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Cheers, bears: Author John Cushen, aka 'Tall Person John', with his new children's book and two of his large cast of bears, Jacob Bear, left, and Momma Bear

By PHILIP CHANDLER

A Queenstowner’s based a kids’ book around daily displays of teddy bears during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Placing teddy bears in windows became a New Zealand lockdown tradition aimed at cheering up children.

John Cushen, 70, says his windows couldn’t be seen from the street so he put his wife’s extensive collection by their front fence in Quail Rise.

“Someone said, ‘is there a story to go with it?’ so I started writing like a 10-line thing.”

He posted them on a board by the display and also on his and his suburb’s Facebook pages, attracting fans from as far away as England.

“A lot of people saw us and said, ‘the kids love it, it’s the highlight of their day’, so I had to do it every day.

“I got a big thrill out of seeing people getting a thrill.

“By the end, after 42 days, it was almost like War and Peace.”

From early on, he also fielded requests to put the stories into a book, so he started saving them in a Word document.

Once set on that path, he spent a week editing down the yarns to 18 chapters, which he and Amanda have published in a beautifully-illustrated book, Lockdown with the Bears, printed by Queenstown’s Print Central.

Cushen hangs some of the tales around events like Anzac Day and Easter, which was marked by ‘Easter Bunny’ Peter Rabbit making a special appearance.

He’s also spiced up the book with some grown-up innuendoes to amuse adults when reading the book to their kids.

A one-eyed Australian koala, for example, pops over with gifts of sandpaper and underarm deodorant – Cushen’s a former first-class cricketer who captained NZ’s over-60s side two years ago.

Retailing for $15, the book’s available from a website, www.lockdownwiththebears.co.nz, or by emailing ajcushen7@gmail.com.

Once his and Amanda’s publishing costs are covered, proceeds will go to the Cure Kids charity which funds research into life-threatening children’s illnesses.

scoop@scene.co.nz