I am delighted to welcome Karl Newson to the blog today with a special guest post about his glorious picture book collaboration with Anuska Allepuz, ‘A Bear is a Bear (except when he’s not). This delightful story totally enchanted me, it’s just perfect as we’re struggling to emerge into Spring and are all totally confused with the wild weather changes. Poor bear, when he wakes up in the middle of Winter it causes him much consternation, so much so he can’t actually remember who he is! Is he a bird, or a squirrel or even a moose? But no, none of these are quite right and bear feels increasingly lost and unsure. Karl’s gently lilting rhymes capture the confusion perfectly with it’s timely repetition, whilst Anuska use of a muted colour palette illustrates wonderfully the emergence of spring out of winter. Playful humour is superbly matched with sublime illustrations, this book is a total joy that I can see becoming a bedtime favourite with many children.
Behind the story, A Bear is Bear – Karl Newson
I can remember the exact moment the idea for A Bear is a Bear (except when he’s not) happened; I was sat at my desk, in the middle of writing something else, (and midway through dunking a biscuit into my cup of tea,) when suddenly there it was: “A Bear is a Bear” I said, aloud, to myself.
But the reason I remember the origins of this story so well, is because that short burst of random outloud-ish-ness was followed immediately by a whispering add-on that said “except when it’s not”. I scribbled it out quickly – two sides of an a4 sheet of paper, on everything I could think of. All of the ideas came on the spot from nowhere; it pretty much wrote itself! A few days later it was typed up and ready to be shared with publisher, where, thanks to my super agent, Jodie Hodges, Bear found a home with Nosy Crow.
I had absolutely no idea about the illustrations at the time of writing the story. Sometimes I can see how I might approach it, but usually I don’t think about that side of things at all unless something needs to be noted for the text to make sense. So, for me, Bear didn’t actually exist until the day I saw Anuska Allepuz’s drawings of him. I was blown away! There he was, looking glorious. Perfect.
In the month’s that followed, I worked with my editor Louise to tidy up the text and tweak the title. You might have noticed earlier I said and (in my scribbles I wrote) ‘except when it’s not’? That was the original title, but ‘it’s’ was changed to ‘he’s’ to give Bear a character to relate to. Initially I wasn’t sure about this (as I think there are too any ‘he’ books out there and I quite like that an animal can be just an animal), but it felt suitable here, and complimentary to my previous story’s lead role being female (and editors know their stuff!).
You might also see in my scribbles a line about a snake that was later edited out – it’s actually one of my most favourite lines I’ve ever written:
‘Why… a snake of course, in a woody pile, wondering why there’s a tongue in his smile’.
I thought it would be funny to see bear trying to smile with his tongue hanging out – try it! I include this little action during schools events and it always gets the children laughing. Poor snake had to go though, unfortunately.
Bear was brought to life by Anuska and the fabulous team at Nosy Crow (which, for me, is the most exciting part of the book making process; seeing the layouts, the colour palette, the cover image, the final artwork) and I’d like to take this opportunity to say a BIG Thank You to all of them! It’s such a surreal thing, this story writing world. I’m so pleased to be a part of it!
After what is really quite a short period of time in publishing (but does seem loooong, at the time!) A Bear is a Bear was published on 1st March, 2018, World Book Day!
And here he is!
A Bear is a Bear (except when he’s not).
What would he be, if a bear forgot?
I hope you’ll enjoy his sleep tale!
Thank you so much, Jo, for featuring Bear on your Bear-rilliant book blog!! We are honoured!
A huge thank you to Karl for this bear-tastic blog post, ‘A Bear is A Bear (except when he’s not),’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.