I suppose I always knew there was a real Winnie-the-Pooh—because I had heard the story of the real Christopher Robin. But it never occurred to me to wonder where Winnie came from before he was in the zoo. What a pleasant surprise to discover that he came from my home country of Canada!Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick tells the story of Winnie’s journey to the zoo. Winnie is not only the “Most Famous Bear,” but he was a world traveler as well!
The story begins with a veterinarian from Winnipeg, Manitoba, named Harry Colebourn. “If a horse had the hiccups or a cow had a cough, Harry knew how to make them feel just right.”
Harry became a soldier during World War I so that he could help care for the other soldiers’ horses. He was traveling across Canada with his regiment when their train stopped at a place called White River. Harry walked onto the train platform and found a trapper with a baby bear.
Harry thought for a long time. Then he said to himself, “There is something special about that Bear.” He felt inside his pocket and said, “I shouldn’t.” He paced back and forth and said, “I can’t” Then his heart made up his mind and he walked up to the trapper and said, “I’ll give you twenty dollars for the bear.”
Harry named the bear Winnipeg, or Winnie for short. Harry trained Winnie to “stand up straight and hold her head high and turn this way and that, just so!”
Harry took Winnie on the soldiers’ ship across the Atlantic Ocean to England. She became the Mascot of the Second Canadian Infantry Brigade.
Winnie was part of Harry’s regiment until it was time for the men to go to France to fight. It was not safe for Winnie to go with them. So Harry took Winnie to live at the London Zoo.
“There is something you must always remember,” Harry said. “It’s the most important thing, really. Even if we’re apart, I’ll always love you. You’ll always be my Bear.”
While Winnie was living at the London Zoo, a little boy went to the zoo with his father. The boy saw Winnie and they became true friends. He was even allowed to go into Winnie’s enclosure and play with her.
The little boy’s name was Christopher Robin Milne. As soon as he met Winnie, he knew that there was something special about her. He decided that his own stuffed bear should be named Winnie-the-Pooh.
Ms. Mattick has written Finding Winnie as a story within a story—she tells it to her own son, Cole, as part of the book. Ms. Mattick is the great-granddaughter of Harry Colebourn, and brings a personal touch to this fantastic story of the world’s most beloved bear.
Ms. Mattick included an album in the back of the book with pictures of Harry Colebourn, his diary from 1914 noting the purchase of Winnie, and a picture of Christopher Robin with Winnie at the zoo.
Ms. Mattick’s website is www.lindsaymattick.com. If you would like to learn more about this amazing bear, you can find links to videos about Winnie and other great information on Ms. Mattick’s website!
Have you read any great books lately?