CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 4. . . .September 27, 2013
Old Bear was originally published in 1986. Now it is available in a special limited collectors edition with four bonus pages. In this case, the collector could be a new generation of children or adults who remember the book from their own childhood. The bonus pages will especially appeal to adults as they give further information about how Jane Hissey works on her books. The history is also interesting. Several other of the Old Bear books have also been republished recently.
In Old Bear the toys are missing their friend, the title character, who was moved to the attic to protect him from the children. Old Bear, himself, is an old-fashioned mohair bear that has been worn through in places and repaired over and over. Because it seems that Old Bear has been forgotten, the toys decide it is time to bring him back, expecting that the children will be gentler with him now. The toys try several methods to get up to the attic and get Old Bear back.
The writing style is very straightforward and descriptive, appropriate for the audience. Each of the ideas for getting into the attic is just the type of thing that a child would try, such as making a tower of blocks and jumping on the bed with its warm blanket and quilt. Even flying the toy airplane seems feasible and believable in the context of the story. The children never appear, thereby allowing the toys to take all the actions and succeed in rescuing their friend. The story is comfortable and familiar in some deep way, coaxing readers in, making them want to believe.
The drawings are so realistic that readers will expect to feel fur instead of paper on the page. The bonus pages show briefly that Hissey uses pencils with many layers to create the drawings. There is more information on how she creates her pictures in the How-to-Draw series online at The Guardian. [See note below.]
Each drawing looks like actual toys have been posed and drawn from reality. This is probably true as the characters are all based on real toys. Duck is a felt toy, Rabbit has bobbled fur, Little Bear has amazing red trousers, Bramwell Brown is a velour bear and Old Bear was obviously a favourite toy that has been loved for years. All children would want these toys in their playroom. For an adult, this book evokes images of the ideal childhood. Brave toys face the problems in their world, and friendship wins out in the end. This story made me want to read the other Old Bear books just to find out want else the toys got up to.
Willow Moonbeam is a librarian and college math professor living in Toronto, ON, with an interest in knitting, astrology and learning new things.
Note: The online information is located at: http://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site and select “Learn how to draw characters from childrens’ books” near the bottom of the page; or access directly at: http://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/series/how-to-draw. Scroll down to "How to Draw Little Bear", or access directly at: http://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/gallery/2013/feb/15/how-to-draw-little-bear.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.