Old Barn Books has acquired a picture book by playwright Alan Pollock about a real bear who fought in the Second World War.
Wojtek the Warrior tells the remarkable true story of Wojtek, a brown bear who was recruited into the Polish army and helped to fight the Nazis at the Battle of Monte Cassino. He survived the war and later was sent to live at Edinburgh Zoo.
The story will be illustrated by Bryony Thomson and published in hardback in May 2019 to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino.
Pollock said: “It is a story about family – a band of brothers who look out for one another, a bear who considers one of the soldiers ‘mother’ and a group of men who consider Wojtek a naughty younger brother. At the core of it is the universal appeal of the deep, empathetic bond between animal and man. A story about voyage, war, exile and the attempt to return.”
Pollock has also written a play based on the story, to be staged in the UK in 2019.
Old Barn publisher Ruth Huddleston, who acquired world rights directly from the author, said: “Alan’s spare voice and Bryony’s empathetic illustration have brought to life for a new generation the humanity of ordinary people thrown into war. Wojtek the bear, commemorated today in a statue in Edinburgh, his final home, reminds us all of the debt we owe our fellow Europeans.”
Earlier this year the Times reported that Wojtek’s story is also going to be turned into an animated film. 'A Bear Named Wojtek' is being developed by Iain Harvey, who was the executive producer on the 1982 television adaption of 'The Snowman', and will also be released next year.