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Mustard video: Norfolk author hopes bear’s adventures on the Broads will inspire children

12:00 21 March 2013

Able sea bear Teddy and author Phil Johnson launch the 'Little Blue Boat' at Whitlingham Broad.  Photo: Bill Smith

Able sea bear Teddy and author Phil Johnson launch the 'Little Blue Boat' at Whitlingham Broad. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2013

The adventures of a little bear aboard a little blue boat are hoped to inspire youngsters to enjoy exploring the Broads.

Illustrator Paul Jackson reads from the 'Little Blue Boat' book at Whitlingham Broad.  Photo: Bill SmithIllustrator Paul Jackson reads from the 'Little Blue Boat' book at Whitlingham Broad. Photo: Bill Smith

The enchanting wetland is the setting for a new childrens book, and its author Phil Johnson Anglia Afloat contributor, and former Radio Norfolk, BBC Look East and Anglia News journalist who lives in Neatishead hopes it will encourage young people to enjoy the outdoors just like Arthur Ransome did with his book, Swallows and Amazons, set in the Lake District.

The Little Blue Boat and the Secret of The Broads tells the tale of Able Sea Bear Teddy, who is left on the tiny yacht when its captain is taken ill during a voyage to give the boat to his grandchildren in Norfolk.

Left alone at the helm, Teddy travels along the waterways of the northern rivers of the Broads to find the children while all the time trying to stop the boat being stolen by Pincher Pete or being seized by the authorities.

And throughout his adventures he is helped by animals and birds living in the wetland and a mysterious Marsh Man who Mr Johnson describes as a cross between Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings and Norfolk naturalist Ted Ellis.

The Little Blue Boat by Phil Johnson.  Photo: Bill SmithThe Little Blue Boat by Phil Johnson. Photo: Bill Smith

The book which is illustrated by Paul Jackson from North Walsham was officially launched yesterday at Whitlingham where people young and old gathered by the Little Blue Boat to listen to an excerpt from the book and met both Able Sea Bear Teddy and Pincher Pete.

Mr Johnson, who is married to Fiona and has three grown-up children, said The Little Blue Boat was a book he has wanted to write for many years.

The character of the Able Sea Bear is something that has been in my mind ever since my children were little. We have had boats on the Broads for years and they have always had an Able Sea Bear on board, he said.

I want to encourage children to go out and enjoy this fantastic wetland we have and to do it safely and learn about the creatures that live on, below, beside, in, and above the water.

He added: Arthur Ransome was a great writer but when he wrote, he was writing for rich children really who could afford to go on the water. These days its much more inclusive. It is very accessible to go on the water you can walk by the water, you can canoe, you can cycle, you can hire a boat. You do not have to own a boat.

I want people to get out there and have fun because its fantastic, and if this book can do for the Broads what Swallows and Amazons did for the Lakes, I would be delighted.

He said he hoped both children living in Norfolk and those visiting for a holiday would enjoy the book.

The book is written so children on holiday can read it in a week and go to many of the places and look out for bitterns, marsh harriers, pike, and all the other characters, he said.

Mr Johnson, who produced the Broads Authoritys safety film, Better Boating on the Broads, paid tribute to the Broads Authority who he said had been very supportive of his book and had helped ensure facts and also references to safety on the Broads were accurate.

Nick Sanderson, education officer at the Broads Authority, said: The idea of Phils book is brilliant to engage young people with an exciting and captivating story which builds in messages about safety and conservation and how to look after the Broads. It is just a fantastic idea. It is a really interesting and entertaining book with lots and lots of good messages encouraging people to enjoy the Broads safely without disturbing the wildlife and to have a great time exploring this special place.

Robin Godber, chairman of the Broads Society, said he was also looking forward to reading the book.

I think its a wonderful idea anything that attracts children to the Broads, and teaches them about the wildlife, is a good thing. It is very important to engage young people, get them interested in wildlife, and encourage them to enjoy the Broads.

Mr Johnson is already planning his second book, which will be set on the southern rivers of the Broads and will see Able Sea Bear Teddy and his friends try to stop Pincher Pete and a gang of international bird egg thieves from stealing the bitterns eggs.

The Little Blue Boat and the Secret of the Broads is aimed at six to 11-year-olds and costs 7.99. It is available to buy at all the Broads Authority Information Centres and Yacht Stations, Jarrold, Waterstones, Norfolk Childrens Book Centre, and will also be featured at The Broads Green Boat and Tourism Show at Salhouse Broad on Sunday, May 19.


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