#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

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