Toppsta - Childrens Books – Reviews

Guest blog from Julian Gough

26th February 2020

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The Rabbit & Bear series is one of our absolute favourites for children starting to read chapter books. They have fabulous illustrations by Jim Field, just the right amount of text and, very importantly, plenty of poo jokes!

We're thrilled to have a guest blog from author Julian Gough to tell us more about the series, as well as some spreads and an extract from the new book Bite in the Night.

Toppsta
2020-02-26
Guest blog from Julian Gough

"Rabbit & Bear live together in a Valley that looks suspiciously like Yosemite National Park. (That’s because the great Jim Field, who illustrates Rabbit & Bear, once spent a long, beautiful holiday there, sleeping under the stars, and fell in love with the place…)

Toppsta
2020-02-26
Guest blog from Julian Gough

Rabbit is neurotic, and easily overwhelmed by his own emotions. He’s quite like a small child, really, but he is also like me on a bad day. Bear is calmer, she can see things in perspective. Take a step back, take a longer view. A bit like an ideal parent, or me on a really good day.


Toppsta
2020-02-26
Guest blog from Julian Gough

I get a lot of messages from parents, saying that their daughter has demanded they read The Pest in the Nest every night for the past month, or that Rabbit’s Bad Habits was the first book their son read all by himself, for pleasure. So they work perfectly as bedtime stories to share together; but also for kids just starting to read on their own. The books are a hundred pages long, so the child gets the thrill of reading a “proper book”, but Jim’s illustrations on every page can subtly help them navigate my words.


Toppsta
2020-02-26
Guest blog from Julian Gough

I’ve written four Rabbit & Bear books now, with Jim brilliantly illustrating them, and… they get harder and harder! The last one nearly killed me! I think it’s because I try to set myself a more difficult challenge each time.

They’re only three thousand words long, but every word has to be right. Some poor parent might have to read this fifty times! Or it’s a kid’s first solo read. That’s a huge responsibility, so I write a ludicrous number of drafts, to get it right. With every book, I try to create a fresh, funny story that will also show the child a way of dealing with something important in their life. Basically, I try to give them the tools that I wish I had had as a kid. 

I think kids can handle serious subjects, if it’s done right. I think they are HUNGRY for books about serious things. Life is incredibly serious when you are a kid! And incredibly funny… I hope Rabbit & Bear get that balance right. I get my daughter Sophie to read the early drafts of each book, and I sit quietly to one side, and watch her face, and listen. If there’s no smile or laugh for a whole page, I go back and find a way to make that page funnier.


Toppsta
2020-02-26
Guest blog from Julian Gough

Sophie is such a huge part of the series’ success.  The first book, Rabbit’s Bad Habits, emerged from a conversation with her, when she was about six. I was reading her a bedtime story, and it was a bit of a stinker. Boring! Nothing happened. No conflict. And so together we wrote a very different story.  Rabbit & Bear don’t start off as friends, they have to work out how to be friends. And the Valley they live in isn’t perfect from the start – the different animals have to find ways to draw the best out of each other, and to channel their more difficult instincts somewhere safer. After all, if you give in to your worst instincts, and eat all your friends, you’re going to regret it. Sophie suggested adding a wolf to the first book, “because then he could chase the rabbit, and that would be exciting!” She had a far better grasp of story age 6 than some professional writers do.

Childhood isn’t taken nearly seriously enough in this culture. If things go wrong there, it’s incredibly hard to fix it later. And the lessons you learn as a kid will guide your behaviour for the rest of your life, so children’s books are incredibly important. Far more important than adult books, because they’re forming the minds of the next generation. They’re creating our future. Writing children’s books is deeply serious work, and I try to give it everything. And then hide the seriousness behind the best poo jokes ever!

I’m really glad there are sites like Toppsta, that help children and parents find the best books together. Where they can talk to each other, recommend things to each other.

I’ve written a lot of other things – novels, BBC radio plays, the ending to the computer game Minecraft – but the Rabbit & Bear books are probably the most personal and satisfying things I’ve ever written."

Toppsta
2020-02-26
Guest blog from Julian Gough

Thanks to Julian for an insight into writing these brilliant books and for a sneak peek at some of the spreads of Book 4.

Click here to read the full sample of book 4 Rabbit & Bear: A Bite in the Night, out now.

Toppsta
2020-02-26
Guest blog from Julian Gough
Book pages Placeholder Book

Rabbit and Bear: A Bite in the Night: Book 4

Gorgeously illustrated and with a classic feel, this is a brilliantly funny story of a rabbit and a bear who discover that things are always better when they're shared with a friend. Ideal for readers moving on from picture books.

'A perfect animal double-act.' ( The Times , Book of the Week)

Rabbit is surprised: some of the trees in the valley seem to be flying south for the winter.

His friend Bear is sure that trees can't fly.

Then there's a loud CRUNCH! from Very Near By. It sounds like the world's largest rabbit, eating the world's largest carrot.

There's a new creature in Rabbit and Bear's valley, and he's trying to Change Everything.

From novelist and playwright Julian Gough, and the winner of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, Jim Field, this is a tale of friendship, Progess, and all kinds of getting muddy.

'Rabbit's Bad Habits is a breath of fresh air in children's fiction, a laugh-out-loud story of rabbit and wolf and bear, of avalanches and snowmen. The sort of story that makes you want to send your children to bed early, so you can read it to them.' Neil Gaiman

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