending me a copy of the book to review.

Library Girl.

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