I managed to miss out on Jane Hissey‘s books when I was a child, because I was a teen when most of them were first published, but I’ve been aware of the gorgeous art for long before I had children. The Old Bear stories seem older than they actually are (written from 1986 onwards) purely because they have a classic feel like they’ve always existed…
We were lucky enough to review Ruby, Blue and Blanket when it was first released and have a small handful of Old Bear books second-hand but I’m embarrassed to say only a few and I didn’t realise how many different books there are; or that there had been a TV series too!
Hearing that Jane would be visiting our lovely local independent bookstore, Mostly Books, I promptly booked tickets just before two weeks of endless sun in England! I panicked about the heat the day before, but as it turned out although there was rain, which cooled the air down, there was also fortunately no rain during the two (packed) sessions Jane held.
Jane Hissey is as wonderful in real life as you could imagine. Over an hour she emptied an enormous bag full of some of the stars of her books, including Old Bear himself; read three of her stories to the children and shared so many wonderful details about how all the stories were created, illustrated and animated. I missed some of the event because Mighty-Girl had a sore tummy and we needed to find some water (supplied in an instant by Nicki, thank-you!) but still learnt loads.
Jane started by introducing some of the stars of her books one by one. One of the little girls in the audience was obviously an expert on the stories as she could name all of them. For each toy, Jane told the story behind where it came from and how they inspired her stories. I particularly liked how Hoot was handmade from the sleeve of a coat and that the other sleeve was used to make the model used in the TV series. Jolly Tall arrived in a box which inspired his tale, and many of the toys were handmade for her children.
She said that many of the stories were inspired by the toys themselves. Little Bear’s Trousers came about because she loved Little Bear’s legs and wanted to draw them, so decided to tell the story of how his trousers were lost and found so she could draw his legs! What happened with each toy who borrowed the trousers was easy – she just saw how they would use them (hump warmers, rabbit hat, bone holder!) and then saw what would happen – they would fall over rabbit’s eyes so he’d not be able to see…
One thing I found fascinating was that everything drawn in the books exists (or existed) in real life. In order for Little Bear to wear pyjamas, Jane had to make him some first! She shared a lovely anecdote about the bath picture in Little Bears Trouser’s where it took her two weeks (I think) to draw so her children couldn’t use the bath until it was finished! Each picture is created with coloured pencils and it was a thrill to see some of the original art there too, as well as a mock-up book.
We all loved the event. Mighty-Girl is always excited to meet real-life authors and illustrators, and she was certainly inspired by Jane Hissey. As soon as we arrived home, she grabbed a sketch book and pencils and announced “Right, I need some toys!” I’m looking forward to Giraffe in Dinosaur Land once she’s written it 😉 Mighty-Girl is shy when meeting people, so didn’t say much (or let me take pictures), but she went up to let Jane know that she liked to write too.
Destructo-Girl loves reading books, and happily turned the pages of her copy of Ruby, Blue and Blanket when it was being read. Jane kindly signed that for her, and a copy of Old Bear Stories I bought for Mighty-Girl. We do have second-hand copies of half the stories, but I wanted a special edition for my girls, and to compare the text as it’s been rewritten this year (another post, soon hopefully…)
You can read more about Jane Hissey at Mostly Books on their website, covering both events and with pictures from the midday event.
I’d like to thank Jane Hissey, Salariya, and Mostly Books for putting on a wonderful event. We all thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank-you 🙂