Welcome to my blog again, Emma. It’s great to have you here.
Book Review - The Bear in our Backyard
Mummy Bear gives great big hugs. One hug can mean everything. The Bear in our Backyard brings home the message that this simple action can turn a frown into a smile and show that you care.
The Bear in our Backyard is a touching celebration of the special relationship between a mother and her children and makes the perfect gift for Mother's Day. From playing games to singing favourite songs, Mummy Bear is great at everything.
With gentle rhyming verse by Emma Middleton and sweet illustrations by Briony Stewart, this beautiful picture book dances across the pages. I especially love the special card for Mum inside the book. Stewart's illustrations are colourful and engaging.
The mummy in this book has many talents that are celebrated in this read. Middleton has written another sweet and poetic picture book about the power of a loving hug that is sure to brighten your day—just like a hug.
Inspiration behind The Bear in our Backyard
In writing The Bear in our Backyard, I wanted to acknowledge the magical moments that mothers create in their children lives. We knew the uber talented Briony Stewart would be illustrating the story and as she was expecting her second child at that time, it was clear to me that we needed to honour her by mirroring this little miracle of motherhood in the book.
I have strong memories of my daughter calling me ‘Mummy Bear,’ when she was younger and asking for a, ‘mummy bear hug.’ I believe creativity and imaginative play is the domain of every child, and can turn an ordinary day into an extraordinary adventure. I remember many hours spent with my children creating fairy potions for an enchanted visitor, or making a protective fort to protect against ‘Mr Mac dressed in black.’
As a mother there are few things more special than taking the time to swing a skipping rope or make a warm honey tea for your child. The bear is a wonderful image for mothers as she is warm and cuddly, yet also strong and protective. It was a privilege to pause and reflect upon these treasured moments created by mums around the world, each and every day.
Q & A with the talented Emma Middleton
Did you always plan to have a follow-up book to The Lion in our Living Room?
With the benefit of hindsight, it does seem obvious to have a companion book to The Lion in our Living Room, which shone a light on the special role that dad’s play in their children’s lives. However, I cannot take the credit for this idea. I received a surprise call from author and editor Davina Bell from Affirm Press, who suggested the idea of a follow-up title. Originally we were going to tweak a story that I had submitted, however when they contacted Briony Stewart to see if she was available to illustrate a second book, she suggested the title of The Bear in our Backyard, to celebrate mothers. Immediately I fell in love with this concept and I wanted to find some way of honouring Briony in the story, especially considering that she was expecting her second child at that time. I mirrored this special time in the story.
Did you face any challenges in writing The Bear in our Backyard?
I felt an immediate connection to the concept, especially as my daughter often called me ‘Mummy Bear,’ when she was younger. I love the idea of the bear representing mothers, as bears are warm and cuddly, as well as strong and protective. Initially I had the bear going into hibernation, and included all sorts of timeframes that were far too complicated for a picture book, but my brilliant editors Davina Bell and Clair Hume soon got me back on track.
You mentioned there was a tight timeframe for this book?
It was a race to the finish line, especially for our illustrator Briony Stewart, who was expecting her second child at the time. Everyone was praying that the illustrations would arrive before the baby. Briony finished the illustrations just two days before her due date. The illustrations are sumptuous, with beautiful detail and dreamy colour schemes. Everyone worked tirelessly to make this book a reality.
I know children enjoy finding all the hidden lion references in The Lion in our Living Room, are there bear references in The Bear in our Backyard?
Not only are there hidden bear references, but there are also references to the lion. Children will love finding objects appearing in both books. Briony Stewart’s illustrations are full of warmth, love and humour, and of course the way she makes the bear’s shadow out of mum’s silhouette is brilliant.
The Bear in our Backyard is essentially about, families, mothers and creativity. What do you wish to express about these topics?
I hope to celebrate the everyday ‘miracles,’ that mothers create; playful interactions, warm tea and loving hugs amongst a busy day with many jobs to be done. Of course, the ultimate miracle is the arrival of a new baby, and this is lovingly depicted on the final pages as Tom and Tilly meet their
‘baby bear,’ for the fist time.
What do you like most about being a children’s author?
On a personal level it is a whole lot of fun being a children’s author, connecting with the aspect of joy that is attached to childhood. It is a huge privilege to write for children as you are planting seeds at a time of vivid imagination, as well as encouraging life-long readers. I love writing in rhyme for children, as they respond so well to rhythm and music.
I am happiest when I can bring my characters and stories to life for children in my storytelling performances. It is a wonderful feeling to see the wonder on their faces, knowing that you are creating a space that allows their vibrant imaginations to flourish.
This doesn’t mean everything has to be terribly serious; humour and play, mixed with a little drama or pathos, are magnetic themes for children. When Adam Gidwitz was comparing dancing to reading he said, ‘It’s not important, in the end, whether a child is waltzing to Tchaikovsky or Strauss. The important thing is that she is waltzing.’ I hope every child continues to waltz.
It was lovely to hear your inspiration behind the book and I look forward to hearing more about your exciting writing journey soon. Thanks Emma :-)
Written by: Emma Middleton
Illustrated by: Briony Stewart
Publication Date: 27th March 2018
Hardback: 32 pages
Publisher: Affirm Press: www.affirmpress.com.au