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  •  2016 Comstock Read Aloud Book AwardFinding Winnie

    Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear written by Lindsay Mattick, illustrated by Sophie Blackall, and published by Little, Brown and Company, 2015.

    Lindsay Mattick tells the true story of her great grandfather, Harry Colebourn,  a  veterinarian whose simple, kind gesture had an amazing ripple effect. Harry adopted a motherless bear cub and named her Winnipeg, shortened to Winnie. When Harry and his infantry brigade were shipped off to Britain during World War I, Winnie went along as the company mascot. When the men were called to fight in France, Harry reluctantly left Winnie behind at the London Zoo. It was here that Winnie met Christopher Milne.  Christopher named his stuffed bear after the real Winnie and a legend was born.  Christopher’s father was the well-known children’s author, A.A. Milne, who later wrote many stories about Christopher and Winnie’s adventures.

    Illustrator Sophie Blackall brings this very personal story to life through her Chinese ink and watercolor illustrations. She tells the story through detailed double-page spreads, wordless panels, small vignettes, and photos.

    Children, ages eight to twelve, and their readers truly appreciated this book. They were surprised to learn that Winnie-the-Pooh, a story they loved as young children, was based on a real bear. They enjoyed the story-within-a-story structure and the details in both the text and illustrations. The children especially explored the peritextual elements of the book. For example, they noticed the connections between the front and the back of the book jacket, the silhouettes of the soldiers and bear on the cover, and how the story actually begins on the front endpaper and title page.  Teachers liked the focus on generations of a family and the themes of following your heart and the impact of a simple act of kindness. One fifth grade teacher perfectly captured the joy of this book, “Wow! Just a really great book.”

    This is author Lindsay Mattick’s first children’s book. She lives with her family in Toronto, Canada. Her son, Cole, is named after his great-great grandfather, Harry Colebourn. Illustrator, Sophie Blackall, grew up in Australia and now lives in Brooklyn. She has illustrated over thirty children’s books. In 2016, Blackall received the Randolph Caldecott Medal for her illustrations in Finding Winnie.  (CAROL SIBLEY)