Barbara Firth achieved success relatively late in life with her rich, warm, evocative illustrations for children's books, the most successful being the classic "Can't You Sleep, Little Bear?" written by Martin Waddell.
Her realisation of Martin Waddell's touching story of Big Bear helping Little Bear overcome his fear of the dark by bringing him bigger and bigger lanterns, before taking him outside to show him how the moon - the biggest lantern of them all - is always there, touched a chord with parents and children. Barbara Firth created an engaging, rumpled and shambling Big Bear and an enchantingly bright-eyed and eager Little Bear. Their cave is a haven of cosiness and Firth's illustrations are full of depth and surprise, as well as charm. The book became a bedtime classic and won several prizes, including the 1988 Nestlé Smarties gold award and a Kate Greenaway medal.
"I have always been biased toward illustrating natural history, so it was a joy to draw pages and pages of bears."