Finding Winnie won the prestigious Caldecott Medal in the USA a few weeks ago. I’ll admit I have had the book for a while and had put it aside, but the win prompted me to look at it again, and it was a delightful surprise. We all know the real story behind Christopher Robin, but possibly not that A.A. Milne had taken his son to see a semi-domestic bear called Winnipeg at London Zoo, and that this very bear had traveled all the way from Canada either. That bear, Winnipeg, is the inspiration behind Winnie-the-Pooh, and this book is its story. Lindsey Mattick is the great-grandaughter of Harry Colbourne, the Canadian vet who, on his way to training camp in 1914 where he was to look after army horses, rescued a bear cub, and ended up taking it to London with him. When the call to the front finally comes, he chooses to leave Winnipeg in the care of London Zoo, where A.A. and Christopher Milne will meet him. Mattick wrote the book for her son, and intertwines family history and historical facts perfectly. This is a magical story, yet firmly grounded in reality, and the illustrations really help set that atmosphere perfectly.
There are many layers to this book which will make this such a wonderful story to share both at home and at school – the sharing of story, looking back into family history (with a lovely family tree illustration at the end), animal welfare and of course World War I (with a particularly interesting focus on non-European troops being involved in the conflict).
It is a subtly wonderful book, which is well worth coming back to; I certainly found myself appreciating the story more with each new reading.
Buy a copy of Finding Winnie
Source: review copy from publisher