The Supreme Court: A Guide for Bears

Picture book

by Isobel Williams.

You can’t escape the probing gaze of a judge – or of a teddy bear, particularly in the UK Supreme Court café!

Isobel’s work is varied, but our interest at tl;dr is particularly focused on the work she does around the law, especially the courts. A bit of a departure from her other work was her Guide for Bears published in 2017; with warm words coming from all angles, Lord Neuberger and Joshua Rozenberg included. You can see it reviewed by Paul McGrath at the ICLR via their blog. Here’s what she has to say about it:

While drawing and blogging about Supreme Court hearings from the public seats as a curious non-lawyer, I wrote and illustrated The Supreme Court: A Guide for Bears. The court (a model of openness which other courts would do well to follow, with a deservedly high TripAdvisor rating) sells souvenirs. Among the fridge magnets and mouse mats you’ll find teddy bears exercising their soft power as representatives of the Supreme Court and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. They are bought by visitors and occasionally snaffled by dignitaries.


This children’s book for adults (and vice versa) is a response to basic questions I’m asked about the Supreme Court. I’m not competing with the court, which gives out plenty of serious information, shows the appeals (live and recorded) on its website and posts judgment summaries on YouTube. Therefore I can afford to take a tangential view of the bears’ struggle for recognition in their Pre-Raphaelite-Gothic habitat. I use the cuddly toys to answer questions I’ve been asked about the court, such as, ‘What’s the jury like?’

There isn’t one – juries are irrelevant to the appeals.

The book is a colourful meditation on aspects of the building, its art and the work within it which would strike an inquisitive, well-meaning but largely uninformed bear. Like many visitors to the court, the resident bears are impressed by their heraldic surroundings but irrelevant to proceedings. When they pick out the name of their genus, Ursidae, unintentionally engraved in a glass wall, some readers might note that laws have unintended consequences, but that is not spelt out: I wanted to produce something short and unusual rather than invade textbook territory.

She sits there like a little mouse, and gets us.

Nightclub manager,
of Isobel Williams


Although I drew the bears mostly in a medium familiar to children, I draw for people rather than any age group. I drew the fluffy jury at home with Caran d’Ache Prismalo colour pencils. I used thick cartridge from John Purcell with a grain which helps to emulate the texture of synthetic fur.

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