Book Trailer Premiere: Bear Needs Help by Sarah S. Brannen

Happy New Year! My first blog post of 2019 features one of my new favorite read-alouds, Bear Needs Help. Author-illustrator Sarah S. Brannen stopped by to chat with me about the book trailer for Bear Needs Help, Bear's red shoes, story, and school libraries. I wrote the words in purple, and Sarah wrote the words in black. Thank you, Sarah! 

Bear Needs Help’s book trailer was done by my godson, Will Reber (my official title is his Fairy Godmother). He composed the music and did the animation. We agreed not to give too much of the plot away. You have to read the book to find out what happens! 

Bear is wearing red sneakers because…well, this is a long story. When I was little, girls didn’t wear sneakers. A lot of the boys at school wore the sort of Keds or Converse canvas sneakers the Bear has on, usually red or blue canvas, with white rubber toes. Oh, how I would have loved a red pair! But they were “boys’ shoes” and I never even told my mother I wanted them.

As I did sample illustrations for children’s books, I found that I kept putting these shoes on my characters. I had been working on a story about a polar bear for a while, but it wasn’t until I did a quick sketch of the bear wearing sneakers that I knew where the story was going.

Yes, I now own a pair of red sneakers and I will be wearing them to every event for the book!

Illustration Credit: Sarah S. Brannen
All of the animals in the book, except the one on the last page, are real animals that live in Alaska. They are seals, arctic hares, lemmings and willow ptarmigans. The birds are sassy because they’re the coolest. They wear big “boots” of feathers that help them walk on top of the snow. I learned about willow ptarmigans when I illustrated Feathers: Not Just For Flying by Melissa Stewart (Charlesbridge, 2014).

School libraries are about the best places in the world. School is great, teachers are great, but – and – reading is the core of learning. As a schoolchild, whenever I was in the library I was happy. And librarians rock! My first book, Uncle Bobby’s Wedding, was one of the ten most-challenged books in the U.S., and I got to know a lot of librarians that year. I was amazed at how much work they do defending intellectual freedom and the right to read. For everyone. 

Story is key, even to books that are mostly illustration. Bear Needs Help only has 30 words, but you would not believe how long it took me to refine the story. A picture book needs to be about something important, however trivial it may seem. Learning to tie their own shoes is a huge moment for young kids. 

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about the sky and the shadows. You may notice that as Bear keeps failing to get the help he needs, the color of the shadows changes from a happy blue to a sort of threatening teal color, and the sky gets very overcast. When the birds show up to help, the sun comes out and the shadows go back to a nice warm blue. I hope this will work, on a subconscious level, to help tell the story. 

Look for Bear Needs Help on January 22, 2019. 


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