Archie and the Bear

The Story Behind Archie And The Bear

A big package arrived at my door yesterday. It was full of books. Archie and the Bear books. It’s a weird and wonderful feeling, receiving a box of books you helped create.

Archie and the Bear are making their way into the world this Monday.

So, where did they come from?

A couple of years ago, I was camping with my family at Mt Warning. A few kids were playing handball in the common area. One of them was wearing a wolf suit (well, I think it was a wolf suit. My daughter thinks it was a bear suit!).

‘I wonder if that is a boy wearing a wolf suit, or a wolf wearing a boy suit?’ asked my husband, Gregor, King of the Dad Joke.

We laughed and chatted about this idea.

A few days later, I was at home, working, or meant to be working, when that Dad Joke distracted me. A little story formed, and I started writing. There was Archie. There was a the Bear. And there was the story.

Like most of my stories, I don’t over think them. Sometimes I think I should, but generally, they seem to work better when they catch a perfect wave and ride into the shore.

But you don’t just catch a wave. The circumstances have to be right. The sun has to be shining. And you need the right idea. It helps when you’ve been writing continuously, so there’s little to interrupt that wonderful flow when it happens.

Archie and the Bear is about friendship. It’s what happens when two characters meet, and accept each other for who they are. It’s about sharing, and helping each other learn. It’s about self identity, and forging identity. It’s about imagination, and taking imaginative play seriously.

Both my girls (4 & 7) are still heavily immersed in their imaginative worlds. I was too at that age. I remember imaginative games more than I remember the rest of my life at that age, so strong those images and thoughts were. The line between reality and fiction was deliberately blurred. To an adult it would seem like I was stepping in and out of an imaginary world, but actually the worlds were intertwined, and both were my life.

The same is true for my kids.

When a child engages in their imaginative world, it’s the real deal for them. Archie, in the book, takes his imaginative world very seriously too.

A young reader asked me yesterday, ‘So, is the bear real? Because Archie’s jumper is too tiny to fit him.’ I love the seriousness of this question. The need for answers. But it’s unlikely young readers will ask, ‘So, why does the bear talk? Bears are meant to talk.’ Of course bears talk!

I hope Archie finds his way into your heart, or the heart of someone you know. I think his journey into the forest will resonate with many. Like Archie, I used to run away from home out of frustration at being misunderstood. It wasn’t until later that I realised how much I could identify with Archie.

And I hope you love David Mackintosh’s illustrations as much as I do! David has brought a whole new vision to this story. The scale of the bear, the layers of the forest, and the striking colour palette bring so much humour and warmth. Look out for tiny honey sandwiches, and birds on most pages.

So, from Dad Joke to book… Archie and the Bear can be found in most places books are sold from Monday! I will be celebrating the book release at Newrybar Merchants 2pm Sunday 7th May and at The Little Bookroom 2pm Sunday 21st May. Maybe I’ll see you at one of these events?

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