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The story of Winnie The Pooh by A.A. Milne is known worldwide. Winnie the Pooh is Christopher Robin’s stuffed bear. Christopher’s imagination makes Winnie and his many friends come alive. Well, I’m not talking about Winnie the Pooh today, I’m talking about the real life Winnie the Bear, a real Canadian bear who ends up living in London England’s Zoo where Christopher Robin meets him. Here is the book, Finding Winnie, The True Story of The World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick illustrated by Sophie Blackall
In real life, in 1914, a Canadian veterinarian Harry Colbourne, was traveling from Winnipeg Manitoba, across Canada as part of a Canadian regiment heading to France to fight in World War I. Dr. Colborne’s role was to tend to the horses of his regiment. But on a break during the long train ride across Canada, he finds a trapper with a bear cub at a small train station in White River Ontario.
Knowing that the trapper would probably not love and raise the bear, Dr. Colbourne does a crazy but heartfelt thing and buys the bear cub for $20. He immediately names the bear Winnie, to honor Dr. Colbourne’s hometown of Winnipeg. He takes the bear cub on the train where he is loved and cared for and trained to love people, train rides and even ocean going ship rides to England. In England he provided much needed morale support as the troops trained in the rain day after day.
But the time came for the soldiers to travel to France and Dr. Colbourne knew Winnie could not and should not go to war. So with much heartache but knowing he was doing the right thing, he brings Winnie to the London zoo where they parted.
Winnie lived in the London Zoo where he was loved and allowed a close friendship with Christopher Robin, who for some odd reason was allowed into Winnie’s pen to play with Winnie. I think Winnie must have been a very nice, domesticated Canadian bear! Christopher Robin’s father A.A. Milne wrote the Winnie the Pooh stories inspired by his son’s friendship with Winnie the real Canadian Bear.
Winnie lived for 30 years in the London Zoo. Dr. Colbourne returned to Canada after the war had a veterinary practice in Winnipeg, married and had children. His Granddaughter Lindsay Mattick wrote this book and it was illustrated by Sophie Blackall. The illustrations are realistically drawn with dreamlike watercolors. You will laugh at all the many funny faces of the soldiers, each one seems to be a real depiction of men from that time period.
It is a delightful, heartwarming slice of Canadian history. A story of duty and love that will serve all children well.