Here we are for Day 4 of my “31 Days of Children’s Books” and today I am sharing a book I just now read. Just. Now. I purchased it at the Texas Library Annual Conference in April. But, being the librarian that I am, promptly shelved it away, sadly without reading it first.
So when I started thinking of the books I wanted to feature throughout this series, I asked my sister to share some of her favorites with me. Valerie suggested this one.
I give you Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick and illustrated by Sophie Blackall. Not only is this story magical, but it is true. True magic! And not only is this a memorable story but the Chinese ink and earth-toned watercolor illustrations are also heartwarming and magical. So much so that Finding Winnie is the 2016 Caldecott Medal winner. The Caldecott is “awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children”. [source]
The story opens with a young mother telling a bedtime story to her son. He wants a true story. About a bear. His mother obliges.
She tell of a young veterinarian, Harry, from Winnipeg who enlists in the military in order to fight in World War I. He plans to care for the cavalry’s horses during the war. On the ride to boot camp, his train stops at White River where a trapper on the platform is selling a baby bear he himself is responsible making an orphan. Harry quarrels with himself when he sees the cub.
“There is something special about that Bear.” He felt inside his pocket and said, “I shouldn’t.” He paced back and forth and said, “I can’t” Then his heart made up his mind, and he walked up to the trapper and said, “I’ll give you twenty dollars for the bear.” [p. 10]
Harry names the bear Winnipeg so the he and his fellow soldiers will never be far from home. They call her Winnie, for short.
Winnie and Harry continue their train ride all over Canada picking up other soldiers. The unit sets up camp in Valcartier with Winnie as mascot until the time comes for the soldiers to ship out.
All 36, 000 men, 7,500 horses and one remarkable bear are transported across the Atlantic. The regiment continues its training in England until orders come down that these Canadian troops will be moving to the front lines.
Harry thinks for a long time but finally his heart makes up his mind. He takes Winnie to the London Zoo before heading into war.
That’s where the second part of the story begins. Winnie adjusts well to life at the zoo. She even develops a special relationship with a young lad who often comes to visit. A boy named Christopher Robin who has a stuffed bear of his own. Christopher Robin has struggled to come up with just the right name for his toy bear. That problem is solved when he meets Winnie for the first time.
Being the librarian that I am, I must stop my review right there. Then invite you to run to your local library to check out Finding Winnie in order to read the ‘rest of the story’. Or use your Amazon.com account to order the book, here. Somehow, some way, get a copy of this book so you can read the happily-ever-ending.
Author Lindsay Mattick’s words are lyrical like the softest of lullabies. She describes Harry’s first day on the train so poetically.
The train rolled right through dinner and over the sunset and around ten o’clock and into a nap and out the next day, until it stopped at a place called White River. [p. 6]
Can’t you just feel the rhythm of the train on the tracks? Not sure why, but I am reminded of the lines of the Edward Lear poem, “The Owl and the Pussycat”.
The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to seaIn a beautiful pea-green boat,They took some honey, and plenty of money,Wrapped up in a five-pound note.The Owl looked up to the stars above,And sang to a small guitar,“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,What a beautiful Pussy you are,You are,You are!What a beautiful Pussy you are!
Even though I can’t/shan’t share the end of the story with you, I can share this video clip from Lindsay Mattick’s page.