July’s Book Pick is the exceptional 2016 Caldecott winner, FINDING WINNIE: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear, by Lindsay Mattock, illustrated by Sophie Blackall.
A mother, cuddling with her son, tells of how Harry Colebourne, a Canadian veterinarian on his way to care for horses in WWI, spied a trapper with a baby bear. He bought the bear for $20 and named her Winnipeg to remind his fellow soldiers of home. Winnie sailed to England, where she became known as the Mascot of the Canadian Infantry Brigade. When the order came that it was time to fight, Harry took Winnie to the London Zoo. A boy named Christopher Robin befriended her and he named his own stuffed bear Winnie-the-Pooh. Christopher Robin's father, who was A. A. Milne, wrote about all sorts of adventures that Christopher Robin had with his stuffed animals in the wood behind their home.
This is a charming story, framed as a cozy-but-true bedtime tale. We begin with endpapers showing the woods where bear cub Winnie plays, and end by learning how the author’s son, Cole, fits in (he was named after his great-great-grandfather). A family tree, as well as reproductions of old photos, a diary, and the official record card from the zoo, help illuminate the many layers of this story. The illustrations are also extremely descriptive, and beautiful, as well. Clearly, we are being offered an often-told, much-loved piece of family lore, passed down through generations, and now turned into this award-winning picture book. Readers of all ages will relate to the story the author tells her son about how one very special bear became the inspiration for A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh.
Have you read FINDING WINNIE? What do you think?