Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear

Lindsay Mattick
Illustrator:  Sophie Blackall 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2015   ISBN: 978-0316324908

One evening a little boy called Cole asks his mother to tell him a true story about a bear, and this is what she does. She tells him about a man called Harry Colebourn who was a veterinarian, and who lived in Winnipeg in Canada. When World War I broke out Harry left his home so that he could help with the war effort by taking care of the cavalry horses at the war front. He got onto a train that clattered east all day and through the night, and then the next day the train stopped at a place called White River.

Harry got out of the train to stretch his legs, which is when he saw a man on the platform who had a bear cub. The man was a trapper and when Harry saw the bear he decided that there was “something special” about it. Though he knew that what he was going to do next was probably foolish, Harry offered to buy the bear cub for twenty dollars, which was a great deal of money in those days.

When Harry got onto the train with the bear, his commanding office was not pleased. A bear was a “Most Dangerous Creature” and it certainly could not go to war with them. The bear then stood on her hind legs and was so sweet and charming that the Colonel quite changed his tune. The bear, Winnipeg (or Winnie for short) soon became the Mascot of the Second Canadian Infantry Brigade.

Winnie traveled across Canada, then across the Atlantic to England, and she kept Harry and his comrades company as they trained and prepared for war. Then Harry had to make a difficult decision. He could not take Winnie to France where the war raged, and so he drove her to London and asked the people at London Zoo to take her in and care for her, which they did.

Winnie was much loved by the zoo employees and visitors, and one day a little boy called Christopher Robin met Winne and was so charmed by bear that he named his own teddy bear after her.

Written by Harry Coleburn’s great-granddaughter, this memorable and delightful book actually contains two stories. We read about a young man who saves and loves a little bear cub, and we find out how one of the most famous bears of all time – if not THE most famous bear of all time – got his name. Readers who know and love Winnie-the-Pooh will be delighted to see how the story of Harry and Winnie’s Canadian adventure crosses the Atlantic and becomes the story of Winnie and Christopher Robin’s English adventure.

At the back of the book readers will find period photos of Harry, Winnie, and the other characters mentioned in the story.

This title won the 2016 Caldecott Medal.