Pupils not only helped Oxford-based author Ted Dewan illustrate his latest book, they even chose the ending,learns Andrew Ffrench. THE blossom is out in Beechcroft Road, Summertown, where 20mph is definitely plenty. No driver in his right mind would go faster after the road’s best-known resident lobbied for a 20mph limit, streets ahead of other safety campaigners. Ted Dewan, below, artist and children’s illustrator, invites me in and starts talking about snow in Boston as he offers me a cup of tea and a bagel, a breakfast reflecting his Anglo-American identity after he switched from the United States to Oxford in the early noughties. Ted is married to award-winning illustrator Helen Cooper and they live with their daughter Pandora, who is in her last year at St Philip and St James School (‘Phil and Jim’) in Navigation Way. Although Ted will never forget his US roots, his new book, One True Bear, has strong Oxford connections – with pupils from the primary school helping him to illustrate it. They even helped the author to choose the ending. “The kids played a huge part in making this book and it was a real privilege to have their help,” says the illustrator. “I went into Pandora’s class last March and showed a bunch of nine-year-olds the rough sketches. Then I got some of them to do drawings which have been used for the endpapers, and in the story itself. “There were two different endings – one with the boy Damian keeping his teddy bear, and the other in which he gives it to the girl in the flood. “The kids at Phil and Jim School said the girl should keep the bear, so that’s how the book ends.” Darcy Brewster, the bear in the title, belongs to Damian, who treats him rather roughly before realising the error of his ways. The faithful bear, like a lot of loyal teds, gets dumped under the boy’s bed when he moves on to more grown-up toys, but years later proves useful during a flood which Damian attends in his job as a firefighter. “That part of the story was inspired very much by the floods in Oxford in 2007 – it’s a tribute to firefighters and rescue workers everywhere,” says Ted. “I also went on a trip with the school to Didcot power station and that gave me a few ideas. “At an age when children are supposed to be giving up picture books these kids have helped to create one and I’m delighted.” The illustrator is more used to drawing pigs and bunnies in his picture books, so sketching Damian proved a challenge, but once again pupils from ‘Phil and Jim’ helped out. “One eight-year-old boy posed as Damian and I took some photos of him smashing up toys and cuddling a teddy bear.” The artist is well versed in the history of children’s literature, so it’s perhaps no surprise that Damian’s favourite bedtime story is Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince, not Harry Potter. But he is reluctant to pontificate about any deep messages contained in the story, preferring young readers to work it out for themselves. Ted has quite a few projects on the go and is hopeful that Bing Bunny, a children’s book character created a few years ago, will soon star in an animated film. A five-year-old from London has been cast as the voice of boisterous Bing and the film could go into production by the end of the year. While he waits for the wrap party, Ted will keep doing what he knows best – drawing stories for young children and inspiring them to have a go too.