We are one week away from the release of my new picture book TEDDY BEAR OF THE YEAR, illustrated by Sydney Hanson. All of my books are a nod to something I love, and I’ve always had a soft spot for the softest of toys, bear or otherwise. Here are some of my favourite teddy bear (or other stuffed animal) picture books.
Corduroy (and sequels)
When I say, ‘picture book featuring a teddy bear,’ I imagine your first thought is of this little guy, and with good reason. Corduroy is the teddy bear hero we all strive for; sweet, resourceful, and adventurous, qualities that are rewarded when loyal, devoted, and financially-savvy Lisa buys him with her own money, carefully saved and lovingly spent on a new friend.
Published in 1968, at a time where there were few children of colour starring in their own picture books, Corduroy is also remarkable for portraying a little black girl as the (human) lead. Amena and Ollie are a very conscious and deliberate nod to the OG duo, Lisa and Corduroy.
Special shout-out to the most recent sequel, Corduroy Takes a Bow, co-written by THE Viola Davis, featuring a theatre setting that speaks directly to my Broadway-loving heart.
One of my childhood faves is Kathy Stinson and Stephane Poulin’s Teddy Rabbit. I remember having a visceral response to this as a kid for three particular reasons. One, I also had a “teddy rabbit,” or in my case, a stuffed rabbit named Bunny. Though the star of Teddy Bear of the Year is a bear named Ollie, I did managed to sneak in a teddy rabbit, the long-suffering Fang.
Two, the setting is very obviously Toronto, including references to the TTC, Front Street, and Toronto Island. Though I am not Toronto born and bred, I had definitely visited as a child, and had yet to encounter a Canadian city in any of my books and was understandably thrilled to finally do so.
Third, as a child I harboured a deep fear of the subway, and the idea of dropping one’s beloved teddy onto the tracks was more real to me than a fear of spiders, snakes, and needles combined. Thankfully I have gotten over this fear and mostly look upon the TTC with exasperation and resignation, like most Torontonians.
This is an obvious inspiration, as Teddy Bear of the Year prominently features a teddy bear’s picnic with a corporate office party spin. There are many illustrated versions of the classic children’s song, originally penned as a wordless melody in 1907 by John Walter Bratton and eventually given lyrics in 1932 by Irish singer Jimmy Kennedy, but my favourite features Alexandra Day’s soft little teddies.
Knuffle Bunny (and sequels)
Born a classic, this Mo Willems series strikes fear, recognition and laughter in the hearts of both parents and children as the nightmare scenario of a beloved toy discovered missing. Bonus points for one of the best stuffie names in children’s literature. Also, stuffed rabbit!
I include this only for historical significance, as I found it much too disturbing to enjoy as a child and in fact sobbed my eyes out during a stage adaptation of the book my class attended in elementary school and needed to be consoled all the way home on the bus. And people think Toy Story is traumatic! Again, rabbit. Maybe rabbits are the second most popular stuffed animals, next to bears?
I am a devotee of the What Do Toys/Pets Get Up To When The Humans Aren’t Looking genre (please see The Borrowers, The Rescuers, 101 Dalmations, Toy Story), and this one by the always wonderful Emily Jenkins (who also writes YA as E. Lockhart) is suitably whimsical and charming. The chapter books make for very cozy family reading.
What are your favourite teddy bear (or other stuffie!) picture books?