Shh! We Have a Plan is Chris Haughton's third picture book and the third book of his I have reviewed. The palette Haughton used in his first book, Little Owl Lost, caught my attention right away. Haughton's choice of potent colors, the kind you might be more likely to find in 1960s décor than a children's book drew me in. But it is his skill at story telling, both with words and pictures, along with a gift for creating likable characters, that completely charmed me. Haughton's second book, Oh No, George! did not disappoint, but I think that his newest, Shh! We Have a Plan, is my favorite of his three. And this is after 30+ readings! During the first weeks of school I read Shh! We Have a Plan to all the classes, grades K - 5, and, besides being totally entertaining and getting lots of laughs, the repetition in the story lent itself to a great lesson in making predictions. I also read A Piece of Cake, LeUyen Pham's newest picture book, which was an equally great lesson in making predictions in story telling, especially since Pham's book can be described as predictably unpredictable!
The title page of Shh! We Have a Plan almost hides a quote from Albert Einstein, "Peace cannot be kept by force, it can only be achieved by understanding," that adds a wonderful layer to the story of four hunters trekking through the forest.
"Look! A Bird," one of the hunters exclaims as the book begins. "Hello, birdie," the littlest hunter (and the only one without a net) exclaims. "shh SHH! We have a plan," the others say, turning on him. This is followed by, "Tiptoe slowly, tiptoe slowly, now stop. SHH!" Of Haughton's three books, Shh! We Have a Plan has the perfect pairing of pictures and words, both of which are minimal but powerfully engaging. Read aloud, the story lends itself perfectly to hamming it up, if you are so inclined, which I am. And, the audience, the younger grades especially, love the anticipation that builds slowly with the repetition of the words and plot.
Happily, and somewhat expectedly, the hunters never catch their bird, not even after three attempts, all of which have laugh-out-loud slapstick moments. However, the littlest hunter, alone on the sidelines of the hunt, offers the bird breadcrumbs and finds himself in the middle of a flock. After the cool, dark blues of the forest, punctuated only by the small, brightly colored bird, the page turn that reveals the vibrant array of magenta, orange and lime green birds is breathtaking.
Haughton ends Shh! We Have a Plan on an open note, the hunters having given up on the bird, exclaiming, "LOOK! A squirrel. SHH! We have a plan." A perfect ending that has listeners laughing and speculating. Haughton, always with a great eye for detail, has birds on the front papers of Shh! We Have a Plan and squirrels on the end . . .
Source: Review Copy