#Cybils Winnie: The Real Bear Who Inspired The Classic Books

Have you ever wondered about how the classic children’s book character Winnie-the-Pooh came about? You can find the answer in one of the nominees for a 2015 Cybils award in the Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction category, Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh by Sally M Walker and illustrated by Jonathan D. Voss.

The story relates how the cuddly toy and book character is based on a real American black bear that was brought from Canada to the London Zoo during World War I. Named Winnipeg by the veterinarian who rescued the bear as a cub, Harry Colebourn, the bear’s name was soon shortened to Winnie. One day author A.A. Milne took his son to the zoo where he met the real Winnie. The bear made such an impression that Milne’s son Christopher Robin renamed his stuffed bear Winnie-the-Pooh, the Pooh part apparently coming from another animal he knew. The bear became a central figure in their bedtime stories and a book was born.

As an aside, it is fascinating how experiences with living things can inspire authors looking for ideas for children’s books. Robin Page revealed that the idea for her book (reviewed Monday), A Chicken Followed Me Home, came to her after watching chickens following her neighbor. Kate DiCamillo said having a sick squirrel come onto her front porch generated ideas for Flora & Ulysses. What if the authors had not had those encounters? It is also interesting how the concrete is useful to spark the creative.

Back to Winnie, the end papers are amazing. Inside the front cover are archival black-and-white photographs of Winnie and Harry. In the back is a photograph of Christopher Robin and Winnie at the London Zoo. Given how long ago this was, it is fabulous how well the events were documented.

Winnie is sure to appeal to the numerous Winnie-the-Pooh fans. It is also a heartwarming story that can stand on its own.

Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (January 20, 2015)
ISBN-10: 0805097155
ISBN-13: 978-0805097153

Disclosure: This book came from our local public library. I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Cybils Winners Announced, Mrs. Harkness and the Panda Wins!

Today is the big day:  the 2012 children’s and young adult book winners (Cybils) for 2012 have been revealed. Go find some great books to read!

The winner of the Nonfiction Picture Book category is:

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda by Alicia Potter and illustrated by award-winning artist Melissa Sweet

We all know what a panda is, but who is Mrs. Harkness? She is not a household name, but she did something that was extraordinary for her time.

During the 1930’s, Mrs. Harkness was a dress designer and socialite living in New York City. Her husband had been traveling to exotic lands to bring back rare animals for zoos. Even though people weren’t even sure they really existed, he went to China to find a panda. When he died there, Mrs. Harkness decided to finish his expedition. What an adventure!

As a round II Cybils judge, I read this book numerous times. What I loved about it is that each time I discovered a new layer of details or meaning, almost like going on an expedition of my own. The first time I read it I was unfamiliar with the story, so I was astonished to find out about the amazing feats of the daring and persistent Mrs. Harkness. The second time I read it I savored the rich illustrations done on actual Chinese paper and the incorporation of Chinese words. The third time I discovered how well it worked as a read-aloud book. Later I noticed how the illustrations start almost as flat cartoons and become richer in detail and complexity until in the end actual photographs are incorporated. It was as if the illustrator was emphasizing how the life of Mrs. Harkness came into focus around the panda. I am sure there are still more things to be uncovered.

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda supplies endless opportunities for learning. It definitely would be great to accompany a geography or history unit on China. It would be perfect for Women’s History Month, coming up in March. It also brings up science issues, and could be used with a discussion of endangered animals. The illustrations could be a source of inspiration for numerous art projects, particularly collage. Finally, it would be wonderful to add to a Chinese New Year celebration. It will be a book you will come back to again and again. Wonderful!

All due to a great group of Nonfiction Picture Book Cybils Judges

Reading level: Ages 5 and up
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (March 13, 2012)
ISBN-10: 0375844481
ISBN-13: 978-0375844485



Cybils 2012 Nonfiction Picture Book Finalists!

Did you see that the Cybils Nonfiction Picture Book Finalists have been announced? I am very excited because I am a Round II Cybils judge and I get to read all these great books.

Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade (Bank Street College of Education Flora Stieglitz Straus Award (Awards)) by Melissa Sweet has already won a number of children’s book awards, including the 2012 Robert F. Sibert Medal, and the 2012 NCTE Orbis Pictus Award. That is pretty impressive! I have briefly reviewed the book as a suggestion for Thanksgiving reading.



I haven’t seen Eggs 1, 2, 3: Who Will the Babies Be? by Janet Halfmann and illustrated by Betsy Thompson yet, but I have reviewed a number of books by Janet Halfmann in the past.



Interested in snakes? I mentioned Nic Bishop Snakes by Nic Bishop over at Growing With Science.



Great minds must think alike, because I reviewed Island: A Story of the Galápagos by Jason Chin just a few weeks ago.



Looking forward to reading Dolphin Baby! -Junior Library Guild Selection (Candlewick Press) by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Brita Granström,



as well as Looking at Lincoln by Maira Kalman,




and Mrs. Harkness and the Panda by Alicia Potter and illustrated by Melissa Sweet.




Have you read any of the finalists yet?

The Cybils 2009 Nominations Begin

cybilCan your feel the excitement in the air? It’s not just fall, it’s also time to nominate your favorite 2009 children’s and young adult books for the Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards or Cybils. You have to hurry though, nominations are only being accepted until October 15, 2009.

You are allowed to nominate one book published in 2009 (see website for details) in the following genres:

  • Fiction Picture Books
  • Middle Grade Fiction
  • Young Adult Fiction
  • Nonfiction Picture Books
  • Middle Grade/Young Adult Nonfiction
  • Science Fiction and Fantasy
  • Poetry
  • Graphic Novels
  • Easy Readers and Short Chapter Books

Be sure to have the ISBN number ready when you fill out the form.

Even if you aren’t interested in nominating a book, stop by the Cybils website to see the growing lists of nominees. It’s a great way to find some of the treasures published recently in children’s and young adult literature.