October 15, 2019

The story behind the story of Roly Poly

Illustrated by Jane Dyer

My daughter and my grandson are both only children. Neither of them has any idea of the joys and troubles associated with having brothers and sisters. I had two younger siblings myself, both sisters, so I have first-hand experience of the love between us and the anxieties we suffered.

One night when I was putting my three-year old grandson to bed, I thought about his ‘only-ness’ and started to tell him a story, made-up on the spot, about a polar bear named Roly Poly who was horrified when his little brother popped into the world and caused him immediate and continuing grief. I called the little brother Mr Annoying. I hoped my grandson would understand the difficulties of having a sibling, but also the love that siblings have for each other in most circumstances.

The story developed slowly over a year or two until it was ready to be written down in a first draft. From beginning to end it took six years to perfect, with innumerable drafts in an ever-fattening file. I had called the story My Annoying but that sounded as if it were one of the Mr Men series, so in the end as you see, it became Roly Poly.

Jane Dyer, the magical illustrator, and I last worked together 26 years ago on a best-selling book, still in print, called Time for Bed. (I’m writing this in 2019.) There’s many a reader who will be amazed to find that she and I are still alive, let alone able to create new books together. Actually, it’s only one new book, but given our history there could be another when I’m 99…