children's book of the week; Finding Winnie by LINDSAY MATTICK , illustrated by SOPHIE BLACKALL. Orchard Books. PS11.99.
THIS is one of the sweetest tales I've read in a long time - and it's based on a true story, which makes it all the more poignant.
This is the story of the real bear that inspired one of our most-loved literary characters, Winnie-the-Pooh.
It is an affectionate and touching story about Harry Colebourn, a Canadian vet who joined the army in 1914 to look after the horses.
Told by his great-grandaughter Lindsay, she describes how he made the 1,500-mile railway journey from his home in Winnipeg to Valcartier.
When he stopped off at a station to stretch his legs, he spotted a man with a chained bear cub, and knew it was a trapper. Harry couldn't stop himself: he bought the bear for $20 and took her with him, naming her Winnie.
When the army prepared to sail the Atlantic to England, Harry couldn't leave Winnie, who was now the mascot of the Second Canadian Infantry Brigade. However, when the brigade was ordered to leave Salisbury Plain to fight on the continent, Harry took her to London Zoo to keep her safe.
And it was there that a certain little boy called Christopher Robin Milne, visiting with his father Alan Alexander Milne, first spotted Winnie. And the rest, as we know, is history.
The story is utterly enchanting from start to finish and beautifully illustrated, too.
By Jayne Howarth