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Friday, January 16, 2015

Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh, written by Sally M. Walker and illustrated by Jonathan D. Voss. Henry Holt, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2015. $20.50

         WIN A WINNIE!

Would you like to win a copy of WINNIE: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the Pooh?
If so, here's a contest for you:
Send me a favorite memory of time spent reading Winnie's story on your own, or with your children at home or at school, and you will have a chance to win a copy of this lovely new book. Email me at with Win a Winnie as the subject of your note. Sorry, but the winning book can only be sent to a Canadian address. Can't wait to read those memories!

"Harry's job was caring for horses that
would be needed for battle.
Winnie's job was being Harry's shadow.
While Harry listened to a horse's heart,
Winnie nuzzled its muzzle.
If the horse snorted and scared Winnie,
Harry cuddled her until she stopped trembling."

I was very happy this week to accept Fernanda's invitation to be part of a group of bloggers eager to share this brand new book about Winnie with our readers. Fernanda hasn't been with Raincoast for a very long time; but, in the time since I met her, she has been an amazing and very supportive contact for me with the publishers that are represented there. True to her word, she immediately sent me an e-galley so that I might have a close look and let you know what I think about Winnie.

I like it ... a lot! The connection to Winnipeg is obviously important since I have lived in Manitoba for my whole (long) life. But, it is much more than that. Told simply and very affectionately, it is the tale of a compassionate military man, who was a member of the WWI Canadian Veterinary Corps. Seeing an orphan bear at one of the train stops made in Ontario, Harry Colebourn could not leave her to fend for herself. He impulsively bought the bear,  and took it aboard the train where she was welcomed by other soldiers and promptly named Winnipeg after their company's home base. Winnie quickly endeared herself to the men on the train. 

The two had quite the remarkable relationship, and loved being together. When the corps boarded a ship headed for the war in Europe, Winnie accompanied them. Playful and happy, she was much loved by all and her care was shared when Harry needed assistance. As the fighting escalated and Harry was needed in France to care for wounded horses, he made the difficult decision to leave Winnie at the London Zoo.

"Harry visited Winnie whenever he could, 
but the war lasted four years.
During that time, the zookeepers took good
care of his bear. Winnie had many friends.
In 1919, just before Harry returned to Winnipeg,
he made another hard decision. He decided that
Winnie would stay at the London Zoo permanently.
Harry was sad, but he knew that Winnie would be
happiest in the home she knew best."

It became her home for the rest of her life. One of her many visitors at the zoo was A.A. Milne's young son. The rest, as they say, is history. Christopher Robin changed Edward Bear's name to Winnie-the-Pooh and his father created stories for father and son to share, prior to putting pen to paper.

Thanks to Mr. Milne, many thousands of families have shared Winnie's stories.

It's my understanding that this is Jonathan Voss's debut picture book. I can only beg for more. Using pen, ink, and watercolor, he creates nostalgic and impressive images that endear Winnie to our hearts and give the entire book a very warm, lighthearted feel. The addition of archival photos, an author's note, a source list and websites up the appeal.    

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