“I’m utterly ashamed of this, but when I first saw Helen’s drawings, I had no idea what the pictures were to do with the story.
“It was only when the book came out that I realised that in the greatest of children’s books, what actually happens is you start off with a situation where a parent is sitting with a child on his or her lap, they are sharing the book and the parent is saying the words, but the child is looking at the pictures.
“The words don’t say anything about the drama that Helen has created. The child will say things like ‘teddy’, ‘dog’, or ‘grass’, and they begin to anticipate it, so they are the interpreters of the story and it’s a tremendous way of giving power to the child.”
That said, the “pounding rhythm and repetition” of the words are signature Rosen, inspired by an American folk song he once heard and decided to adapt for performing at schools.
Rosen, who turned 70 earlier this year, explains: “The thing that really caught me about We’re Going On A Bear Hunt is the repetition and how if you do it with young children they learn it as they go along.
“So even in a first performance you just start with ‘We’re going on a bear hunt, we’re going to catch a big one’; however you do it, by about the third verse they know it. That’s very infectious. Anyone who performs wants things to be infectious, particularly with children.”
It was during one of these lively performances that David Lloyd, head of Walker Books, approached Rosen and asked him to write the children’s book, teaming him up with Oxenbury for the illustrations.
The talented father-of-five was again approached for his script-writing skills in this latest film adaptation, in which he voices the bear and for which he has tweaked the storyline to show a relationship between the children’s grandfather, who has recently passed away, and the animal.
We’re Going On A Bear Hunt airs on Channel 4 on Saturday (Christmas Eve) at 7.30pm.