Some books just shock and amaze you. I had heard about the book Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear, by Lindsay Mallick, from a number of other book bloggers. When I found a copy in my local library, I couldn’t help but pick it up. I love this book. I love this story.
My children don’t have the fascination with Winnie-the-Pooh that I do. While I don’t remember being overly fond of the story as a child, it is a part of my childhood in it’s simplicity and being one of the characters that everyone knew. Flash forward to my college years and one of the a cappella groups that I really liked sang House on Pooh Corner by Kenny Loggins. That song just touched a major chord in me and I fell in love with the story of Winnie the Pooh.
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that there really was a Winnie bear and that Christopher Robbins befriended him. But I’m getting ahead of the story. The amazing part of this story is that there was a man named Henry Colebourn and a bear he named Winnie.
Colebourn was a veterinarian in Canada who was on his way to a training camp in Quebec when he found a trapper with a baby bear. The trapper had killed the bear’s mother and Colebourn purchased the baby bear for $20 and named her Winnie after his adopted home town of Winnipeg, Canada. Winnie sailed across the Atlantic with Colebourn and became the mascot for Colebourn’s army unit. However, when his unit was due to ship out to the front lines of France, Colebourn left her with the London zoo promising to return for her when the war was over.
While Winnie was at the London zoo, Christopher Robbin Milne became fascinated with him and was allowed to spend time with him. From there, young Christopher would go home and make up stories about Winnie while he played, which his father then used as inspiration for the Winnie-the-Pooh stories that we know and love.
My 9 year old read this and loved it. My father read this and loved it. I loved it. I would highly recommend this book to people who know Winnie-the-Pooh and those that don’t. I loved the fact that it was told by Henry Colebourn’s great-granddaughter to her son who was named after Colebourn. The photos at the end of the book showing the true documentation of Colebourn’s time with Winnie were outstanding.
Amazingly, this is not the only book that came out last year about Winnie-the-Pooh. Turns out that there is another book called Winnie: The True Story of the Bear that Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh, by Sally Walker. I loved the story from Finding Winnie so much that I checked with the library again and was thrilled to find that they had a copy of this book as well!
In Winnie, the story is fleshed out a little bit more, but they are quite similar. Winnie tells more about how Harry Colbourn cared for Winnie and how the regiment that he was training also helped care for her. This version also goes more into what Colbourn’s job was with the military, since his main job was to care for the horses.
Winnie also tells a bit more about Winnie’s life at the London Zoo. Because Winnie had been raised by Colbourn and was incredibly comfortable being around people, the zookeepers found that she was remarkably gentle. “They trusted her so much that they sometimes let children ride on her back.” This makes her friendship with Christopher Robbin make more sense, as the boy was actually allowed to feed the bear and play with her.
Here is the animated version of the awesome song that keeps running through my head because of these great books.