Little Bear and The Silver Star is Jane Hissey’s newest Little Bear story and we are delighted to join Jane on her blogtour to celebrate its publication this month. I’ve been a huge fan of the Old Bear stories since I was a newly qualified teacher and I absolutely love this new story which takes place on Christmas Eve.
Little Bear and The Silver Star: It’s Christmas Eve and the toys have finished decorating the Christmas tree. But they can’t find the star to put on top! Once everybody has gone to bed Little Bear decides to go and look for the star so that he can surprise everybody on Christmas morning but his night time adventure is a lot more eventful than he bargains for…
This story has the perfect amount of Christmas magic and Little Bear’s adventure includes snow, a night time flight and a chimney.
Jane’s illustrations are wonderfully festive, we LOVE Little Bear’s fairy dress and Elsie’s Christmas outfit is adorable! We laughed as we read the story too – Ruff’s Christmas tree decoration idea is particularly amusing and we laughed at Little Bear’s comment when he first sees Hoot.
Congratulations on the publication of Little Bear and The Silver Star, Jane. It encompasses all the magic of Christmas Eve and is a beautiful, beautiful book to find under a Christmas tree.
In Jane’s Old Bear’s 30th Birthday Blog Tour Jane told us about how her Old Bear stories came to be published. In this fascinating blogpost she introduces her characters and explains what inspired them.
The Story of Old Bear’s friends.
When I wrote my first book I had great fun selecting a group of characters to appear in the story. It was a bit like auditioning actors; I needed toys that worked together and complemented each other. I wanted ‘younger’ characters – like Little Bear and Rabbit – and older and wiser characters, like Old Bear and Bramwell Brown. Sometimes they were chosen for their practical skills (Zebra could pull a cart. Sailor could sail a boat.)
Old Bear and Bramwell Brown
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 Duck’s 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 seaside!
Many of the toys belonged to me or my family and friends. Old Bear himself was my much-loved, childhood teddy bear. Some have turned up along the way. I bought Rabbit in a charity shop for 5p many 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) and my grandmother gave me Little Bear. She said she found him in her wool box and had no idea how he got there.
Jolly Tall and Little Bear
When I needed new characters, 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.
The book Happy Birthday Old Bear features a new (old) toy, Elsie the little elephant. She has been waiting for years for her chance to appear in a book. Being the same size as Little Bear she works well alongside the other toys. Her red dress adds contrast and colour – and with the added bonus of a trunk, Elsie can perform intricate tasks that others can’t.
With all the toys, I tend to draw them as they are; I don’t really tidy them up or try to make them perfect. But as they develop as characters, their ‘personality’ begins to show through and we no longer notice the worn fur or imperfect shapes; we get to see the character within. And when that happens, as it has done with each of the toys, I know I have chosen well!
Thank you so much Jane! It is absolutely fascinating to hear about the inspiration for each character and how much careful planning goes into making sure that colours and patterns complement each other on a page.
Jane Hissey’s first picture book, ‘Old Bear’ (published in 1986) was instantly acclaimed a new children’s classic. Since then, Jane has written and illustrated over 20 picture books, each one taking a year to illustrate.
Richly illustrated in coloured pencils, Jane’s books feature soft-toy characters and everyday objects that belong to her or her family. ‘Old Bear’ has travelled with Jane throughout the world; to schools, libraries and literary events, becoming increasingly worn and threadbare but recognisable to millions of Jane’s readers.
The 40 episode television series of ‘Old Bear Stories’ won many international awards including a BAFTA and a NY Film Festival Gold Award.
Jane has three grown-up children and lives in Sussex, England, with her husband, Ivan, who is also an illustrator.
You can read more about Little Bear and the Silver Star on the other blog tour stops;