Century-old Teddy Bear inspires kids’ book

Robert and Loretta Gould with the sketches that inspired a children’s book. Mrs. Gould named the central character Barnaby Benjamin Bear.

Robert and Loretta Gould with the sketches that inspired a children’s book. Mrs. Gould named the central character Barnaby Benjamin Bear.

John Gould (1906-96) was a prominent illustrator for The Saturday Evening Post and several national corporations. But he also sketched for fun. And one of his lighter creations has inspired a children’s book by a daughter-in-law he never met.

Mr. Gould was always sketching. When out for dinner, he might decorate a Styrofoam take-out box with portraits of the patrons  around him. Or, if he was in a playful mood, he might draw a spider on a paper table cloth and call for the waitress.

Among the creations he left behind was a sketchpad filled with illustrations of his childhood Teddy Bear — a relic that is still in the family today (although years ago a basset hound chewed off one of its legs).

The pictures show the bear leading an exciting life — meeting Goldilocks, competing in the winter Olympics, and flying on a magic carpet that was rented from Hertz. On another page, the bear is posing next to Teddy Roosevelt for whom it was named.

A year ago, Robert Gould (a son of the artist) showed the sketchpad to his bride — a retired elementary school teacher and principal (as well as a mom and grandmother). She was immediately impressed. “I saw a children’s book in the making,” Loretta Gould recalled.

The first step was to give the hero of the story a name. She settled on Barnaby Benjamin Bear. Then she put the pictures in sequence, starting with Barnaby sitting in his high chair.

Next came the story. The author imagined herself surrounded by young children in a classroom. And she wrote the narrative as if she was explaining each picture to them.

Mr. Gould had put his bear into a series of international situations. He had planned to convert the sketches into large ceramic tiles. But he probably would have been pleased to see his childhood companion in the pages of a book — entertaining children who were born more than a century after he was.

Robert and Loretta Gould met at a fund-raising event to restore the Harriman Fountain in Goshen. They are now living in Chattanooga, Tenn., where they are talking to local publishers. One consideration is putting a picture of Mr. Gould’s original bear on the front cover.

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Editorial Staff