Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
A mother tells her son Cole the story of Canadian veterinarian Harry Colebourn who got called to serve in World War I. He purchased a bear cub for $20 that he named Winniepeg after his hometown. He and the rest of his regiment called her Winnie for short and quickly welcomed her to their ranks.
After sailing from Canada to England, Harry was called to fight and reluctantly took Winnie to the London Zoo. What could be seen as the end of the story is, in fact, the beginning of another, very well-known story. While at the London Zoo Winnie became friends with Christopher Robin Milne, son to Alan Alexander Milne who, of course, gave us the beloved character Winnie-the-Pooh.
As it turns out, Harry Colebourn is the great grandfather to the mother telling the story. Her son Cole was named after Captain Harry Colebourn.
I really love Sophie Blackall’s illustrations that accompany this remarkable story! The two-page spread showing the ships sailing across the Atlantic was striking, differing greatly from Blackall’s soft pastels with a bright red sunset sky. I particularly liked the family tree included showing how the author of the book, the mother telling the story to her son, fit into the story. The last few pages of the book appear as the pages of a family photo album showing real photographs of Harry Colebourn, Winnie with Harry and the soldiers, and a scanned page from his diary where he wrote, “Bought bear $20.”
I really loved that author Lindsay Mattick was able to show this important family story being passed down to her son, but something about the execution felt jerky and unnatural to me. I wish that could have been done differently somehow.
In addition to giving great backstory, Finding Winnie provided many opportunities for discussion on other big topics. We talked about reality vs stories. Since my children know Milne’s story so well, it was great to talk about how real life inspired that story. It also provided an opportunity to talk about family relationships and our ancestors. One of the illustrations showed a line of men marching in the rain holding guns. This got a lot of questions and it was even an opportunity to discuss wars and guns.
Finding Winnie provides a lot of discussion opportunities and those who love Milne’s silly old bear will really enjoy this book.