For some time after I had written ‘Bear and Chook,’ people encouraged me to think about a sequel. For ages, I had been wrestling with what would happen next. Then one day a phrase drifted into my head: ‘Bear and Chook were fast asleep when a breeze came sniffing and licking.’
Funnily enough, I realised later that the answer to where Bear and Chook would go next could be found in the first book, if only I had the eyes to see it, from the moment Bear climbed the mud castle and waved from the turret, saying to Chook, ‘I can see the sea...’.
To get to the sea, of course, there must be danger along the way. They must leave the pond, their familiar home. There is a bridge, a forest, a mountain. Places they must travel under, through and over before they finally arrive.
I wanted ‘Bear and Chook by the Sea’ to reflect the style of the first book, which is why the sequel has similar sorts of poetic rhythm. I knew that children loved the repeated refrains in ‘Bear and Chook’ and I wanted to give them something similar to hold onto in ‘Bear and Chook by the Sea.’ I wanted ‘Bear and Chook by the Sea’ to be a different reading experience though. So, I wrote the text as a circular story because it captures so well two characters journeying from home to the sea and then from the sea back to home. I included a pattern of onomatopoeia to capture the rhythms of the journey. On the return journey though, this sequence changes slightly, which speaks not only to Bear’s wild panic, but also subtly to the greater theme that although Bear and Chook come back via the same path to their home, they are in some way slightly different, thanks to their experience by the sea.
‘Bear and Chook’ and ‘Bear and Chook by the Sea’ are both meditations on the nature of friendship. When I was a child, I wanted a best friend desperately, that one person who I could laugh with and share secrets with, that one person who would be with me wherever I might go, in real life and in my imaginary world. And the memory of that desire, I think is at the heart of both books.
True friendship is a beautiful thing but it’s also a little scary. Being a true friend always requires more courage than we think we have and more kindness than we think we need. The thing I hope children will see in ‘Bear and Chook by the Sea’ is the way deep friendship has this amazing capacity to make us more than we will ever be, just on our own.
Thanks to Bear’s irrepressible confidence, Chook is given a gift in ‘Bear and Chook by the Sea.’ Chook learns to face his fears because Bear’s example encourages him to be brave. This allows Chook to eventually enjoy the sea; to find the perfect seashell, to scratch, peck and poke, to relish the feel of crunchy sand, and the mysteries of a rock pool. Thanks to Chook, when Bear’s irrepressible confidence is finally dashed in the sand, Chook is able to encourage Bear with the right sort of comfort, at the right time which is a very difficult thing—primarily because the type comfort that Chook has to offer comes through the experience of being little and in danger nearly every day. This is the gift he gives back to Bear.
I hope children delight in the deepening empathy between Bear and Chook. And I hope they enjoy the delicious comfort of seeing the story end in a familiar way, with the two friends lying by the pond, watching the moon, considering the day just past.
Junior Bookseller and Publisher
“This book will enchant readers of all ages.”
“This book is a sheer delight.”
Good Reading Magazine
“A treat to read aloud.” (Highly recommended)
Winner 2010: Children’s Book Council Australia Book of the Year Award (CBCA) for Early Childhood.
For some excellent teacher’s notes on ‘Bear and Chook by the Sea’ by the magnificent Robyn Sheahan-Bright, please click here.
Bear and Chook by the Sea Teacher's Notes
Please click here to see Lisa and Emma read ‘Bear and Chook by the Sea’ together and to hear them answer some fantastic questions from some wonderful readers.
Bear and Chook by the Sea Reading