Winnie by Sally M. Walker Book Review

Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh by Sally M. Walker
Illustrations by Jonathan D. Voss
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Release Date: January 20, 2015

When Harry Colebourn saw a baby bear for sale at the train station, he knew he could care for it. Harry was a veterinarian you see. But he was also a soldier in training during World War I. Harry name the bear Winnie, short for Winnipeg, and brought her along to training in England. At first, the commanders in the army weren't sure about having a bear in the army, but soon she was the regiment's much-loved mascot. War is no place for a bear though. Heartbroken, but knowing she needed a good home, Harry found her a place at the London Zoo. It was only supposed to be temporary, but Winnie, who was a sweet and kind animal, thrived there. And so she stayed. She was there when a little boy named Christopher Robin came to visit one day and decided he needed a Winnie-the-Pooh of his own.

How in the world did I not know this story? Obviously, there is a ton of information out there about this and a movie, but how is this not common knowledge? I knew all about Christopher Robin's stuffed animal collection, which are now housed at the New York Public Library. I was aware that Roo was lost in the woods which is why he is missing from the collection. I even know about the supposed music box that may or may not be inside Winnie-the-Pooh, but I did not know about the real Winnie.

Beautifully illustrated, this story brought a tear to my eye not once but twice. Enchanting and sincere, Walker captures the heart of the story. More so than the movie I watched about Winnie, which wasn't bad but felt more like a movie that was simply rushing to get to the end. (see below) Isn't it amazing what one can do in the short medium of picture books? I was glad that the Winnie-the-Pooh tie-in was at the very end, focusing rather on the story of Winnie herself, which was already extraordinary. What an incredibly lucky bear to have found such an incredible man named Harry Colebourne. And lucky for readers everywhere that a little boy named Christopher Robin fell in love with a bear named Winnie.

I would also like to draw attention to another book on the same subject by Lindsay Mattick, the great-granddaughter of Harry Colebourne, whose picture book Finding Winnie is coming out next fall.