A Bear Called Paddington | Book Review

A Bear Called Paddington // Cover Art

Title: A Bear Called Paddington
Author: Michael Bond
Illustrator: Peggy Fortnum
Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books
ISBN: 978 006242 2750
Age Range: 7+ years old

Publisher’s Synopsis

A bear? On Paddington station?” Mrs Brown looked at her husband in amazement. “Don’t be silly, Henry. There can’t be!

Paddington Bear had travelled all the way from Darkest Peru when the Brown family first met him on Paddington Station. Since then their lives have never been quite the same… for ordinary things become quite extraordinary when a bear called Paddington is involved.

A Bear Called Paddington | Snuggleosophy review

Artwork

5.0/5.0

A Bear Called Paddington -- Chapter TwoThis unabridged edition of the very first stories of the adventures of Paddington Bear contains drawings by Peggy Fortnum. She was the first illustrator to capture the bear’s unique identity. For the illustrations for the first edition published in 1958, Fortnum visited London Zoo and sketched Malayan bears. She wanted to ensure she was able to capture the bear’s look, including Paddington’s often messy paws, realistic to a bear’s anatomy.

Paddington’s look has become iconic, and so looking back now at the original it is difficult not to feel nostalgic for my own childhood of enjoying the books. The drawings capture the mischievous innocence of the character created by Michael Bond. His original inspiration for the character was a toy bear. However, Fortnum’s drawings created the look of a real-life bear yet one who talks and engages in hilarious ways with the people and world around him.

The line drawings were originally simply black and white. For later editions, other artists colored the drawings. In this edition, Mark Burgess colored and adapted the images.

The drawings capture the occasionally frantic movements of Paddington when he gets in a mess and the still moments when he is contemplative of his plans. The drawings show Paddington’s emotions clearly in his expressions and are endearing and delightful.

Message

5.0/5.0

A Bear Called Paddington is not message-heavy. However, subtle messages of kindness, empathy and of the joy of experiencing new things come through.

Paddington is a kind-hearted bear who wants to fit into his new home in London, make friends and try out new experiences. He has a spirit of adventure and although he sometimes causes a commotion, he has no intention of upsetting people. Sometimes, quite by accident, he saves the day, for example by restoring the confidence of a struggling actor, or by helping Mr Brown win a painting competition by accidentally destroying the original painting.

The really heart-warming message is that as an overseas immigrant to England from Peru, Paddington Bear is welcomed and embraced. Written in the 1950s, this was a positive message of its time and still is today.

Writing

5.0/5.0

Michael Bond wrote in his introduction to this 2013 edition of A Bear Called Paddington that he did not intentionally set out to write a children’s book when he was inspired to explore the story of “what would happen if a real bear ended up on Paddington station.”

He saw this as a happy accident, although his writing did evolve into a book loved by children, “they hate being written down to.” The book is extremely well written and does not indeed write down to or patronize young readers.

The endearing character’s and adventures of Paddington, Mr. and Mrs. Brown, their children Judy and Jonathon, and their housekeeper Mrs. Bird are appealing to young children.

A Bear Called Paddington -- What a mess!

The stories were eventually retold in different formats, including picture books for much younger readers and two movies for fans of all ages.

This first outing of Paddington is a chapter book. It’s most suitable for older children aged 7+ who are able to read independently. It’s also a fun book to read out loud with this age range and older.

But it is also suitable for reading out loud to younger children. There is no frightening content. Some of the language is a little dated and may need some discussion and explanation, but overall this children’s books writing style stands the test of time and is as good a read for young children now as it was in the 50s.

Would I recommend this book?

As you may have guessed from the ratings above, yes, I definitely would! I’d recommend it for bedtime reading for children younger than seven and for independent reading for children older than seven. This particular edition from 2013 is a beautiful gift edition, and so would make a lovely present to a child who is already a Paddington fan, or one who is new to the adventurous bear.

If you are looking for Paddington adventures for very young children of around 3-4, the picture books would be a better place to start.

As well as a gorgeous book for kids, this book is a piece of the history of children’s literature and older fans of Paddington like me can enjoy the nostalgia!

Children much older than eight may find this too gentle a read. For example, my son has now moved on to teenage spy and demi-god adventures. Unfortunately, Paddington’s adventures are a little too sedate for him now, so make sure you catch children young, at around 6-7 with a book like this, so they don’t miss out!

Angela Stapleford is a book blogger who enjoys hanging out with her cat, borrowing her son’s books and writing about all things bookish at readinginspiration.com

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