Artist who drew boy’s lost teddy wins publishing deal for story of search

Naomi Ackerman

A professional artist who brought a boy’s lost teddy to life through sketches has turned his story into a children’s book.

Seven-year-old Jack Barnfield, who has autism, was devastated when he lost Bear in April last year.

His father Matt, 36, launched a Twitter appeal to find the teddy which was shared thousands of times.

Bear was never found but the appeal caught the eye of artist Dawn Coulter-Cruttenden. She was so moved she drew a picture of Bear as a happy teddy who had gone looking for honey.

Dawn Coulter-Cruttenden’s Bear Shaped

After showing the picture to Jack’s family, she decided to turn it into a story, highlighting how the kindness of strangers helped him come to terms with losing his teddy.

Ms Coulter-Cruttenden wrote the words in a day. Within a week, she had an agent at The Blair Partnership, which counts JK Rowling among its clients. Oxford University Press Children’s Books later bought the international rights.

She said: “I wrote it in a day. I showed it to my husband and he said ‘take it away’ because he started crying. My sister also cried when I sent it to her — so I thought it might work.”

Ms Coulter-Cruttenden, 46, returned to Jack’s house to complete more sketches for the book and said she felt “blessed” to have met him.

“It just all happened so quickly, it’s amazing. It’s a lovely book because he [Jack] loses something and learns how to carry on,” she said. “It really is his book.”

Mr Barnfield, an NHS communications worker from Twickenham, said the family were “massively excited” about the book’s release.

“Dawn came to our house and spent time with Jack drawing him as he posed for her in loads of scenes. He had lots of fun acting out different parts of the book,” he said.

“He’s aware this is happening, but I’m still not sure he understands the magnitude of what his individual story has become.”

He added: “Never in a million years would I have thought that my son losing his bear would end in a book deal with one of the biggest children’s publishers in the country.”

Ms Coulter-Cruttenden said the story references Jack’s autism to raise awareness.

Bear Shaped will be released internationally in April 2020.