The illustrator spoke to LLLC’s Emma Clarendon about collaborating with Julia Donaldson and bringing The Everywhere Bear to the Polka Theatre.
Thank you so much for talking to me. For those who aren’t familiar with The Everywhere Bear could you tell me a bit more about the story? The Everywhere Bear is a story about a classroom bear who stays at school during the week but every Friday he goes home with one of the children to spend the weekend with them and then on Mondays they bring him back into school to talk about all the things that they did together. But one day, the new boy in the class accidentally drops him out of his bag on the walk to school and the Everywhere Bear ends up going on a big journey all by himself!
What was it like collaborating with Julia Donaldson on the story? I love collaborating with Julia Donaldson because she is such an accomplished picture book writer and this story was a real treat to illustrate because of all the different landscapes and locations that the bear travels through. I really enjoyed drawing the dramatic stormy seas, the harbour crowded with crates, the aerial scene of the town and the shelves brimming with books in the library.
How did you first get into illustration? I studied illustration at uni in Falmouth and then was commissioned to illustrate a picture book at the end of my third year after entering a competition. After graduating, I got a part time job so that I would still have time to pursue illustration work alongside – I did this for almost seven years until I had enough work to become a full time illustrator.
When you first read the story – did you have any initial ideas on how the story could look or did you have to discuss ideas with Julia first? As soon as I read the story I began imagining the bear looking lost and vulnerable as he is washed out to sea among towering waves and flown through the skies over rooftops and treetops and I couldn’t wait to start drawing. As well as the bear there are a lot of characters in the book and I had fun giving them all their own identities. Julia wanted the illustrations to include lots of vehicles because it is a book about making a journey and I think this is lovely for children reading the book because they can spot the various forms of transport throughout the pages as they read it.
What did you most like about the story when you read it? I loved the exciting adventure through different landscapes and the sense of drama and peril in the story, but I also loved how it is about something very relatable – many school classes have a mascot who goes home with the children at weekends, just like The Everywhere Bear. And I think a lot of children have experienced losing a favourite toy at some point in their life and can empathise with little boy who drops the bear by mistake.
Why do you think the story will work on stage? I think Julia’s books often naturally lend themselves to the stage because of the way she writes them. A big part of her work as an author involves performing her stories and songs and I think that you can sense this when you read her books because of the rhythm and poetry of the text and the drama of the stories. I am very excited to see how this book is interpreted and represented on stage. I have seen a few photographs of the puppets and the set and it looks completely amazing!
Will you be popping along to the Polka Theatre to see it? Yes! I’m going to be book signing after both shows on Saturday 14th July so I will get to watch the performance then and I can’t wait!
By Emma Clarendon
The Everywhere Bear will play at the Polka Theatre until the 26th August. For more information visit: https://polkatheatre.com/event/everywherebear/