Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Winnie #nfpb2015 4/1/15

nonfiction picture book challenge 2015


My favorite reading challenge is Kid Lit Frenzy’s Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge. Visit Alyson’s blog to discover more wonderful nonfiction picture book titles to read and share.

I have two reading regrets with my son: I have never read the Little House on the Prairie books to him and I have never read A.A. Milne’s books about Winnie-the-Pooh. And I feel like it’s probably too late for both series. Maybe it’s for the best that we never read the Little House books. There are so many disturbing episodes of racism that somehow I managed to overlook or ignore when I was a child reader.

But I am still a bit sad that we missed Winnie-the-Pooh. There was a window of perhaps two years when my son would have liked the story and subject, but I always thought the self-conscious writing style with its frequent authorial intrusions and family in-jokes would be too challenging for his English comprehension.

So my son will probably always only know Winnie-the-Pooh through the Disneyfied version. Now there is also Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh, a nonfiction picture book written by Sally Walker and illustrated by Jonathan Voss that narrates the story of the real-life bear who captured the imagination of A.A. Milne’s son, Christopher Robin, and inspired Milne’s bedtime stories that later turned into the chapter books.


Christopher Robin and Milne don’t show up until close to the end of this story. The book begins with Harry Colebourne, a Canadian veterinarian who had enlisted as a soldier in World War I. He sees a baby bear for sale at a train station, purchases it, and persuades his Captain that he can take care of her and that Winnie will make a fine mascot for his company. There are many lovely, warm illustrations depicting Winnie’s relationship with Harry and the fun the other soldiers have with her as their mascot. The bear travels with the company through its training and to London, but there Harry and Winnie must part company when Harry is sent to the front in France. The London Zoo agrees to take care of Winnie while Harry is away in France, but this at-first temporary solution becomes permanent after four years of war.

And it’s at the London Zoo that Milne’s ten-year-old son, Christopher Robin, first encounters Winnie. The bear is so gentle that the zookeepers allow children to feed and ride her. Christopher Robin is so taken by the bear that he renames his own teddy bear Winnie and asks his father to tell him a bedtime story starring Winnie. And there the famous books begin.

The story that Walker tells is quite fascinating, and the book is beautifully illustrated and designed. The back matter includes an Author’s Note with more information as well as a list of sources. I was also impressed by the thoughtful design of the end pages: inside the front cover are vintage photos of Harry and Winnie, and inside the back cover are photos of A.A. Milne, Christopher Robin, the famous teddy bear, and Christopher Robin visiting the zoo and Winnie.






10 responses to “Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Winnie #nfpb2015 4/1/15”

  1. vgpratt Avatar

    Ah, Elisabeth, I am such a Winnie-the-Pooh fan that John had no choice but to love “the bear of little brain”. (His nursery was Classic Winnie the Pooh!) I’ve been curious about this book since I first saw it in a bookstore a couple of months back. Looks like I may need to purchase a copy! Thanks for sharing the information!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      You definitely need this book, Virginia. It’s so well-done–enjoyable even for those who haven’t read Winnie the Pooh.

  2. Kellee Moye (@kelleemoye) Avatar

    I love this cover! Every time I see it, I automatically think “AWWWW!” I also really love Winnie-the-Pooh, so I know that I would love this story. (My son and I are listening to the Winnie-the-Pooh audiobooks.) I need to get my hands on it! Also, if there is any consolation, the Disney Winnie is just so wonderful, it doesn’t matter 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      This will be a wonderful story to read with your son! I’m going to look for the Disney Winnie now–maybe that’s the best way to introduce my son to these stories.

  3. carriegelson Avatar

    I am really interested in reading this title. Every blog that has highlighted it has made it sound so interesting. I loved the Disney Winnie when I was young. Nostalgia.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      There’s a wonderfully evocative, nostalgic quality to the illustrations as well. And I do love the addition of the photos at the beginning and end.

  4. Linda Baie Avatar

    I loved this book, and agree with all that you said about it, Elisabeth. I read the Pooh books to my kids, & to my first graders a long time ago, but only knew that Milne wrote many of the stories while he was away at war, didn’t know about this ‘real’ bear. Special backstory! I wonder if your son will love the reading when he’s old enough to think about sharing it later with younger kids?

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Definitely a special backstory! My son lately has been talking about wanting to teach elementary school when he grows up, so perhaps there WILL be a time when he reads and loves Milne!

  5. Myra GB Avatar

    Sounds like a book to cherish. I read Little House in the Prairie to my daughter when she was around two years old – I doubt if she understood any of it, but she paid very close attention to the words and would look forward to the storytelling every night. When she grew older, she didn’t have that much of an interest to pick the series up for herself, sadly. I wasn’t able to share the Pooh stories with her, but I believe it will find her too at one point in time.

  6. […] few weeks ago on my blog, I was bemoaning the fact that I missed out on reading Winnie the Pooh to my son. Kellee suggested the Disney version of the story, and when I saw it at the library, I […]

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