We were delighted to have a real VIP visitor on Tuesday, when one of the most loved bears visited in person as guest of honour at our teddy bear’s picnic.
Our courtyard garden was packed out with picnickers - and their bears - who came along in the sunshine to listen to Old Bear stories and to meet some very famous bears indeed.
Author and illustrator, Jane Hissey, explained that Old Bear was the original inspiration and features in most of her books, which have been loved by children around the world for over 25 years.
In fact, Old Bear is now so old he very rarely makes a guest appearance, so Mostly Books felt particularly honoured that such a venerable bear made such a very long journey from Jane’s home in Sussex (and also very grateful to Jane for making such a long journey and bringing us all her delightful characters).
Old Bear was her very own bear. She had studied on an illustration and design course and worked as a teacher, but started drawing Old Bear when she had free moments after she started a family. She finally found a publisher who was interested in publishing her stories and quickly found readers who loved the books.
Old Bear was quickly joined by other characters – Hoot the owl, Little Bear – and her most recent creations – Ruby, Blue and Blanket. In the eighties the characters featured on everything from jigsaws to china figures.
Our audience featured lots of children and plenty of mums who had loved the books when they were young, as well as some new fans. And lots of sandwiches, cake and much-loved teds.
It was a glorious day and we were extremely lucky as a torrential downpour in the morning had flooded the garden and threatened our plans to be outside. We spent a good hour trying to clear all the water! But luckily the sun shone again and the weather was perfect by the time the picnic started.
Jane brought along all the original characters for us to meet and all of them had their own story of where they had all come from and how they ended up with starring roles in her books.
The stories would make a book in themselves.
It was as delightful a way to spend an hour as you could possibly have.
Her books are popular the world over and were made into an animated television series and they have been praised not only for their charming stories and colourful pictures, but also use of texture and perspective.
It was great that Jane also gave us an insight into how the books come to life.
She explained how she first writes the stories and then uses the characters to set up the scenes that will appear alongside the text, sometimes using pins, hooks and threads if the characters need to be in action or flying.
It was a unique insight into the meticulous attention to detail that goes into producing children’s book. It really gave an idea of how much work goes into the books, but also why they seem so full of life and texture. There are really no other books like them.
She also says she only uses coloured pencils to draw with and brought some of the original drawings for us to see.
With an audience from babes in arms, they appeal to a great range of ages. Now celebrating twenty-five years since being published, the Old Bear stories will now be delighting a whole new generation of children.
(Want to get a parent's view on the event - visit Child-Led Chaos's report on the day, and also visit Jane Hissey's own website for much more on the story behind Old Bear)