________________ CM . . . . Volume 21 Number 20 . . . . January 30, 2015


Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh.

Sally M. Walker. Illustrated by Jonathan D. Voss.
New York, NY: Henry Holt (Distributed in Canada by Raincoast Books), 2015.
40 pp., hardcover, $20.50.
ISBN 978-0-8050-9715-3.

Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 4-8.

Review by Reesa Cohen.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.


When Harry Colebourn looked out of the train window, He couldn’t believe what he saw: a bear at the station! The train’s stop would be short, but Harry had to get off and see the bear for himself.

Harry hurried to the platform and sat nearby. “What are you doing here, little bear?”

The cub climbed into Harry’s lap and licked his chin.

“She’s for sale,” said the man holding her leash. “I didn’t see her until after I’d shot her mother. I don’t want her. I can’t care for a bear.”


internal art$20.00 later Harry, an actual soldier in training with the Fort Garry Horse Regiment, a Canadian cavalry unit, becomes the proud owner of a black bear cub. A veterinarian, Colebourn feels he can care for her as she accompanies his regiment to their camp in Quebec. Harry names his new companion Winnipeg, for his hometown, which is quickly shortened to Winnie. Because of the cub’s gentle nature, he becomes a favourite mascot of this company where he provides a delightful distraction to the troops. Winnie even joins Harry’s company when they are sent to England during World War I. But when Harry is told that he will be sent to the front lines in Europe, he arranges to donate Winnie to the London Zoo. Her sweet disposition and tame nature endear her to the zookeepers and the visitors alike. One of those visitors is Christopher Robin, a young boy who quickly befriends the playful bear. He is so enchanted with Winnie that he changes the name of his own Teddy bear from Edward to Winnie. His father, A.A. Milne, is inspired by Christopher’s love for Winnie. Winnie triggers Milne’s imagination to first tell and then write stories based on this beloved bear, stories which becomes the basis for the highly acclaimed “Winnie-the-Pooh” series.

internal art     Winnie’s eventual destination was to be the zoo in Harry’s hometown of Winnipeg, but Colebourn decided to allow her to remain at the London Zoo. Winnipegers who read this book will feel a certain amount of pride in Winnie and even an emotional connection to origins of the famous stories by A.A. Milne. But truthfully, all readers and fans of the Winnie-the-Pooh series will be enchanted by this fictionalized biography which lends insight to the bear that inspired such cherished tales.

     Through delightful, playful pictures rendered in watercolor with pen and ink, Winnie’s relationship with Harry, other soldiers and zoo visitors fairly leaps off the page. The colourful expressive drawings lend humour and sweetness to a gentle retelling of a true story.

     This offering is enhanced by several actual photos of Colebourn, his beloved bear, his regiment, and author Milne and his son, which all add to the charm and authenticity of the story. Included are an author’s note, sources, and websites. What a wonderful opportunity for educators to read this biography in conjunction with a study of “Winnie-the-Pooh” stories. Children will be fascinated to learn about the bear behind this series.

Highly Recommended.

Reesa Cohen is a retired Instructor of Children’s Literature and Information Literacy at the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

CM Home | Next Review | (Table of Contents for This Issue - January 30, 2015.) | Back Issues | Search | CM Archive | Profiles Archive

Updated: October 17, 2014 (hsd)