Illustrated books show history of Winnie the Pooh
November 1, 2018
by Lindsay Mattick, both illustrated by Sophie Blackall.
“Finding Winnie” is the true story of how Winnie the Pooh came into everyone's lives. It's a picture book, giftedly drawn by Sophie Blackall, which tells younger readers the story of a black bear who was a part of the Canadian Army during World War I. Harry Colebourn was a veterinarian soldier from Winnipeg, Manitoba, and was at a train station going towards the Atlantic Ocean to begin serving his country. While he was at the train station in White River, Canada, he saw a man who was selling a live bear cub, and Harry bought her. He named the bear Winnipeg, for his home town, and Winnie became — with some reservations from the superior officers — the mascot. Winnie sailed with the soldiers and their horses across the Atlantic Ocean to England making friends all along the way. Somehow, the soldiers all knew that she was there for their protection, and Captain Colbourn and the rest of the soldiers took excellent care of her.
“Winnie's Great War”
by Lindsay Mattick & Josh Greenhut
The picture book is followed by “Winnie's Great War,” for older readers, and goes into more detail about Winnie, WWI and how she became Winnie the Pooh. Captain Colbourn had left Winnie at the London Zoo while he was in active military zones, and A. A. Milne took his son Christopher Robin to see the bear. Christopher Robin's interaction with Winnipeg the bear was the inspiration for Winnie's own stories.
I get so excited when I see these two books, of a true story that no-one seems to know is a true story; it just tickles me that you can read either one of them and get the story. The author is Captain Colebourn's great-grand-daughter; in the back of the picture book are photographs of Winnie and of the real-life Christopher Robin.
It's just such an interesting little tale that should be told, over and over in this sometimes disheartening world to remind us of little things.
It was a little thing that allowed a Canadian baby bear to become one of the icons of generations; it was a little thing that led her to become Winnie the Pooh. When I tell people this story, none have realized that Winnie was indeed a live baby bear who crossed the ocean. I'm not sure what made such an impact on me, the story itself or the way it was told — or the illustrations. Together, they form a really cohesive, wonderful tale.
These titles are available at Off the Beaten Path bookstore and Bud Werner Memorial Library.
Katie Davidson is a bookseller with Off the Beaten Path.