Bear and Bird: The Picnic and Other Stories is author and illustrator Jarvis's first chapter book. His picture books include Alan's Big, Scary Teeth; Tropical Terry; Follow Me, Flo! and The Boy with Flowers in His Hair. An animator who has worked as a record jacket designer and an animation director, he lives in Manchester with his wife and their dog and cat. Follow him on Twitter as @heyimjarvis and on Pintrest as @booksbyjarvis.
Bear and Bird: The Picnic and Other Stories (Walker Books)
The Bear and Bird stories by Jarvis take a warm and funny look at friendships, and where they might sometimes go wrong, in a new series for young readers aged 5+. Bear and Bird are good friends, but they don't always see eye-to-eye, as these stories show, but they also know just what their friendship needs.
We asked author and illustrator Jarvis to tell us about Bear and Bird: The Picnic and Other Stories and what else he has planned for the series, which is bound to be a big hit with children. Here, he shares a few pages from Bear and Bird with us, including Bear and Bird's special song which children can join in with!
Q&A with Jarvis
1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself, and how you became an illustrator? What would be your dream illustration job?
I loved making art when i was a kid. I did various creative jobs before finding children's books as an outlet for creativity. It really is my dream job to create new stories and tell them in my own words and pictures.
2. Looking back, do any of your books stand out for you for any particular reasons?
I'm always most passionate about the latest books. I would say The Boy with Flowers in His Hair stands out a little for having the best book cover. At least, in my opinion. It's also a quieter book than some of my others.
3. What is your new chapter book, Bear and Bird: The Picnic and Other Stories, about? What inspired it, and what makes it different from what you've done before?
It's a day hanging around with two best friends, Bear and Bird. Its about the ups and downs, ins and outs of friendship. It was inspired by a little animation I made of a Bear meeting a Bird, everything came from that. It's a little bit different from everything I have done. There are a few more words, and a few more pages than my usual books, so you get to know the characters slowly through the chapters.
Illustrations from Bear and Bird: The Picnic and Other Stories
4. The stories focus on Bear and Bird's friendship across one day. Why did you want to have this dynamic - how to be a good friend - at the heart of these stories?
I think i started to look at my life with my wife Jenna. A lot of the stories originate with something real from our lives and in a way the stories are the most autobiographical that I've made. Except with more fur and feathers!
5. The stories are also very funny - have any real child moments helped to inspire these stories?
I do gravitate to making funny stories. They're written to almost be read aloud, I enjoy reading stories aloud and making kids laugh. Real moments inspired the stories, yes - but not so much from children. Bear's love affair with his blanket is just me and my electric blanket!
6. What is your favourite moment in Bear and Bird's day?
My favourite moment is probably when Bear is trying to help the flower by throwing a bucket of water over it. It's a slapstick moment where Bear is trying his best, but he gets it wrong again. It's that or the snuggled up final page.
7. Do you have your characters in your head before you start to write them?
Oh yes, these characters live with me now. I'll often think 'hmm, I wonder Bear and Bird would do?'. I've definitely gotten to know them well over the last couple of years. They're really both based on me, but different sides. Bear is my laid back, slightly dozy, optimistic side and Bird is my more emotional, wired, stressed out, list-making side.
8. How did you create the illustrations - and how did you decide what style of illustration to use?
I made the illustrations on my iPad. There were a few months' of development for the artwork. At one point the characters were more 'realistic' and close to real life bears and Birds. It all kept coming back to the more simple character designs, though.
9. Will we be hearing more from Bear and Bird? (hope so!)
Yes! Loads! There are many books planned over the next two years. I have just finished writing the 4th.
10. Where do you prefer to work, and what are you working on currently?
I work in my office at the end of my garden. It's full of all my favourite things - books, musical instruments, and of course…my electric blanket.
More About Jarvis...
i. What's your favourite way to spend a day off?
I quite like getting in the garden and trying to be a gardener. We have no idea what we're doing, but on those sunny days its so nice to be in the garden with Jenna messing about with the plants.
ii. What (other) talent would you love to have?
To be very good at playing the piano.
iii. If you could step into someone else's life for a day, whose would it be?
Well, I wouldn't want it to be a busy day. I wouldn't mind swapping with my dog, Milo. He has it pretty good.