When I was about 10 years old I wrote a fun children’s story called “The World’s First Unibear”. I combined my love of unicorns, Rainbow Bright, Care Bears and my active imagination, into developing my own character in a hand-drawn rhyming story. While I will never be an illustrator and my crayon work will never be seen in an art gallery, my father believed in THAT story so much that he kept it in a safe place and brought it up in conversation quite often.

Throughout my youth my father would mention “Unibear” and it always made me smile.

This was one of many stories I wrote over the years, but it is the one that stuck with him the strongest.

When I received my first computer (running Windows 95 to give you an idea of the date) I typed up “Unibear” and added clipart to it. I formatted it in two columns on letter size paper, printed it out, folded it in half and tied a piece of ribbon around the fold to keep it together. It was my first “printed and bound” book.

I gave that book to my father.

After my first official book was truly published in the year 2000, he mentioned I should do something with “Unibear” again. But time never allowed.

In 2012 I started working on the “Hamilton Troll” series, because I had found an amazing illustrator. When the success of that series took off, he mentioned “Unibear” again, but my illustrator was way too busy to take on another project, so I waited. 

In 2014 my father pulled out his “Unibear” 1995, to help light a fire under me – and it did. Reading the story for the first time in almost 20 years, I realized it needed some ‘minor’ editing. 

(Okay, minor was a massive understatement.)

“Unibear” is about doing good deeds and the magic behind those wonderful acts of kindness.

As I read through the story of “Unibear”, I cringed at some of the end lines I came up with at ten years old. I cringed – but in reality they were pretty darn awesome for a ten year old! If I do say so myself.

One of the things that blew me away back then, and still today, is the fact that I didn’t feel the need to touch the ending at all. I’ve updated quite a bit of the story, yes, but the last three stanzas are exactly what I wrote in 1987. Think about that when you read the book!

I started working on formatting the newly revised story in 2015 because I wanted to surprise my dad, but my illustrator for “Hamilton Troll” was still way too busy for a new project. So, I sought other alternatives; friends, neighbors, art students but none of their drawings really “spoke” to me. Honestly, I didn’t know where else to look for illustrators, at the time, so it went the way of the Dodo bird and was put aside, again, and forgotten.

The last three stanzas are exactly what I wrote in 1987!

Nearly three years ago I lost my father.

With over 30 books published over the course of my life so far, it will always weigh heavily on me that the one book my father believed in the most, the book that he had the greatest love for, was never published in his lifetime. I will regret not working harder to finish it… for him… for the rest of my life.

Last year during Covid, my publishing company started working more prominently with children’s book authors. People had time on their hands, children to educate, and stories to tell. All of those stories needed illustrations, and so I scoured the world for illustrators. I’ve found some of the best (in my opinion). Digital illustrators, hand sketchers, watercolor painters, action designers, endearing character creators, and I am constantly adding to my repertoire.

Well last month I was helping to develop a story and prepare it for illustration, for a fellow author. I had a strong picture in my head of what I wanted it to look like. Unfortunately, none of the illustrators I had worked with up to that point were able to give me the “look” I was seeking.

Until now. 

After widening my net for talented illustrators I found Mr. Aashay Utkarsh. Upon seeing his talented work, my eyes nearly popped out of my head. I LOVED IT! In fact, I loved it so much, that Dodo bird of a book that I had forgotten about for the umpteenth time in my life ran to the forefront of my mind and started bouncing up and down, frantically waving to gain my attention.

THIS illustrator was going to illustrate “Unibear” for me!

Meet Tiny Bear. He’s cute, right?
Tiny Bear finds a Turtle… Is that a Perfect picture for me, or what?
The First UniBear page 1

So while he was working on creating the illustrations for one of my authors’ books, I started working on revising the “Unibear,” story again.

It’s amazing how much you ‘grow’ as the years progress…

When I rewrote the story in 2014 I was super happy with it. When I opened it up in 2021, I shuddered. It almost terrifies me to think about how much better some of my older works could be, but alas, I digress. Maybe in retirement… when free time is abundant.  (Yes I hear my retired fans laughing at my naiveté – those who are busier in retirement than ever before…)

We’ll see.

So I have the book rewritten. I am weeks away from finalizing the vibrantly colored illustrations. I’ve decided to do a large 8×10″ hardback full color picture book AND a coloring book so I can get the story out to all walks of life (no matter their financial status).

Show season is starting up again soon and I just have a really good feeling about this. I am excited about bringing “Unibear” to the world. I am looking forward to sharing my vision of a better place with my fans. I am eager to tell everyone I meet, about my father – who always believed in this story, even when I didn’t.  . . . . . . . . . .

And I pray my father will be looking down upon me and smiling –
knowing he was right about “Unibear” all along.

Page 16 and 17 from the book “The First Unibear” by Kathleen J. Shields. Illustrations by Aashay Utkarsh