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Saturday, 17 September 2016

Happy Birthday Old Bear by Jane Hissey (Blog Tour)

Today I am very excited to welcome Jane Hissey and Old Bear to my blog. They have been on a week long blog tour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Old Bear's first book being published.

To mark the 30th anniversary of the publication of the first Old Bear book in 1986, author and illustrator Jane Hissey has created a brand new story: Happy Birthday Old Bear, which will be published in September 2016.

The toys are getting everything ready for Old Bear’s birthday party, helped by their new friend, Elsie the elephant, who plans on giving Old Bear a painted umbrella as a present. They tie ribbons on the gifts, play party music and make a birthday cake, but when they head into the garden Elsie and her umbrella are blown away by a gust of wind and have to be rescued!

Featuring the soft-toy characters belonging to Jane and her family, this latest Old Bear adventure, illustrated with enchanting original artwork, promises to charm and delight children; both existing fans and those discovering Jane’s work for the first time. 

Praise for Old Bear:
‘I'm not sure you ever grow out of Old Bear stories.’ The Bookbag
‘Sometimes I worry that books that we've loved for years might one day fall out of favour…but Jane's books seem to comfortably buck that trend.’ Read it Daddy
‘Every child deserves to be read to about Old Bear, his many friends, and adventures.’ Our Book Reviews Online
‘Jane Hissey’s characters make so many simple childhood experiences interesting and exciting and we love the way that the toys use their imaginations.’ Story Snug

Happy Birthday Old Bear is published in September 2016 priced £11.99

I am very privileged that Jane Hissey has written a special blog post about how Old Bear has changed over the 30 years of publication.

Old Bear started out life as just a bear. My grandmother gave him to me when I was born and he was my constant childhood companion. I had a largely outdoors childhood so he often needed repairs and I remember my mother stitching him a new nose and eyes when they were presumably lost in the fields! Her stitching remains to this day and helps to give him his unique look.

When I became an illustrator, and was asked to write and illustrate a children’s picture book, I decided this old bear  (though 30 years younger than he is now) should be my lead character.
It is interesting; when you first draw a toy that is to feature in a book, before its character has developed through the story telling, it’s just an illustration of a toy; there is no ‘life’ This must have been the case with Winnie the Pooh and Paddington Bear before they developed their own personalities.

This is the very first drawing of my original group of chosen characters. It was done as a sample drawing before I wrote ‘Old Bear’ and was included on the title page of the finished book. The toys are all just about recognizable but their characters are completely undefined. They stand or sit awkwardly and it is obvious I am still experimenting with capturing their texture and choosing expressions and posture

As I drew Old Bear more and more (throughout that first book and then the subsequent twenty or more books) I found shorthand ways of showing his texture, of indicating the movements he was capable of.  I got to know his shape and form and determined the expression he should have (kind, cheerful and wise.) In other word he became ‘Old Bear’ not just an old bear. 

As Old Bear himself travelled the world to visit schools, bookshops and libraries in such far flung places as Australia and the USA, he left a little bit of his fur wherever he went and is now pretty threadbare. It hasn’t helped that he has also had an attack of the clothes moths and had to spend a short time in the freezer! The slight changes in appearance are noticeable in the more recent books where he has lost much of the velvet from his paws and a bit more of the fur from his nose. But I  
draw him from life and that’s how he is. I say it’s all part of growing old gracefully!

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