Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear

by Lindsay Mattick

Other authorsSophie Blackall (Illustrator)
Hardcover, 2015

Call number



Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (2015), Edition: 1st Edition, 56 pages


A woman tells her young son the true story of how his great-great-grandfather, Captain Harry Colebourn, rescued and learned to love a bear cub in 1914 as he was on his way to take care of soldiers' horses during World War I, and the bear became the inspiration for A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh.

Media reviews

Right from the start I was intrigued by the book’s framing sequence. Here we have a bit of nonfiction for kids, and yet all throughout the book we’re hearing Cole interjecting his comments as his mother tells him this story. It’s a unique way of presenting what is already an interesting
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narrative in a particularly child-friendly manner. But why do it at all? What I kept coming back to as I read the book was how much it made the story feel like A.A. Milne’s. Anyone who has attempted to read the first Winnie-the-Pooh book to their small children will perhaps be a bit surprised by the extent to which Christopher Robin’s voice keeps popping up, adding his own color commentary to the proceedings. Cole’s voice does much the same thing, and once I realized that Mattick was playing off of Milne’s classic, other Winnie-the-Pooh callbacks caught my eye.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member thornton37814
This lovely book tells the story of Winnie-the-Pooh, from the time he was seen by the vet Harry Colebourn through his time as mascot for a group of Canadian soldiers to his time in the London zoo until Christopher Robin Milne befriends him and he becomes the storybook character. The illustrations
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are great. I loved the album in the back with pages from Harry Colebourn's diary showing where he purchased the bear, the accession record for Winnie at the zoo, and other photos of the real WInnie's life.
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LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
A young mother, appealed to for a bedtime story, tells the tale of Harry Coleburn, a Canadian veterinarian who adopts an orphaned young bear cub on his way to serve in World War I. Named Winnie, in honor of Coleburn's hometown of Winnipeg, the cub soon becomes a beloved mascot for the entire
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regiment, settling admirably into military life, and lifting the spirits of all the men. Traveling with them across the sea to England, Winnie continues to grow. When Harry Coleburn discovers that he is soon to be sent to the front, he finds a home for Winnie at the London Zoo, where she will be safe. It is here that she is befriended by a young boy named Christopher Robin, who named his own stuffed bear Winnie-the-Pooh in her honor...

Awarded the Caldecott Medal last month, Finding Winnie is a lovely book, one that features both beautiful artwork and an engaging tale. Sophie Blackall captures her ursine heroine's appeal, depicting her charming expressions in many scenes. Her contentment, when sucking at a bottle, her affection, when looking at Coleburn, are all ably conveyed. My favorite scene, visually speaking, was the one in which Winnie and Coleburn rub foreheads in a poignant and loving moment, shortly before they are parted. A beautiful book, visually speaking, this is a book that is just as engaging textually. I liked the dual-narrative, in which the mother - author Lindsay Mattick, herself Harry Coleburn's great-granddaughter - tells the story to her young son, and thought his occasional interjections moved the story along, rather than interrupted it. I also found the text beautiful in its own right. Highly recommended to anyone looking for engaging tales of people and their animal friends, who are interested in the origins of Winnie-the-Pooh, or who admire Sophie Blackall's artwork.
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LibraryThing member bookwren
A beautiful combination of story and truth with soft, sweet illustrations. One of my favorites is the close-up of Winnie and Harry with foreheads touching; another is the humor in the illustration of Harry driving to London with Winnie in the front seat, paws pressed against the window and
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Stonehenge in the background. I also ove the front papers with the fox by the stream in the wood; looks like Pooh's English forest. Clever the way the author inserts toddler Cole's comments into the narrative with only a gentle interruption that doesn't detract from the plot. The Album of historic photos (and one modern!) at the end is a perfect touch. I'm going to read it to my school's Kindergartners and will report back.
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LibraryThing member hailelib
Finding Winnie is a great story about the bear cub that inspired the Winnie-the-Pooh books and how a North American bear ended up in the London Zoo and became friends with a boy named Christopher Robin Milne. Definitely recommended, especially if you have children or grandchildren who love the Pooh
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stories. Would be a good read aloud book for young children.
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LibraryThing member Whisper1
This year's Caldecott Medal award winning book is stellar! Harry Coleburn was a Canadian vet, hailed from Winnipeg, who while on a train heading to a position as vet for WWI calvary horses, noticed a little bear cub during one of the train's stops.

Giving the owner $20, a large sum of money at that
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time, he brought the cub with him. When Harry arrived, with Winnie in tow, soon the men all loved delightful mascot Winnie.

Before Harry was shipped to the front lines, he found a home at the London zoo for Winnie. And, this is where the wonderful books of Christopher Robin originated. Christopher Robin soon fell in love with delightful Winnie, naming his own toy bear the same.

There is nothing to dislike about this book. It surely deserves any and all awards it has and will receive. This is a lovely book wherein both illustrations and text combine to make a very special book that appeals to children of all ages.

I will definitely seek other books of this illustrator. Highly Recommended, for both illustrations and story line.
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LibraryThing member yvonne.sevignykaiser
This one the 2016 Caldecott Award and I can see why. I love the illustration by Sophie Blackall and Lindsay Mattick the great grand daughter of soldier Harry Colebourn who bought the bear for $20. The bear became the company mascot even traveled by boat with the men from Canada to Europe before
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Harry made the decision to place Winnie in the London Zoo for his safety.

While Winnie was in the London Zoo he made a friend named Christopher Robin. It was this friendship that led to the stories we know today of Winnie the Pooh.
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LibraryThing member kelseyjenkens
This book was phenomenal. One reason I loved this book was because of its plot. A veterinarian, Harry Colebourn, rescued a baby bear. He named her Winnie after his hometown, Winnipeg. Winnie traveled with the troops during World War I and was one of them. One day, they had to leave Winnie behind as
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they traveled. So, they left her at the London Zoo. That is where Winnie met Christopher Robin. As the story of Harry and Winnie was happening, you realize that their story was being told by a mother and son. By the end of the book, the reader sees that the mother is Harry's great-granddaughter. The story ends explaining the idea for Winnie the Pooh and how the name came about. Another reason why I liked this book so much was because it is nonfiction. Knowing that this is a true story made me more engaged and excited to see how the name of Winnie the Pooh was formed. The main idea of this story is to grasp readers attention and to teach them a little about history while making the story relatable too.
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LibraryThing member cbl_tn
This is the true story of the bear that inspired Winnie-the-Pooh. Winnie was a Canadian bear cub adopted by a veterinarian who served in the Canadian army during WWI. Winnie became the company's mascot. She traveled with them from Canada to England, and she found a new home in the London Zoo when
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the company left for the front lines. Christopher Robin Milne was a frequent visitor to the zoo, and his love for Winnie inspired his father to write a series of children's books about a bear named Winnie. The story is enchantingly told, with passages like “the train rolled right through dinner and over the sunset and around ten o'clock and into a nap and out the next day”. The story-within-a-story format gives the book a cozy feel. Children will want to curl up with their own teddy bears while they listen to this bedtime story.
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LibraryThing member TammyBB
A beautifully illustrated narration from mother to son about their great-grandfather's friendship with the real bear who inspired Winnie the Pooh. The book ends with real artifacts from a soldier's journey to fight in WWI and his friendship with the bear who inspired it all.
LibraryThing member lycomayflower
Enjoyable true story of a bear "adopted" by a soldier in WWII. The pictures here were the best part.
LibraryThing member AliceaP
Isn't it sad when a book comes out and people just seem to be completely unaware of 1. its existence and 2. its level of amazingness? Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick is one of those hidden gems. I've mentioned before that if a book doesn't circulate
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it's offered to another branch in the hope that it might do better in a different location. That's how this book landed in my hands (it was also on my TRL). As the title suggests, this is the story of the bear named Winnie that spawned the Winnie-the-Pooh series by A.A. Milne. It's the heartwarming tale of a man who befriended a baby bear and their journeys together during the tumultous times of WWI. It's also the story about how this same bear met a little boy who would eventually spur entire generations to hug their teddy bears just a little bit tighter. Additionally, the back of the book contains a really lovely surprise that I don't want to spoil for ya'll. :-) I think this would make a wonderful bedtime read-aloud. You could also encourage your child to read this book aloud to their teddy bear. (Then take lots of photos of it.) Believe it or not, this exercise will help to strengthen your child's confidence in reading aloud to others (or to themselves). As for me, I can't wait for the opportunity to read this one in a storytime. XD 9/10
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LibraryThing member CMcNeely
This story was heart-warming and interesting. I had no idea that the Winnie the Pooh stories were based on a true story - they were my childhood favorites! I like how the visuals play a part in the emotions of this story. Not much is said about the characters' emotions through text, but the images
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are good at showing what the words don't tell. I also enjoyed the way the story was told - I was reading a story about someone reading a story. What a cool lens to look through!
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LibraryThing member MaowangVater
Lindsay Mattick tells her young son Cole a family story about his great-great-grandfather. Harry Colebourn, a veterinarian serving in the Canadian Army, left his home in Winnipeg for training and eventual deployment to Europe to fight in the First World War. On the train east from Manitoba, there
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was a stop at White River, Ontario. On the platform Harry encountered a trapper with a black bear cub on a leash. Harry bought the cub and returned to his troop train. He named the bear Winnipeg to remind him of home. The tame bear was soon adopted as the mascot of Harry’s regiment and traveled overseas with them to England where she stayed with them until they departed for the trenches in France.

Knowing that the battlefield was no place for a small bear, Harry donated her to the London Zoo where she would be safe and receive proper care. Because she was a tame bear, visitors could visit with her inside her enclosure. When playwright A.A. Milne visited the zoo with his young son Christopher Robin, Winnie's enclosure was a favorite stop. “Christopher Robin would visit Winnie at the zoo, and then he would take his stuffed animals on all sorts of adventures in the wood behind his home.” He even named his own stuffed bear after her calling it Winnie-the-Pooh.

Mattick’s memoir of telling the story to her son is filled with caring and love between generations and species, and brilliantly illustrated by Blackwell whose illustrations “done in Chinese ink and watercolor on hot-press paper,” well deserve its 2016 Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children.
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LibraryThing member widdowsd
A sweet story about the inspiration for A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh stories. It also touches on family histories, as the story is narrated by a mother telling a story to her son, who is a descendent of Harry Colebourn, the main character of the story. Harry was a Winnepeg vet who fought in WWI and
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on his way to the war bought a bear cub for $20 from a trapper at a train station. He names the bear Winnipeg and it stays in soldiers camps in Canada, and eventually goes to England with the troops. Eventually the bear is brought to the London zoo where a young boy named Christopher Robin Milne falls in love with him---and inspires his father to write Winnie the Pooh.
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LibraryThing member BrettMartin
"Finding Winnie" is the story about the real-life Winnie the Pooh, who inspired the literature character. The book is written by the great-granddauguhter of the man who owned Winnie back in the 1910s. She wrote this book as if she was telling the story to her son. I thought this book was a
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heartwarming, sentimental read that left me smiling and a deserving winner of the Caldecott Medal. I think it's also relatable to most children since Winnie the Pooh is a well known character. The illustrations were gorgeous and detailed. If I was ever doing a lesson about bears or bear-themed lessons, this book would definitely be involved in some way.
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LibraryThing member lissabeth21
This was a lovely non-fiction, two-part story that really engaged my kids and me! We loved learning more about the original Winnie.
LibraryThing member schubert_stacey
Summary: The author is the real life great grand-daughter of a veterinarian who rescued a black bear in WWI. He eventually ends up taking the bear to the London Zoo where the bear meets a boy named Christopher Robin. The story is told by the great grand-daughter telling it to her son.
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Response: I thought it was a cute story, I liked it. I had to go back and re-read to understand the family connections but once I did, it's pretty cool that it's nonfiction!
Curriculum connections: bears; history behind Winnie the Pooh
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LibraryThing member amyghilton
This is a book worthy of the Caldecott Medal, for sure. The story is interesting for children and the illustrations are beautiful. Most people don't know that the bear that inspired Winnie-the-Pooh was an actual living bear at one time and a female as well, discovered by a little boy named
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Christopher Robin. This is her real story.
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LibraryThing member ElainaBerger
This story is about the origin of Winnie the Pooh. I have loved of Winnie the Pooh all my life. This was an interesting way of telling the story and how it was created.
LibraryThing member kittyjay
Finding Winnie begins with a little boy, Cole, asking his mother to tell him a story about a bear. She tells the story of a veterinarian named Harry who is sent to be a soldier during WWI. He buys a bear cub from a trapper at a train station and names her Winnie. Winnie becomes the mascot of the
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soldiers and Harry's friend as they travel. When Harry is sent to France, he must leave Winnie at the London Zoo. A little boy becomes friends with Winnie, and names his stuffed bear Winnie-the-Pooh, who is a very famous bear himself! At the end, readers find that Cole is the great-great-grandson of the vet Harry.

The full-page pictures are often bright and colorful, and a smaller black-and-white picture of the mother and Cole are on many of the pages, showing how their story is unfolding even as the larger story about Winnie progresses. The text is also interspersed with Cole interrupting his mother as she tells the story, giving the book a more interactive feeling with the story-within-the-story.

The illustrations also have beautiful watercolor renderings of landscapes: mountains framed by sunrise, a train traveling under a moon and stars, and a valley full of beautiful fall leaves. The pictures show the soldiers as they grow to like Winnie, as well as her funny antics.

Readers will adore Winnie as she frolics around tents and curls into a ball by Harry’s bedside, and feel equally sad when Harry must leave Winnie behind. When Christopher finds Winnie and befriends her, Winnie and the reader are happy once more.

The ending includes photographs of the real Harry and Winnie, Christopher Robin, and even of Lindsay and Cole. The photographs add a historical charm to the true story that will delight readers as they compare the illustrations to the photographs of the real Winnie and Harry.
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LibraryThing member mandy42990
The picture book Finding Winnie was brought to my attention when Sophie Blackall won the 2016 Caldecott award for her illustrations (NPR). As a possessor of fond memories of A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, I could not believe my eyes when I opened the pages and read that the beloved Pooh bear is
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inspired by a real Christopher Robin and a real bear named Winnie–and that this is not even the beginning of the story! Finding Winnie tells the true tale of a cub rescued by a veterinarian enlisted as a Soldier, and the journey they take together traveling on trains, army bases, and across the ocean, and how the cub made another friend named Christopher. I refuse to spoil more details, but I will say that there are photographs in the back to prove a tale you might otherwise find hard to believe. Written with the cuteness that books for preschoolers are aimed at, and with captivating, colorful illustrations, this story is a must read for fans of Milne, lovers of real-life tales, and pursuers of adorable characters.
Read more reviews at Book On a Crag !
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LibraryThing member laytonwoman3rd
My niece spent quite a bit of time with us over the winter while she was completing her degree in early childhood education, and part of her coursework involved reading a lot of books for children. She brought this one home from the library, and was impressed with it, but I never got around to
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giving it my full attention. So I bought a copy, (just so it would be here when she visits with her adorable little girls, you understand). It is, as advertised, the "true story of the world's most famous bear", i.e. Winnie the Pooh. I hadn't known there was a real bear behind A. A. Milne's creation; of course I did know about the real boy, Christopher Robin, and his stuffed bear companion. This story is quite remarkable, beautifully told and illustrated, and accompanied by photos of the real bear and his owner, the author's great-grandfather. Highly recommended for everybody.
Review written Spring 2016
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LibraryThing member deldevries
Reach back in history through a family tree to tell the story of Christopher Robin Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh, and AA Milne. Great story and excellent artwork!
LibraryThing member jennybeast
This is a really neat picture book -- I love the pacing, the illustrations, the story. It's broken nicely into 3 parts, so you can enjoy them one at a time or all at once. It's a sweet story, and a crazy one, and satisfying that it connects to the origins of Winnie the Pooh on top of being a great
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story in its own right. I never imagined that someone could buy a bear and bring it to the front in WWI, or that child could make friends with a bear at the zoo and be allowed into the enclosure to play with it. A different time.
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LibraryThing member raschneid
Well THAT was very sweet, and a great story from literary history. Recommended for all ages.




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