Archive for January 2nd, 2016

Finding winnie 1

by Sam Juliano

Similar statues stand in Winnipeg, Canada and in London, England, depicting a World War I soldier named Harry Colebourn holding hands with a bear cub.  Though a seemingly innocuous memorial of wartime camaraderie between a man and animal, these physical homages are iconic in scope and significance, representing as they do the real-life inspiration for one of children literature’s most beloved characters.  Lindsay Mattick and Sophie Blackall’s Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear is a kind of story-within-a-story-within-a-story, but for Winnie the Pooh fans it is a historical godsend, with none other than a descendant of Colebourn penning the story of how a Canadian serviceman found a bear and of the narrative circumstances that led to its taking up residence in the London Zoo, where it became the real-life model for a fictional character extraordinaire. Mattick tells the story as someone who is a kindred spirit with this material, using the original story of Harry as a device to amuse and enrich the life of her own son, while tying together the various humanist strands that have made the Winnie-the-Pooh story so endlessly captivating.  Malick’s storytelling skills are considerable, and she uses dialogue effectively to bridge together the past and present.  One can’t help but be stirred by this kind of Fern and Wilbur relationship, though much like E. B. White’s masterpiece there is an eventual realization that a final home is dictated by what’s best for the new tenant.  For those who are familiar with the story there are some marvelous details to relish, for those in the dark, this is really quite the treat. (more…)

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