Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick



Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

finding winnie

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear
Author: Lindsay Mattick
Illustrator: Sophie Blackall
Published October 20, 2015 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Goodreads Summary: Before Winnie-the-Pooh, there was a real bear named Winnie.

In 1914, Harry Colebourn, a veterinarian on his way to tend horses in World War I, followed his heart and rescued a baby bear. He named her Winnie, after his hometown of Winnipeg, and he took the bear to war.

Harry Colebourn’s real-life great-granddaughter tells the true story of a remarkable friendship and an even more remarkable journey–from the fields of Canada to a convoy across the ocean to an army base in England…

And finally to the London Zoo, where Winnie made another new friend: a real boy named Christopher Robin.

Here is the remarkable true story of the bear who inspired Winnie-the-Pooh.

Ricki’s Review: Many of my blogger friends raved about this book. I knew I needed to read it, but my library hold list was very long. When I saw it won the Caldecott Award, I took action. I drove my son to the bookstore and read the book to him while he sat on my lap. My aunt came with me, and she cried through the entire book.

When we reached the end, we just stared at each other and she said, “Ricki, you have to buy this book. Henry needs to have this special story.” And this is how I broke my rule about buying books. Finding Winnie sits elegantly on my son’s bookshelf, and I don’t regret breaking my rule. We love reading it together. The story is captivating from the beginning to the end, and the author and illustrator paint the scene in a remarkable way that readers will be unable to put the book down. Depicting history in picture books is very difficult, and Mattick and Blackall nail it. I highly recommend this charming book if you haven’t read it yet. It will stay close to your heart.

Kellee’s Review: One of the things I particularly loved about Finding Winnie, that Ricki didn’t mention in her beautiful review above, was that the book was written by the great-granddaughter of Captain Coleburn, the serviceman who owned Winnie originally. Having Lindsay Mattick’s close knowledge of the story helped her delve into the story and transport the reader into Winnie’s stories. The backmatter filled with photos and other primary documents also make it feel like we are peaking into the family’s scrap book.

I also want to praise Sophie Blackall’s illustrations. I love Sophie’s soft style with what seems like pencil and paints just is angelic and brings Mattick’s story to life. Although they both would shine separately, they are stellar together.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: As a teacher, I’d love to do two things with this book. First, I’d want to compare it to the Winnie the Pooh stories by A. A. Milne. It would be great to compare and contrast the stories to make connections about how Milne might have been inspired. Then, I’d put this book in semi-literature circles. Students might read all of the books (in the “Read This If You Loved” section below) in small groups, and rotate the books across groups. Then, they could discuss the topic and depiction of animals during wars throughout literature. They could compare and contrast the stylistic choices of the authors and also delve into potential ways that animals might be symbolic of each particular war.

Discussion Questions: How do the author and illustrator depict Winnie? How does Winnie’s story evolve?; What does Harry’s friendship with Winnie teach us about human nature?; How might this story have inspired the fictional Winnie the Pooh story?; Why do you think it won the Caldecott? What qualities make it an award winner?

We Flagged: 

Finding WInnie Spread

**Image from: We recommend this site, which includes many great images related to the text!**

Read This If You Loved: Winnie: The True Story of the Bear That Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh by Sally M. Walker, Winnie the Pooh  by A. A. Milne, Midnight, A True Story of Loyalty in World War I by Mark Greenwood, Stubby, the War Dog by Ann Bausum, Dogs of War by Sheila Keenan, Faithful Elephants by Yukio Tsuchiya

Recommended For: 

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7 thoughts on “Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick”

    • I loved Ricki’s story also! So wonderful that Henry loves Winnie (Trent won’t sit through this long of a book yet….).

  1. I am not a fan of Winnie the Pooh. And I love all things Disney, but Pooh Bear and characters are my least favorite.
    But I love this story. And like you said, the fact that it’s told by the relative, just makes it that much better!

  2. I have always loved Winnie-the-Pooh. To learn the true story of Winnie and Harry is touching. The compassion Harry had, the exceptions made for him and Winnie by his Colonel, and their journey through the war are remarkable. The history is rich, and the photographs in the back of the book are an extra treat. It is enlightening to know how A. A. Milne was inspired by “meeting” Winnie during a trip to the zoo with his son.


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