Tag Archives: Ruby Blue and Blanket

Jane Hissey at Mostly Books

Original Jane Hissey Art

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 Hissey, Old Bear and Friends at Mostly Books, Abingdon

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.

Destructo-Girl at Mostly Books

I’d like to thank Jane Hissey, Salariya, and Mostly Books for putting on a wonderful event. We all thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank-you 🙂

Ruby, Blue and Blanket by Jane Hissey

Ruby, Blue and Blanket: Jane Hissey (Scribblers, 2013)

Ruby, Blue and Blanket: Jane Hissey (Scribblers, 2013)

This is Jane Hissey’s first book in ten years and although in some ways a complete departure from her earlier, much loved, Old Bear stories, it is still very much a ‘Jane Hissey’ book thanks to the beautiful pencil drawings which are so real they seem three dimensional and just ready to pounce off the page into your arms.

Extract from Ruby, Blue and Blanket:
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwyZQYcPbSA]

Oh, this is such a beautiful book, and one that can be enjoyed from very young (to as old as you like!) The text is written in a bouncing rhyme sharing Ruby (the mouse), Blue (the rabbit) and Blanket (the horse)’s game of dressing up. But Ruby cannot decide what to be and tries out being a fairy, a pirate, a mermaid, a spaceman…

I can’t express how much delight this fills me with. Ruby is a girl mouse but she does not choose to be a fairy, a princess and a mermaid only. She chooses all the options. And Blue Rabbit, a boy, chooses a princess costume! Because given a box of dressing up clothes, young children transcend gender stereotypes and choose whatever they want. As it should be!

Jane Hissey in studio (c) Salariya

I especially love how one of Blue’s stipulations in dressing up is to wear “nothing at all on my feet”. Maybe it’s just for the rhyme, but I think actually Jane knows exactly what she wants in this story and knows her audience very well. Shoes can be so horribly constricting for young children.

We follow Ruby through the book as her imagination flits from one place to another. A helmet is all that’s needed to be a spaceman; a sheet makes you a ghost. In the interview (video below) Jane talks about how she sees children in Disney Princess or Marvel Superhero costumes at the expense of imagination (company names added by me, because let’s not forget the branding!)

The interview is a must-watch in my opinion. Only fifteen minutes of your time required to hear an evident expert on children speak so much sense, and the insight into creating her books is wonderful too.

The conclusion to Ruby, Blue and Blanket is perfect and something I see in my children every time they empty the dressing up clothes over the floor (several times a day!) Why be one thing, when you can be many? Life doesn’t fit into neat little compartments, much as we try to fit our children into them. They know better!

Jane Hissey, Ruby, Blue & Blanket (c) Salariya

I had only one gripe with the book, and it’s just a ‘packaging’ point. On the back of the book, there is an illustration of Blue dressed as a mermaid witch. For me, this feels a little like giving away the end of the story before you open the book but as gripes go, it’s not an issue! The text and illustrations are perfect, and we’ve read this over and over since receiving it.

The official publication date is 27th February, but you may already be able to find this in stock at your local independent bookstore. I wholeheartedly recommend Ruby, Blue and Blanket; and so do DG and MG.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Ruby, Blue and Blanket by Salariya for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Interview with Jane Hissey:
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mp7_J2izvCU]