Teddy bear and his Guide Dog explore WA in new book

Brown teddy bear sits next to black dog stuffed toy looking over a riverThe Tanami route from Halls Creek to Broome is one of the most well-known outback tracks, because it snakes from Alice Springs to Halls Creek in the Kimberley. This is the setting for a soon-to-be released children’s book about a teddy bear who’s blind.

The journey is somewhat of an arduous trip across 1,000 km of rocky road with red dust and sand. Grandmother Fran Underhill decided that it was the perfect trip for Edward the teddy bear, who is blind, and his trusty Guide Dog Tuesday in her new children’s book.

Edward the blind bear and his Guide Dog Tuesday feature in children’s books which are being printed in Braille.

Guide dog boarding inspires the books

Fran Underhill took to writing late in life. A traditional classic Steiff teddy given to her as a baby inspired the main fictional character of the book.

“I’d had Edward, the teddy bear, as a baby and when he was younger his eyes came loose. They just got lost, so he never had any eyes.”

“So, I just thought I’d give it a go and write a book for my grandchildren Trinity and Harry because I knew they would love it. I’d base it on this teddy bear Edward, who’s blind, and goes on lots of adventures.”

“I realised he needed a companion, so I bought a soft black toy Labrador who was his Guide Dog. I called him Tuesday because he was bought on that day of the week.”

“Tuesday accompanies Edward on his travels across Australia. He’s an unusual dog as he can speak, and of course he and Edward talk on their travels. Tuesday describes everything he can see, and Edward sees all of this in his heart,” Fran explains.

I’d had cataracts, which caused vision loss and I’d been a boarder to Guide Dogs. My son’s a life coach and had published some books, so I suppose life experience prompted me to write.

Fran Underhill

“Tuesday looks up at the night sky and describes them beautifully to Edward talking about the thousands of shimmering stars.”

Frances Underhill holding her two booksWriting more books

The first book of ‘Edward and Tuesday’s Outback Adventures’ was printed off at a local printing shop near Fran’s home in Willows, a remote area of Central Queensland.

An arts grant of $6,300 from the Central Highlands Regional Committee and Regional Arts Development Fund led to extra copies of the first edition.

In May 2018, every single school in the Central Highlands region of Queensland had a copy of the first book of the series. Fran was invited to read it to children at the schools.

It proved so popular, she decided to write a second one about Edward and Tuesday’s adventures, this time their travels were in Uluru.

Now both books are available with one side Braille and the other side written, so sighted and vision impaired children can read it together. We offer weekly Braille classes for people with vision impairment and for sighted people to enable them to support someone with low vision.

Fran has started writing the third book where Edward travels from central Australia to the northern region of WA.

I’ve travelled a lot in my life and the Kimberley region is just stunning because of its wild, rugged, dramatic landscape. I wanted Edward to experience the Kimberley’s too.

Fran Underhill

Printing them in Braille

“My son is very athletic and has run the Tanami track, so as a family we know that route well”, Fran adds.

The books highlight themes relevant to young people, such as showing compassion and embracing adventure. They also cover more serious subjects such as playground bullying.

Edward and Tuesday are looking at each other on the steps of a camper van.

Charities and organisations which provide services to people who are blind or partially sighted, say the books empower youngsters. They want more written from the perspective of a character who has a disability.

Fran has very kindly sent a copy of the first two books to us here at VisAbility.

“I lived in Perth for a few years before my husband retired. I have fond memories of the city and it’s lovely to know that you’ll be incorporating these two books into the Children and Youth Services (CAYS) Library. I hope the children enjoy them as much as I enjoyed writing them.”

If you’d like to purchase your own copy head to the Edward and Tuesday Outback Adventures Facebook page (link opens in new window) If you require more information about the services we provide to children speak to our Children and Youth Services team.