Finding Winnie

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CALDECOTT MEDAL WINNER – 2016

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear

by Lindsay Mattick

illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Age: 4+

Interests: bears, Winnie-the-Pooh books, history, family history, nonfiction

HarperCollins: 2015

48 pages

Also by this illustrator: Ivy and Bean series

This book tells the true story of the author’s great-grandfather, the Canadian soldier who purchased a young bear cub on a train platform on his way to the Great War. Named ‘Winnie’ for the soldier’s home town of Winnipeg, the bear served as a mascot for an army regiment before ending up in the London Zoo, where he came to the notice of A.A. Milne and was the inspiration for Winnie-the-Pooh.

The framing story is a mother telling her son the tale at bedtime, and at the end it turns out that the soldier in question, Harry Colebourn, is the young boy’s great-great-grandfather. A visual family tree and the old photographs at the end of the book make the story’s connection with real events crystal clear for young readers.

The illustrations (see examples below) are charming and gently evocative of a distant time. (Reminiscient of Henri Rousseau paintings!) Emphasis is placed on the moment that Harry makes the decision to buy the bear – guessing its rather rough-looking owner will not care for him properly. The message of the book, found in the author’s dedication, is to always remember “the impact one small, loving gesture can have.”

A lovely introduction to history in general, and family history in specific. This picture book may spark interest in the reader’s own family tree. Pull out that old photo album!

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sue
    Oct 24, 2016 @ 10:57:38

    This is also one of our Saskatchewan Willow Award nominees this year, so I’ve been reading it to quite a few students in our school. Many of the kids are quite amazed that Winnie the Pooh had Canadian roots. 🙂

    Reply

    • Kim
      Oct 24, 2016 @ 11:00:29

      Winnie-peg! I know, a surprising link for sure. I was a little surprised too by the photo of Christopher Robin actually in the bear pen in the zoo. That sure wouldn’t happen nowadays!

      Reply

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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.