Happy 30th birthday, Old Bear!
To celebrate the anniversary in style, Jane Hissey has created an entirely new adventure featuring her beloved character for the first time in 13 years—and it’s filled with her customary charm, humor, and beautiful illustrations. All the toys, along with their new friend Elsie the Elephant, are very busy preparing a special party for Old Bear. Elsie’s especially excited about her gift for him: a painted umbrella. But when they go out to the garden, a gust of wind blows Elsie and her umbrella up, up, and away! Who will rescue her?
The story of Old Bear’s friends.
Those are all qualities that help a plot but it was also important that the characters worked in the illustrations. I needed contrasts of shape and texture, size and colour. Zebra’s stripes and Jolly Tall’s spots add pattern and variation to a spread. Little Bear’s red trousers and Ducks orange beak add a splash of colour. The brown fur of Bramwell or the blue of Sailor’s uniform are a good contrast to Little Bear and Rabbit’s paler fur. All this had to be taken into consideration when placing the toys together on a page.
As I continued to write the stories I added new characters to liven things up and to open up more plot possibilities. By then the books had been animated for television so this added another consideration. Ruff arrived to add a bit of bounce, Hoot the owl to add a new airborne dimension and Splash to lead the toys to the sea-side!
Many of the toys belonged to me or my family and friends. Old Bear himself was my childhood teddy bear. Some have turned up along the way. I bought Rabbit in a charity shop for 5p about 35 years ago (just to draw, and long before I wrote my first book.) My sister sent me Jolly Tall, (inspiring the story about him arriving in a tall box) My grandmother gave me Little Bear. She said she found him in her wool box and had no idea how he got there.
When I needed new characters and didn’t have quite the right toys, I made them. Hoot was cut and sewn from the sleeve of an old coat and to make Splash the seal, I took apart an old, furry hot water bottle cover.
And my new book, ‘Happy Birthday Old Bear’ features a brand new (old) toy, who has been waiting for years for her chance to be a star. I can’t even remember how long I have had the little elephant, Elsie, but she is a delight to draw. Being the same size as Little Bear she works well alongside the other toys. She has a red dress that adds contrast and colour, she stands on two legs with the added bonus of a trunk, so can perform intricate tasks that others can’t and she is a lovely simple shape. And of course, with the aid of an umbrella, she might even be able to fly…