Two picture books about the real Winnie-the-Pooh that both make delightful reading!
*Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick and illustrated by Sophie Blackall. Little, Brown, 2015. 56 pages. 2016 Caldecott Winner.
Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh by Sally M. Walker and illustrated by Jonathan D. Voss. Henry Holt and Company, 2015. 32 pages.
Reading Level: picture books, ages 4-8
Recommended For: Read aloud, ages 0-8
The story these books tell is the same because it really happened! A young Canadian veterinarian named Harry was being shipped off to WWI to care for the army horses. At a station, he spies a young bear cub at a trapper’s side, buys her for $20, and takes her with him on the train! Naming her Winnie to remind them of their Winnipeg home, Harry’s troop adopts Winnie–feeding her, playing games with her, and including her in their photographs. She even goes across the Atlantic on the big boat with the soldiers. The time comes, though, when the soldiers are actually heading to the front, and Winnie needs a new home. Harry takes her to the London zoo where she lives happily ever after. And, while she’s in the zoo, a young Christopher Robin Milne visits, notices her, and befriends her. In her honor, he names his own stuffed bear: Winnie-the-Pooh. Literary history knows the rest of the story.
Winnie is a picture book biography: well researched and simply, but accurately, told. Appropriately, end matter includes bibliographic references. Lovely watercolor artwork in Winnie mixes humor and fact, adding nice dimension to this delightful story. Winnie is a terrific fit for the early elementary crowd and a great illustration of the importance of all creatures. Who knows, you just might be caring for the next famous literary hero!
Finding Winnie, on the other hand, works just right for preschoolers through kindergartners. Written by Harry’s great-granddaughter, the text feels as though a mother is indeed telling a family story to her young son. The transition between Harry’s relationship with Winnie and Christopher Robin’s friendship with her is pitch perfect. Blackall outdoes herself in this book: the art both complements and extends the story. Combining realism and humor, her artwork somehow finds that perfect balance between “real events/people” and “cuddly bedtime story” that the text conveys. Actual photographs of the real Winnie, the real Harry, and the real Christopher Robin adorn the end papers.
The true story is heartwarming and just the right sort to enjoy with children all snuggled up. And both authors do justice to the story. Finding Winnie is better bedtime/cuddle reading. Winnie is better informational reading. They also make a nice pair together.
Overall Rating: 5 (Finding Winnie), 4.75 (Winnie)
Worldview Rating: 4.75
Artistic Rating: 5 (Finding Winnie), 4.5 (Winnie)
*indicates starred review for Finding Winnie