PICTURE BOOK REVIEWs: Finding Winnie by Lindsay Mattick and Winnie by Sally M. Walker


Before Winnie-the-Pooh, there was a real bear named Winnie.

In 1914, Harry Colebourn, a veterinarian on his way to tend horses in World War I, followed his heart and rescued a baby bear. He named her Winnie, after his hometown of Winnipeg, and he took the bear to war.

Harry Colebourn's real-life great-granddaughter tells the true story of a remarkable friendship and an even more remarkable journey--from the fields of Canada to a convoy across the ocean to an army base in England...

And finally to the London Zoo, where Winnie made another new friend: a real boy named Christopher Robin.

Here is the remarkable true story of the bear who inspired Winnie-the-Pooh.


It's interesting that two picture books sharing the same story happen to come out the exact same year.  On the other hand it creates an interesting challenge to compare the two as they tell the same story but not the same way. Finding Winnie is told by Harry Colebourn's real-life great granddaughter which lends this version an interesting depth to it, especially as the story is told by the author to her son Cole.  Cole interrupts the story several times to make comments and ask questions which creates a book that is a story within a story.  I enjoyed both stories.  And Sophie Blackall's illustrations are adorable as one might expect.  I think one of the things I liked best about the book is the way stories connect with other stories the way they really do in real life.  This makes for a different take on a fascinating true story that would be very valuable for a teacher.  A book like this is perfect for inspiring children to write or tell his/her own stories.



Who could care for a bear? When Harry Colebourn saw a baby bear for sale at the train station, he knew he could care for it. Harry was a veterinarian. But he was also a soldier in training for World War I. Harry named the bear Winnie, short for Winnipeg, his company’s home town, and he brought her along to the training camp in England. Winnie followed Harry everywhere and slept under his cot every night. Before long, she became the regiment’s much-loved mascot. But who could care for the bear when Harry had to go to the battleground in France? Harry found just the right place for Winnie while he was away — the London Zoo. There a little boy named Christopher Robin came along and played with Winnie — he could care for this bear too! Sally Walker’s heartwarming story, paired with Jonathan Voss’s evocative illustrations, brings to life the story of the real bear who inspired Winnie the Pooh.


One of the major differences between this book and Finding Winnie is the inclusion of photographs for the endpapers.  For me this helped the story feel more real.  In addition, the illustrations in this one were more appealing to me.  This version of Harry and Winnie's story also includes different vignettes than the other, which makes the two books very complementary.  It would be fun to read both to students and have them compare the two because while they both tell basically the same story they do it in very different ways.  This could lead to some fabulous discussions about choices that authors and illustrators make when they create a book. 


  1. What a great idea to compare these two books! A lesson like that would fit beautifully with the Common Core standards for first grade to "compare and contrast the adventures and experiences of characters in stories" (1.9) and "identify who is telling the story at various points" (1.6).


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