Celebrating International Children’s Book Day - Raymond Briggs

International Children’s Book Day is an annual celebration held on the birthday of Danish author and poet, Hans Christian Andersen (2 April 1805 – 4 August 1875). His most famous fairy tales include The Emperor's New Clothes, The Little Mermaid, The Princess and the Pea, The Snow Queen, The Ugly Duckling and Thumbelina. Many of us would have grown up familiar with these wonderful stories.

Since 1967, International Children’s Book Day has been celebrated to inspire a love of reading and to recognise the role of books in the development and education of children. So, inspired by our forthcoming exhibition at The Gallery, we’re taking a moment to look at Raymond Briggs’ beautifully illustrated book, The Bear (Julia MacRae Books, 1994).

Page from The Bear © Raymond Briggs 1994.

The Bear

Written and illustrated by Raymond Briggs

One night a great, big, white polar bear comes to stay with a little girl named Tilly. The bear has black hooked claws and huge yellow teeth; but his white furry coat is warm and soft and Tilly decides he's the cuddliest thing in the whole world. Tilly soon finds out that a big bear can cause big problems - knocking over furniture and emptying the honey jar in one enormous slurp. He even falls asleep during a 'serious talk'. But when she describes the bear's latest antics to her parents they think he's a figment of her imagination - but is he?

From the exhibition, Raymond Briggs: A Retrospective:

Much of the humour and warmth comes from Tilly’s interactions with her parents, who never catch sight of the bear. The book is printed larger than a standard size, and the soft pencil drawings give a sense of the bear’s vast furry body as he struggles to fit inside the comic strip frames.

Page from The Bear © Raymond Briggs 1994

In a combination of full-page spreads and cinematic smaller panel sequences, Bear is large, but never frightening. With a friendship as touching as the one seen between the boy and the snowman in The Snowman (1978), The Bear also shares the classic Raymond Briggs themes of kindness, caring and letting go.

Who will you share The Bear with today, on International Children’s Book Day?

Hampshire Cultural Trust is thrilled to announce that it will be the first venue to host Raymond Briggs: A Retrospective at The Gallery, Winchester Discovery Centre. This long-awaited retrospective will show never-before-seen material from Briggs’ personal archive, including over 100 original artworks from his iconic books, such as Ug: Boy Genius of the Stone Age (2001), Ethel & Ernest: A True Story (1998), Fungus the Bogeyman (1977) and The Snowman (1978).

Top of the Plant page layout, Jim and the Beanstalk © Raymond Briggs, 1970

Raymond Briggs: A Retrospective is a touring exhibition from House of Illustration, hosted at venues across the UK – starting in Winchester – before culminating in an exhibition at the new Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration in 2023. The exhibition opens at The Gallery, Winchester Discovery Centre, on 17 May and tickets will go on sale soon!

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