BookPage Children's Top Pick, November 2015
When Cole asks his mother for a story about a bear, she shares a true tale, one forgotten by time. It all starts with Harry Colebourn, a veterinarian from Winnipeg, Manitoba. During World War I, Harry travels by train across Canada to care for soldiers’ horses. At one of these stops, Harry gets off to stretch his legs and sees a trapper with a bear cub. Noticing something special about the bear, Harry’s “heart made up his mind,” and he buys the bear for 20 dollars.
The bear, named Winnipeg, or Winnie for short, quickly becomes a mascot for Harry and his fellow soldiers. Whether in the fields of Canada, crossing the Atlantic Ocean or on England’s rainy plains, Winnie impresses all with her remarkable tricks. But when Harry is called to the front in France, his heart makes up his mind again, and he takes Winnie to the London Zoo, where she will be cared for.
This touching story, enhanced with Sophie Blackall’s expressive and characteristically patterned illustrations, could end there. But in London, there’s a little boy named Christopher Robin. He not only names his stuffed bear Winnie-the-Pooh after visiting—and playing with—the real Winnie, but his father, Alan Alexander Milne, writes stories about them.
How does author Lindsay Mattick know all of this? She’s Harry’s great-granddaughter, and she named her son, Cole, after him. A concluding album features photographs of all the participants.
This tender tribute will inspire a new generation of Winnie fans—for the books and the historic bear.
Illustrations © 2015 by Sophie Blackall. Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown.