Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear
Written by Lindsay Mattick
Illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Little, Brown and Company 10/20/2015
32 pages Ages 4—8
“Before Winnie-the-Pooh, there was a real bear named Winnie. In 1914, Harry Colebourn, a veterinarian on his way to tend horses in World War I, followed his heart and rescued a baby bear. He named her Winnie, after his hometown of Winnipeg, and he took the bear to war.
“Harry Colebourn’s real-life great-granddaughter tells the true story of a remarkable friendship and an even more remarkable journey—from the fields of Canada to a convoy across the ocean to an army base in England . . .
“And finally to the London Zoo, where Winnie made another new friend: a real boy named Christopher Robin.
“Here is the remarkable true story of the bear who inspired Winnie-the-Pooh.” [inside jacket]
World War I is waging in Europe. In White River, Canada, Captain Harry Colebourn, a Winnipeg veterinarian, steps off the train headed to the coast and a ship to England. Strolling the train platform, Captain Colebourn sees a baby bear tied to a bench. The trapper with the motherless bear sells it to Captain Colebourn for $20—quite a sum in 1914. Captain Colebourn takes his new bear, named Winnipeg, with him to England. Winnie becomes the “Mascot of the Second Canadian Infantry Brigade.” Soon, the brigade must enter the war. Captain Colebourn makes a heart-breaking decision when he finds Winnie a new home at the London Zoo. There, Winnie would be safe from artillery rounds and other war dangers.
This is the main story in Finding Winnie. A new story begins, once again Finding Winnie. At the London Zoo, young boy named Christopher Robin meets Captain Colebourn’s Winnie. Christopher Robin owns an beloved, yet unnamed, stuffed bear. He likes the name Winnie, so he names this bear Winnie-the-Pooh. Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh have many adventures in the woods behind their home. A A Milne turns his son’s adventures into the stories of Winnie-the-Pooh, now a classic in children’s literature. This second story allows the reader the complete story of both Winnies, hence Finding Winnie twice.
Most every child knows Winnie-the-Pooh, yet few know its origin. Finding Winnie fills in any gaps. The author begins Finding Winnie as a bedtime story to her son, Cole, adding depth and a fictional bent to the true tales. Once you look at the family album, it becomes clear the first story in Finding Winnie is true. The Chinese ink and watercolor illustrations capture and enhance the stories with interesting images of both Winnies and the landscape of the era. Lovely is the perfect word for describing the illustrations.
I think children, and many adults, will enjoy learning of Winnie-the-Pooh’s origins. Finding Winnie adds to the mystique of Winnie-the-Pooh and Christopher Robin. Who knew these were real-life characters. Had it not been for Captain Harry Colebourn’s heart, no Winnie-the-Pooh stories would exist.
My one question, not answered in the story, is how did Christopher Robin gain entrance into Winnie’s enclosure? It seems a dangerous thing to have allowed. Well, there are two lessons in Finding Winnie. One would be to act upon your heart—you never know what good will come from your actions. The other is more of a reminder to enjoy playing, using your full imagination. You never know when a writer may be watching, recording your adventures.
Finding Winnie is Lindsay Mattick’s debut children’s book.
FINDING WINNIE: THE TRUE STORY OF THE WORLD’S MOST FAMOUS BEAR. Text copyright © 2015 by Lindsay Mattick. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Sophie Blackall. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY.
Find Finding Winnie on Goodreads HERE.
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. . Little, Brown and Company is a division of Hachette Book Group.
FINDING WINNIE. Illustrations © 2016 by Sophie Blackall. Used by permission of Little, Brown and Company.
TWO INTERESTING FINDS ABOUT FINDING WINNIE
- Artist Sophie Blackall’s wonderful posts on her process while illustrating Finding Winnie. Worth checking out! Part One – Two – Three – Four
- A Bear Named Winnie – a 2004 movie, now on YouTube, but it moves away from the true story of Winnie and then Winnie-the-Pooh. (Y
ou’ve been warned, er, Just so you know). Watch it HERE.
Copyright © 2016 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved
Full Disclosure: Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick & Sophie Blackall, and received from Little, Brown and Company, (a division of Hachette Book Group), is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”