Bruce the bear is on the move. Ryan T. Higgins, author and illustrator of the popular Mother Bruce and Hotel Bruce picture books, has written a sequel featuring the beloved, curmudgeonly bear and his unlikely brood. In Bruce’s Big Move (Disney-Hyperion (Disney Book Group), September 2017), Bruce’s house has become crowded, so Bruce sets off to find a new home for himself and the four geese that call him Mom. But things don’t turn out as expected. Growing Minds, Baker & Taylor’s digital catalog dedicated to children’s and teen titles, talked with Higgins about his hilarious new book.
Q: What inspired the sequel?
A: The first inspiration was a drawing I made of Bruce on a little yellow
motorbike with his geese in a sidecar. I’ve wanted to put my grumpy old bear on a little yellow motorbike for a while. There’s something funny about a bear on a motorbike. The smaller (and yellower) the bike, the better. The ride is my 1967 Honda CT90. It’s a tiny motorbike that I’ve had since I was a teenager. Perfect for a bear to ride! The second inspiration was that I’m terrible at designing houses — particularly houses shaped like hills! Bruce’s original house was inside a grassy mound. Trying to draw a living room, dining room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and hallways big enough for a bear, four geese and three mice all inside a tiny hill is hard. I figured the easiest way for me to get around this little problem was to put Bruce in a house I was already familiar with. So I
decided to have him move to a house that looked just like my family’s lakeside cottage.
Q: What it is about Bruce that delights readers?
A: I think there’s something lovable about a good-hearted grump. Bruce doesn’t often break character. He is nearly always grumpy. He doesn’t have any moments where his heart melts and he becomes all warm and bubbly. His stories are more about him growing by tiny installments, never changing who he is — a grump.
Q: Why a bear?
A: Cartoon bears are fun to draw. Real bears can stand and walk on their hind legs a little. They’re usually chubby. They have great facial expressions. They’re practically cartoons already. I chose a bear to be my main character because I needed a somewhat cute and somewhat intimidating character to play the role of a big old grump. I live in Maine where we have plenty of bears — and it just seemed like the perfect fit. I like the juxtaposition of a big old bear being the caretaker of four innocent little geese and three very talkative mice. In nature, he’d just eat them… but in these books, he’s their mom.
On a side note, I went to college to be an ecologist. My plan, if the cartooning thing didn’t work out, was to be a field biologist who lived in the wilderness studying bears. I suppose I’m probably safer in my current career, drawing and writing in my little studio.
Q: What do you like about Bruce’s Big Move?
A: I know how to draw him from every angle and I’m beginning to know how he thinks. He’s like a tiny part of my personality now. As far as the story goes, I hope Bruce’s Big Move hits the right number of jokes and gets the message across about the true meaning of home.