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LIT_Winnie Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh by Sally M. Walker and illustrated by Jonathan D. Voss. Henry Holt and Col, 2015

LIT_Finding WinnieFinding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattock and illustrated by Sophie Blackall. Little, Brown, 2015.

I thought it remarkable that two picture books about the real Winnie behind Winnie-the-Pooh came out within the same calendar year. And both are done well, really well.

The story they tells is the same because it really happened! A young Canadian veterinarian named Harry was being shipped off to WWI to care for the army horses. At a station, he spies a young bear cub at a trapper’s side, buys her for $20, and takes her with him on the train! Naming her Winnie to remind them of their Winnipeg home, Harry’s troop adopts Winnie–feeding her, playing games with her, and including her in their photographs. She even goes across the Atlantic on the big boat with the soldiers. The time comes, though, when the soldiers are actually heading to the front, and Winnie needs a new home. Harry takes her to the London zoo where she lives happily ever after. And, while she’s in the zoo, a young Christopher Robin Milne visits, notices her, and befriends her. In her honor, he names his own stuffed bear: Winnie-the-Pooh. Literary history knows the rest of the story.

The true story is heartwarming and just the right sort to enjoy with children all snuggled up. And both authors do justice to the story.

Winnie is a well done picture book biography: well researched and simply, but accurately, told. Appropriately, end matter includes bibliographic references. Lovely watercolor artwork in Winnie mixes humor and fact, adding nice dimension to this delightful story. Winnie is a terrific fit for the early elementary crowd.

Finding Winnie, on the other hand, works just right for preschoolers through kindergartners. Written by Harry’s great-granddaughter, the text feels as though a mother is indeed telling a family story to her young son. The transition between Harry’s relationship with Winnie and Christopher Robin’s friendship with her is pitch perfect. Blackall outdoes herself in this book: the art both complements and extends the story. Also combining realism and humor, her artwork somehow finds that perfect balance between “real events/people” and “cuddly bedtime story” that the text conveys. Actual photographs of the real Winnie, the real Harry, and the real Christopher Robin adorn the end papers.

Recommended For: Everyone! Both books are excellent. Both stand alone nicely, but they would work well as a pair, too. Finding Winnie is better bedtime/cuddle reading. Winnie is better informational reading.