Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Finding Winnie

It's amazing what you can learn from a kids book. Finding Winnie is a charming picture book that tells the back story of Winnie-the-Pooh. It turns out that Winnie was a real black bear before finding enduring fame as a fictional bear in the stories of A.A. Milne. 

Lindsay Mattick's great grandfather was a Canadian vet who was called up to fight during World War I. On the long train journey from his native Winnipeg Captain Harry Colebourn bought an orphaned bear cub at a brief stop at White River, Ontario in 1914. He was to name the bear cub Winnie after his home town of Winnipeg, and take her across the Atlantic to England.

Picture Source
In England Colebourn realised that it was rather improbable to take a black bear onto the battle fields of France, and so he took Winnie to London Zoo. Winnie found fame at the zoo because of her friendly hand-reared nature and children were allowed into her enclosure, one of them being Christopher Robin Milne. Christopher Robin so loved Winnie that he renamed his own stuffed bear Winnie, and of course the rest is literary history.

Did Christopher Robin give Winnie tooth decay?

In Finding Winnie this change is marked as a new story. 
"Sometimes," I said, "you have to let one story end so the next one can begin."
"How do you know when that will happen?"
"You don't," I said. "Which is why you should always carry on."
Lindsay Mattick grew up feeling related to Winnie-the-Pooh and went on to name her son Cole in honour of his great-great grandfather. Mattick dedicates Finding Winnie to Cole:
May this story always remind you of the impact one small loving gesture can have. 
Australian Illustrator Sophie Blackall has written a fascinating four part series of posts about how she researched and illustrated Finding Winnie on her blog. 1. 2. 3. 4Finding Winnie won the Caldecott Medal 2016. Sophie Blackall made a video full of excitement in appreciation of her win. I think it's fantastic that a Canadian and an Australian made the most "distinguished American picture book for children" last year. 


Brona said...

I loved this book a lot.

I'm Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

Gracious. I seem to have missed this one. Slipping, apparently.