Hugh (Shoo Rayner) Rayner Biography
Prolific British author and illustrator Hugh Rayner, who writes under the first name of Shoo, has had a hand in several popular series for early readers. He is the illustrator for Rose Impey's long-running "Animal Crackers" books, and as both author and illustrator, he created the "Dark Claw," "Rex Files," and "Ginger Ninja" series. These series have very different themes—the "Dark Claw" books are a spoof of Star Wars and other such science-fiction stories, starring cats and rodents; the "Rex Files" (a take-off on the television series The X-Files) feature a duo of canine sleuths named Rex and Franky who investigate various terrifying paranormal happenings; and the "Ginger Ninja" books are about a pawball-mad kitten named Ginger who faces typical elementary-school problems such as bullies. Rayner has said that The Ginger Ninja is his favorite book, both because the Ginger Ninja is the character most like him (Rayner himself had bright red hair as a child) and "because that was the book where I looked deepest into the darkesty regions of my character and managed to come up almost sane at the end," he said in an interview with Word Pool.
Despite their different subject matter, all of Rayner's books were designed to be both easy to comprehend and entertaining for children who are just learning to read on their own. They feature short sentences, short chapters, and almost comic-book-like illustrations. Explaining what he finds most rewarding about his work, Rayner said in the Word Pool interview, "My readers are at the most important stage of reading development, where they can be put off or enthused for life." While he admits that the early-reader genre is often overlooked by critics, "children find it for themselves and read my books by the bucket load. That's my reward."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Guardian (London, England), September 10, 2002, review of The Dark Claw Saga, p. 65; February 25, 2003, Lindsey Fraser, review of A Medal for Poppy: The Pluckiest Pig in the World, p. 61.
Herald (Glasgow, Scotland), March 3, 2001, Michael Thorn, review of Shoo Rayner Web Site, p. 19.
School Library Journal, March, 1991, JoAnn Rees, review of Shut the Gate!, p. 170, and Jeanne Mary Clancy, review of My First Picture Joke Book, pp. 189-190.
Buckinghamshire County Council, http://www.buckscc.gov.uk/ (January 14, 2004), "Author of the Month: December: Shoo Rayner."
Penguin Putnam Web Site, http://www.penguinputnam.com/ (April 13, 2004), "Shoo Rayner."
Shoo Rayner Web Site, http://www.shoo-rayner.co.uk/ (March 31, 2004).
Word Pool, http://www.wordpool.co.uk/ (January 14, 2004), "Author Profile of Shoo Rayner."*