Local people: Hannah Gold
22nd March 2021
Stamford author Hannah Gold’s enchanting novel ‘The Last Bear’, featuring beautiful illustrations by Kate Greenaway Medal winner Levi Pinfold, was published in February this year and has created quite a buzz. Clare Rudd-Jones asked Hannah to tell us more…
The book was selected as a Children’s Book of the Week in The Times and acclaimed in The Bookseller, and it has sparked wonderful reactions in the literary world. Perfect for 8- to 12-year-old adventurers, animal lovers and anyone who loves big-hearted stories, it invites readers to take a magical trip to the Arctic with April and Bear.
What inspired you to write The Last Bear?
I had always longed to write a children’s book and ‘The Last Bear’ was born out of a desire to write about everything I loved most in the world, which just had to include animals, but especially the instinctive, almost magical bond that children share with them. At heart, it’s an adventure story of friendship, love even – but scratch beneath the surface and you’ll find a powerful environmental message woven into the narrative. This reflects my own attempts to live as greenly as possible and, fundamentally, the book is my own personal quest to make a difference.
It’s your debut middle-grade novel. Was it a long time in the making?
In terms of the publishing journey as a whole – it’s been remarkably swift! I started in February 2019, signed with my agent nine months later, and within the month had landed a publishing deal with HarperCollins Children’s Books. So, from first page to publication – exactly two years.
It has received an incredible response. How does that feel?
Unbelievable! I think, deep down if I’m honest, I always knew the book had something different about it, but to have got so much national press coverage (which is notoriously difficult for children’s books) and to have so many readers tell me how much they love April and Bear – it’s just very special to me. But, the biggest joy is when children and grown-ups tell me how they have been inspired to make a difference in their own lives to try to save the polar bears.
What do you think makes a good children’s author?
I actually think it differs from author to author because there is such a wonderful variety of children’s books out there, but imagination is key, as is authenticity, inclusivity and never talking down to a child or being afraid to tackle serious subjects.
Do you personally have a favourite children’s author – or a standout children’s book?
Michael Morpurgo is my total author hero and the person I want to be when I grow up! We share very similar themes in our books, so having his name on the front of ‘The Last Bear’ is a dream come true and I am so deeply grateful to him for his support.
Can we look forward to your next book?
I hope so! I can’t reveal too much about it yet, but it’s scheduled for release in February 2022 and may feature another very large animal who needs our help.
You are based in Lincolnshire. Do you have favourite haunts in the region?
I was born in Hertfordshire originally and only moved here in 2012, so it’s been a delight getting to know this area. My husband and I love visiting the hides at Rutland, or going for walks around the grounds of Burghley. We also love Lincoln. I just think it’s one of the prettiest cities in the UK.
The Last Bear, by Hannah Gold with illustrations by Levi Pinfold (£12.99), is published by HarperCollins Children’s Books. Order at local bookstores including Walkers of Stamford and Oakham, as well as Quinns Bookshop, Kibworth Books and The Oundle Bookshop. See also: hannahgold.world