This past week, our bedtime read has been of a local author, M. A. Appleby‘s recently published book, Winnie the Bear (Dominion Street Publishing, 2011). Many of you are probably familiar with the Winnie the Pooh books by A. A. Milne, but did you know that the original inspiration behind Milne’s creation was an actual bear called Winnie who lived in the London Zoo? Winnie, moreover, was named after the city of Winnipeg, home of the Canadian veterinary officer Harry Colebourn, who bought the bear cub from a trapper at a train station in White River, Ontario in 1914.
In Winnie the Bear, Appleby recounts the story of Colebourn’s encounter with the bear and how he came to bring this cub over to England at the advent of the first world war. Eventually, Winnie was donated to the London Zoo where she became the inspiration for A.A. Milne and E.H. Shephard’s Winnie the Pooh stories. Meticulously researched and illustrated with vintage style drawings by P.R. Hayes, Winnie the Bear is a wonderful book. Appleby has worked on this book for over six years but the germ of the story goes back even further in Appleby’s own life; her father was a good friend of Harry Colebourn’s son, Fred. My daughter and I are enjoying this book very much and we hope this wonderfully local story (for us!) might find readers all over the world as Milne’s books certainly have.