What do you do if you are a newspaper competing for readers and your main competition has an extremely popular cartoon character that is stealing your readers away?
That’s what Britain’s Daily Express was facing back in the 1920s, when people still depended on newspaper to get their daily news—unlike today when newspapers are gasping for their very last breath and struggling with this internet/social media environment that has forced them to change just about everything they ever knew and understood about the news business. But I digress.
Back in 1920 the Daily Mail had a cartoon character called Teddy Tail who was very popular with Mail readers. He is kinda cute.
So the Daily Express decided that they too needed a cartoon character. This is called competition and it is how the commercial world has survived ever since the very first Homo erectus straightened up his spine, threw back his sholders and grunted "me can do that too, and prolly better."
Enter Mary Tourtel, born in 1874. Mary, who had trained at art school to become a professional book illustrator, created a "Little Lost Bear" who became Rupert Bear— a small boy with a bear's head who wore checked trousers and scarf and lived in Nutwood with his family and chums. He too is cute.
Between 1920 and 1935, Mary wrote and illustrated hundreds of Rupert stories, introducing other well-loved characters including Podgy Pig and Bill Badger. Readers smiled, kids giggled and sales boomed.
Rupert is smart and thoughtful and cheerful and always willing to lend a hand. But somehow, we all still like him. He and his chums are always getting into scraps or solving mysteries or traveling to strange places to accomplish strange tasks.
These are the three books I still have. I have read them over and over to my own kids and plan to someday read them to my someday grandchildren.
At the end of the book there are puzzles and games and all kinds of cool Rupert and chums and Nutville things to keep the little ones busy while you take a hot bath with a gin and tonic.
Watch Rupert Bear here:
See more Rupert Bear here: