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Artwork © Helen Cooper

Every day, William fed the bear that lived under the stairs. He fed it

hazelnuts...

haddock...

...and honey..

But he always kept his eyes closed tight, and slammed the door shut--

WHAM

BANG

THUMP!

The Bear Under The Stairs Background Information

What would you do if a bear came to live in your house?
When I was a very small girl one came to live with me. He lived in the under the stairs cupboard, and at first I liked him. He was my pet bear, until the day he started asking for food. I fed him on smarties, and cabbage leaves from the kitchen bin. ... And I began to wonder what else he might eat.....

Whether it was an imaginary bear isn't important. It was real enough to me. Don't you ever remember being just a bit scared of the creepy parts of the house when the grownups weren't there. The upper hall landing? The loft? Under the Bed? The dark cupboard? But however scared I was I couldn't bring myself to tell anyone. My Mum found out in the end because of the bad cabbage smell. She cleaned out the cupboard with me and the fear went away... So did the Bear.

I wrote this book to persuade children that it's better not to keep fears bottled away. Fears usually stop being so real once you tell someone,
and sooner or later they go. (Unless you've got a mean big sister who likes scaring you. )

Bear Under the Stairs is the quickest text I ever wrote. (Two and a half hours). It's also my personal favourite, although I prefer the pictures in some of my other books. However, it took ages to work out how I was going to illustrate this story of a scared little boy, without making the book too frightening.

In the end the Bear saved the day. I figured that the pictures had better tell a different story, so the pictures follow the Bears point of view. Now, this Bear is a twinkly, friendly, character. This poor Bear takes up residence in the under the stairs cupboard. He hardly shows his face during the day. Just a quiet game of hide and seek and a bit of a snuffle around, saving the serious mayhem for night time. OK so he's hungry, but doesn't William know that bears eat honey? William tells his Mum, the Bear is chased away, and off he shuffles in search of a more welcoming home.

Even the shape of an illustration can do a lot of story telling. In the picture where The Bear is under the table at tea time, Mum is only partially in the picture. This suggests that only William can hear the Bear. The smell picture takes on a long wiggly 'whiff' shape, while the climax, where William screams "NO don't go in there!" - is teeny. It's only about the size of a postage stamp, because this is where William is feeling very small and vulnerable. He 's also yelling at the top of his voice so the "No" is huge.

Look out for the pear wall paper, the green umbrella that gives away the Bears hidey hole, Superbear on the video and of course the Bear himself hiding in the pictures.

Is the Bear really there? I'll leave that for you to decide. It's certainly real to William. He sees the Bear in all the shadowy places of the House. And don't forget the empty honey pot that the Mum finds. But could William have imagined that the honey pot was full when he threw it? Why are some of William's own shadows bear shaped? Could that be because the Bear comes from William's own imagination? That's for you to decide. I 'm not sure I've decided myself.

If the Bear is real I hope he's found a more friendly home. Should he visit you, please be sure and treat him to a nice pot of honey..... And hide your train set.