Old Bear by Jane Hissey

Old Bear by Jane Hissey – at a glance

The School Reading Lists’ five word review: Classic, toys, adventure, friendship, charming.
Children’s book title: Old Bear.
Children’s author: Jane Hissey.
Children’s illustrator: Jane Hissey.
Genre: Classic picturebook.
Published by: Templar Books
ISBN: 9781800787599.
Recommended for children aged: 2-6.
First published: 1986. New edition, paperback November 2023.
This children’s book is ideal for: Bedtime reading.

Old Bear by Jane Hissey

To see the latest price or order, click on the book cover image.

Our review:

It wasn’t anybody’s birthday but Branwell Brown had a feeling that today was going to be a special day.

Old Bear has been packed away in the attic for a long time. The once-beloved companion had become too fragile to play with and ‘needed somewhere safe to go for a while’. Now that the children are older and hopefully more responsible, Old Bear’s fellow toys – Branwell Brown, Little Bear, Rabbit and Duck – decide that it’s time to be reunited with their friend.

Old Bear by Jane Hissey spread 1

“What a marvellous idea!” said Branwell. “But how can we rescue him? It’s a long way up to the attic and we haven’t got a ladder.”

The toys launch a series of increasingly ingenious plans to try and get Old Bear out of the attic. First, they build a tower of wooden bricks. But that collapses in a heap. Then they try climbing on each other and even bouncing on the bed – but they still can’t get high enough.

They bounced higher and higher but still they couldn’t reach the trap door in the ceiling.

Little Bear nearly makes it by climbing up a big pot plant but he’s still just a little bit too low. Then Branwell spots a small wooden plane and a daring plan is put into action…

Old Bear by Jane Hissey spread 2

Old Bear is a heartwarming tale of friendship, perseverance and doing your best. The text is beautifully illustrated, with a full-page picture on each spread as well as a smaller image amid the facing text. This makes for a highly accessible and immersive read as the toys appear to control the narrative and move the story along. The wonderfully realistic portrayals of the beloved toys really make them come alive on the page.

The touching story brings the reader into a more gentle, perhaps slower-paced world, where toys are arguably more cherished and valued than today’s easily discarded plastic contraptions. Adult readers will be touched by the depictions of the well-loved toys that will likely resemble their own cuddly childhood companions. Old Bear himself is based on author and illustrator Jane Hissey’s beloved bear and her affection for these toys really shines through. The book is a wonderful introduction to the Old Bear and Friends book series.

Old Bear by Jane Hissey spread 3

The author’s website features the stories of the real toys that inspired the books, as well as charming stop-motion animations from the early 1990s.

Old Bear is a charmingly nostalgic tale that will appeal to young readers and their parents. It would be ideal for bedtime reading or group storytime sessions.

Many thanks to Templar Books for the review copy.

To order a class set of this book, please click below to order via uk.bookshop.org, an organisation that supports local bookshops, or Amazon.co.uk.

Buy from UK.Bookshop.Org Buy from Amazon.co.uk

Disclosure: If you buy books using the buttons above: we may earn a commission from Bookshop.org, whose fees support independent bookshops; as an Amazon Associate schoolreadinglist.co.uk earns from qualifying purchases.

If you like Old Bear by Jane Hissey you might also like: our reviews of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, An Anthology of Aesop’s Animal Fables by Helen Ward, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot, A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond, illustrated by Peggy Fortnum and Ten Little Dogs by Ruth Brown.

Browse our list of books for bedtime

About Melanie Dillon

Photo of author
Melanie has a Master’s degree in Information and Library Management; a Post Graduate Certificate in Children’s Literature focusing on the Reading Agency’s Reading Well scheme & LGBT YA fiction, and extensive experience working in school and public libraries. Linkedin | Reviews by Melanie Dillon