Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh by Sally M. Walker, illustrated by Jonathan D. Voss
When Harry Colebourn saw a bear cub at the train station, he immediately asked about her. Since she was for sale, he bought her for $20 and took her aboard the train with him, naming her Winnipeg. He was on his way to military training in Quebec and there the two of them bonded even further. Winnie helped Harry in his veterinarian duties, caring for the military horses and searching the pockets of his uniform for treats. Harry fed her condensed milk and she slept on the floor under his cot. When news came that they would be leaving for England, Harry took her along. But when they were going to head to battle in France, Harry knew he had to do something else with Winnie since she could be hurt in warfare. So Winnie was placed in the London Zoo where she quickly made friends with the other bears. It was there that she met one special little boy named Christopher Robin and his father, A. A. Milne.
Walker writes a warm story here. Though they are surrounded by preparations for World War I, the book focuses on the relationship between Harry and Winnie. Happily, Walker also shares information on how Winnie was cared for, showing the freedom that she had and the loving care she was given by Harry and the rest of the soldiers. Just as fascinating is her time at the zoo where she was so gentle that children were allowed to ride on her back. This was one special bear indeed.
The book’s endpages are filled with photographs of the real Harry and Winnie. Voss’ illustrations are realistic and detailed, staying true to the photographs that readers see first. The result is a lovely continuum from the real to the story of what happened, with no jarring differences.
A delightful and cheery story of a bear who is found by one man and then adored by many. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt & Co.