A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond is a charming children’s book I remember reading when I was quite young. Rob remembered reading when he was a little boy which is why he insisted on buying our niece and granddaughter a stuffed Paddington the Bear from Hamley’s, London’s landmark toy store. We also gave them each a copy of the book.
Under the circumstances, I indulged in rereading the novel myself and I’m surprised by how much I remember. When Mr and Mrs Brown go to Paddington Station to pick up their daughter Judy, home from school, they see a small bear and take him home with them. Paddington is mostly serious but he keeps getting into trouble. He is well-meaning so his destruction is never malicious and children are naturally going to delight in the chaos that he incidentally causes.
The illustrations by Peggy Fortnum are still delightful, reminiscent of Winnie-the-Pooh and E H Shepard’s. It is inevitable that there will be comparisons. Both novels are written by British men, have a talking bear as the primary character. However, Paddington holds his own. The older Pooh is clearly rooted in the imagination of a child, using his nursery toys as inspiration for animal adventures. Paddington, however, is an anthropomorphic bear from Darkest Peru, who lives in a real human world. He talks, wears clothes, even carries a suitcase. I won’t deny that I far prefer Milne’s bear but I can see why I was enchanted by Bond’s and have no doubt that Isabelle and Bibi will fall in love. At least I hope so, anyway.