[Nonfiction Wednesday] A Winnie-the-Pooh Nonfiction Overload

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Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2016 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year.

Widget Handcrafted by Iphigene for GatheringBooks.

Widget Handcrafted by Iphigene for GatheringBooks.

Our reading theme for January-February: Fairytales, Romances, and Happy-CYBILS-Afters. And since these titles have been nominated for the CYBILS nonfiction picture book category, it fits right into our current theme – and evidently, they do go well together.

IMG_8037Winnie: The True Story of The Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh

Written by: Sally M. Walker
Illustrated by: Jonathan D. Voss
Published by: Henry Holt and Company, 2015
Book borrowed from Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

While I confess to not growing up on Winnie-the-Pooh stories, it really was fascinating to know more about the very heartwarming story of the bear who inspired A. A. Milne’s Christopher Robin tales and to know more about Army Veterinarian Harry Colebourn.

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It was love at first sight at the train station – and with twenty dollars, Harry Colebourn was able to take the cub with him directly from a little place called White River into the military training camp at Valcartier in Quebec – he just knew that he could not possibly leave Winnipeg to the trapper who obviously couldn’t care for this adorable cub. Soon enough, the war brought the entire regiment (and one growing bear) to England where more soldiers and horses are needed.

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I loved seeing how this Military Veterinarian had a heart big enough to not only care for the army horses but to also provide shelter, nourishment, and the most unlikely home to this orphaned cub in the middle of a war zone. However, war required the regiment to travel once again to France to tend to wounded animals – and Colebourn knew that as difficult a decision as it would be for him, he had to leave Winnie to another home that would provide him with the stability he needed: the London Zoo.

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Winnie’s gentle nature and warm disposition earned him new friends at the zoo, including a little boy named Christopher Robin whose father immortalized this Bear’s charmed life – and the rest, as they say, is history.

Another aspect that truly impressed me about this nonfiction picturebook is the endpaper – both front and back. It just made me gasp aloud in pleasure – while front endpapers consist of Harry Colebourn’s life with Winnipeg, the back endpapers consist of Winnie’s life at the London Zoo and the fortuitous meeting with Christopher Robin.

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Teachers would also be happy to note that there is a detailed Author’s Note found at the end as well as a list of references that avid readers can check out. 

Finding Winnie: The True Story Of The World’s Most Famous IMG_8042Bear

Written by: Lindsay Mattick
Illustrated by: Sophie Blackall
Published by: Little Brown and Company, 2015
Book borrowed from Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

In contrast to the first book, this one is much thicker, relatively longer in text, with a story-within-a-story going on, complete with side commentaries, all illuminated by Sophie Blackall’s deceptively-understated but exquisitely-detailed art.

What raised this story a notch, for me at least, is the fact that the story’s narrator happens to be Harry Colebourn’s descendant, Lindsay, who is telling this tale to her own son, Cole.

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It weaves the story into one of family – and ended with a universal theme that brings all families together through stories that breathe caring, compassion, and just overwhelming grace.

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While it did still include the important bits about Christopher Robin befriending Winnie at the London Zoo, somehow, it didn’t matter that I didn’t read Winnie-the-Pooh as a child anymore – the story went beyond this. It introduced the reader to the kindness of strangers and what being in a family is all about. Glorious story to read again and again. A well-deserved 2016 Randolph Caldecott Medal Winner.

  1. I love both books, & reading them was a pleasure. And I loved those photographs too. Amazing to see young Christopher Robin standing next to Winnie! Thanks for sharing your ideas about the books, Myra.

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  2. I also loved both of these Winnie books and thought they were done equally well.

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  3. I loved both of these books, though I have to admit I preferred the illustrations in Finding Winnie, Winnie is just the cutest little bear! I grew up with Winnie the Pooh – I absolutely adored the original stories, and my parents used to read them to me as a child. Winnie the Pooh is such a popular character for children here, especially because of the Disney adaptations. It’s lovely to see the individuals and the true stories behind the beloved fictional characters – it’s so true that often truth is even stranger than fiction – I couldn’t believe that a man would buy a bear cub on his way to war, who could believe such a strange story if it wasn’t true? And yes, as a Canadian, I have to embrace the Canadian connect – Winnie the Pooh is a Canadian bear! 🙂

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  4. I thought I had read both books, but I do not recognize the wonderful pictures in Finding Winnie! I must never have read it. About to rectify that.

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  5. I’ve only read Winnie, so I need to get Finding Winnie to read, but it is very backlogged at my library now….

    Happy reading this week! 🙂

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  6. I have only read Finding Winnie, but I read it to three classes so I know it pretty well (my fifth grade students voted it to be our Caldecott winner). I loved hearing the story because I did grow up with Winnie the Pooh. I will have to get the other book and see how that one works for me.

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