The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear
illustrated by Sophie Blackall
56 pages / 2015
As we were working our way through The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh I was delighted to find this treasure at our local library. It turns out that Winnie, a teddy bear who had fantastic and entirely fanciful adventures, was named after a real bear whose adventures were quite something too, and of the genuine sort.
It begins with charm. Just as Winnie the Pooh is begun with a father telling his son a story, so too this book starts with a parent telling her child a bedtime tale. In this case the storyteller is the great granddaughter of the man who gave the first Winnie his name. Harry Colebourn was a vet living in Winnipeg. When the First World War began Harry had to go, so he boarded a train with other soldiers and headed east. At a stop on the way he met a man with a baby bear and ended up buying him. To make a long story shorter (and not to spoil too much of the tale) this bear - named Winnie after Harry's hometown - ended up in the London Zoo where a boy name Christopher Robin, and his father A.A Milne came across him and were utterly entranced and inspired.
It is a wonderful story, but what makes it remarkable is the charming way it's told. This is brilliant, and a homage of sort to A.A. Milne's stories. It's true, so there is quite a difference between his Winnie tales and this author's, but the same gentle humor, the same whimsy, the same, did I mention charm? is there throughout.
The book concludes with a few pages of the real Winnie, along with Harry Colebourn.
The First World War is made mention of, but nothing of the battles are shown.
For any fans of Winnie the Pooh this will be a real treat, no matter their age. Both my daughters and I were entranced! You can pick up a copy at Amazon.com by clicking here or at Amazon.ca here.
In 2015 another picture book came out about the bear behind the bear. Winnie: the True story of the Bear who inspired Winnie-the-Pooh is also very good, and if it had come out on its own, it would have found its own spot on our blog. Very fun, and different enough that after reading Finding Winnie it is still an enjoyable read as well. Compared to most any other picture book Winnie is remarkable - really among the best of the best - but it does lack a little of the Milne-like charm of Finding Winnie, and so ranks second among these two books. Check out more on it at Amazon.com by clicking here or at Amazon.ca here.