Just to make you feel old, 2014 is the 25th anniversary of Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury’s classic children’s book, We’re Going On A Bear Hunt. “Swishy Swashy! Squelch Squelch! Hooo wooo!” and all the rest. The book has sold more than 8 million copies in 18 languages, but initially Rosen didn’t think that it would work: “The story seems to have originally been a folk song,” he says. “David Lloyd at Walker Books saw me perform it and asked me to write it down. So I added to the story and, 18 months later, I was stunned to see the beautiful pictures that Helen had created – the family adventure is from Helen’s imagination and I enjoy and admire the book almost as an outsider – but back then I couldn’t quite figure out how it would work as a book!” To celebrate, Walker will publish an anniversary edition in January and an interactive sound book in the summer, and in February the Royal Festival Hall in London will host a “promenade performance”, where children will be invited to dress up and take home a pair of bear ears. Oxenbury recalls illustrating the book: “Michael and I never met until after the book was finished, but what was wonderful about it was there was nothing described in a way that restricted me. I modelled the children and the dog on my own. The bear’s posture I modelled on a friend who had depression, with his dropped shoulders – I felt the bear was probably lonely and wanted company rather than eat the children!” So now we know. We’re not scared!
Winnie the Pooh, meanwhile, first appeared in print in the London Evening News on 24 December 1925. Now, a competition has been launched to find five regional Winnie the Pooh Laureates. Writers should set 500-word stories in their local area, and submit them by 28 January. Visit facebook.com/WinniethePoohUKandIreland for details.
Congratulations to The Independent on Sunday’s reviewer David Barnett, who has sold two more of his brilliant steampunk novels to Snowbooks after the success of his first, Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl, published in September. The second book, Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon, will be published in September 2014 with the third to come a year later. “It’s been especially gratifying to get good reviews from people who thought ‘it wasn’t going to be their thing’”, says Barnett. Good luck to him.