The form of Finding Winnie is a story-within-a-story. The frame story is told by the author to her son at bedtime. She is the great-great-grandaughter of a veterinarian called Harry Colebourn. Harry, a soldier during the First World War, went to train so that he could help military horses at the front. On his journey to his regiment, Harry discovered a baby bear with a trapper at a train depot. He bought the bear and called her Winnipeg after his home city, or Winnie for short.
Sarah's niece: My favourite bit is when Winnie meets the Colonel because he is grumpy but Harry is happy. I love it when they come to the camp and bring Winnie all the food but she's still hungry!
Winnie becomes the regiment’s mascot and is taken across the ocean from Canada to England.
Sarah's niece: I love it when Winnie sits at the top of the boat, but I worried she might fall in because she's at the edge.
However, Harry decided not to take Winnie with him to the front in France, and so he left her at London Zoo for safekeeping.
Sarah's niece: Then lots of people can see her and love her, too.
It is here that Harry’s story ends, ‘so that the next one can begin’. This new story concerns a boy called Christopher Robin Milne, who loved bears and loved London Zoo. His father, Alan Alexander Milne, took his son to visit Winnie regularly and these visits inspired many adventures with Christopher’s toy bear back at home. The visits also inspired A.A. Milne to write his beloved Winnie-the-Pooh books.
Sarah's niece: I love Winnie because she is like my bear.
Meanwhile, after the war Harry (now Captain Harry Colebourn) decided to leave Winnie at London Zoo, where she was loved. The author of Finding Winnie named her son, Cole, after her great-great grandfather.
Sarah's niece: And then I like the Winnie-the-Pooh bit when the little boy [Cole] is in bed with his mummy and his own bear.
There is a lovely mirroring of stories and a comforting connectedness in the book. One story leads to another, and one person's actions inspire actions by others. The pace is fast, interspersing facts and anecdotes and pearls of wisdom.
The illustrations by Sophie Blackall have an old-fashioned, expressive, and reassuring quality. In keeping with the form of the book, they approach the subject matter from many different perspectives.
Sarah's niece: I love all the pages and love the story. I love the way [Winnie] cuddles [Harry’s] boot on the front [cover] and the shiny medal, too. And I can balance the book on my head, too! The end!
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