Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear












Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear

Lindsay Mattick

Sophie Blackall

Little Brown, 2015

56pp., hbk



Cole asks his mother for a bedtime story – a true one about a bear.  And it just so happens that Lindsay Mattick is the great-great-granddaughter of Harry Colebourn, a Canadian vet who, in 1914, was conscripted to join the war effort to look after the soldiers’ horses. On his way to the training ground far from his native Winnipeg, the train pulls into a station and Harry spies a baby bear on a rope held by a trapper who is unlikely to raise him and love him as Harry did all animals.  After a lot of thought, twenty dollars changes hands and Harry finds himself back on the train with the bear cub and a lot of curious mates and one astonished colonel.  But the bear whom Harry has named Winnie after his home town, wins over the troops and she soon establishes herself as the regiment’s mascot. 

Winnie travels with the soldiers to England, but when it is time for them to embark for France, Harry knows Winnie can not go.  So he leaves Winnie at The London Zoo where she is loved by hundreds of children including a certain little boy named Christopher Robin Milne – and from there a whole other story begins.

2016 winner of the Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children, this is a charming story that has that intimacy of a story shared between mother and child. Beautifully illustrated by Sophie Blackall with meticulously researched details in muted watercolour and ink colours which reflect the mood and emotions, it also contains photos of Harry with Winnie and other memorabilia that demonstrate the authenticity of the tale.    The conversations between the narrator and her son which are interspersed throughout the story not only add to its reality but also make it more than just a non-fiction recount.  With its undertones of A. A. Milne’s writing, and the final pages that trace the lineage of Harry Colebourne to Cole, this is a very personal account that is as engaging as it is interesting. Because she is telling the story to her own young son, there are several occasions where she chooses her words very carefully so he will not be upset and this then makes it suitable as a read-aloud for even the youngest of listeners. 

One of many stories published to coincide with  the centenary of World War 1 continues, there are many stories commemorating the contribution that a whole range of creatures made to the conflict, but this one with its direct ties to the beloved character of Winnie-the-Pooh which all children know, is one that will linger in the mind for a long time.  

You could also trace Winnie’s story with Christopher Robin from the time he first appeared in A A. Milne’s anthology, When We Were Very Young, as a poem called Teddy Bear …

A bear, however hard he tries,
Grows tubby without exercise.
Our Teddy Bear is short and fat,
Which is not to be wondered at;
He gets what exercise he can
By falling off the ottoman,
But generally seems to lack
The energy to clamber back.

Now tubbiness is just the thing
Which gets a fellow wondering;
And Teddy worried lots about
The fact that he was rather stout.
He thought: “If only I were thin!
But how does anyone begin?”
He thought: “It really isn’t fair
To grudge one exercise and air.”For many weeks he pressed in vain
His nose against the window-pane,
And envied those who walked about
Reducing their unwanted stout.
None of the people he could see
“Is quite” (he said) “as fat as me!”
Then, with a still more moving sigh,
“I mean” (he said) “as fat as I!

Now Teddy, as was only right,
Slept in the ottoman at night,
And with him crowded in as well
More animals than I can tell;
Not only these, but books and things,
Such as a kind relation brings –
Old tales of “Once upon a time,”
And history retold in rhyme.

One night it happened that he took
A peep at an old picture-book,
Wherein he came across by chance
The picture of a King of France
(A stoutish man) and, down below,
These words: “King Louis So and So,
Nicknamed ‘The Handsome!'” There he sat,
And (think of it!) the man was fat!

Our bear rejoiced like anything
To read about this famous King,
Nicknamed “The Handsome.” There he sat,
And certainly the man was fat.
Nicknamed “The Handsome.” Not a doubt
The man was definitely stout.
Why then, a bear (for all his tub )
Might yet be named “The Handsome Cub!”

“Might yet be named.” Or did he mean
That years ago he “might have been”?
For now he felt a slight misgiving:
“Is Louis So and So still living?
Fashions in beauty have a way
Of altering from day to day.
Is ‘Handsome Louis’ with us yet?
Unfortunately I forget.
Next morning (nose to window pane)

The doubt occurred to him again.
One question hammered in his head:
“Is he alive or is he dead?”
Thus, nose to pane, he pondered; but
The lattice window, loosely shut,
Swung open. With one startled “Oh!”
Our Teddy disappeared below.”

There happened to be passing by
A plump man with a twinkling eye,
Who, seeing Teddy in the street,
Raised him politely to his feet,
And murmured kindly in his ear
Soft words of comfort and of cheer:
“Well, well!” “Allow me!” “Not at all.”
“Tut-tut! A very nasty fall.”

Our Teddy answered not a word;
It’s doubtful if he even heard.
Our bear could only look and look:
The stout man in the picture-book!
That ‘handsome’ King – could this be he,
This man of adiposity?
“Impossible,” he thought. “But still,
No harm in asking. Yes I will!”

“Are you,” he said, “by any chance
His Majesty the King of France?”
The other answered, “I am that,”
Bowed stiffly, and removed his hat;
Then said, “Excuse me,” with an air,
“But is it Mr Edward Bear?”
And Teddy, bending very low,
Replied politely, “Even so!”

They stood beneath the

window there,
The King and Mr Edward Bear,
And, handsome, if a trifle fat,
Talked carelessly of this and that….
Then said His Majesty, “Well, well,
I must get on,” and rang the bell.
“Your bear, I think,” he smiled. “Good-day!”
And turned, and went upon his way.

A bear, however hard he tries,
Grows tubby without exercise.
Our Teddy Bear is short and fat,
Which is not to be wondered at.
But do you think it worries him
To know that he is far from slim?
No, just the other way about –
He’s proud of being short and stout.

Or listen to this 1929 sound recording by the Dominion Gramophone Company in which Milne reads the third chapter of his classic, “In Which Pooh and Piglet Go Hunting and Nearly Catch a Woozle,” or the movie A Bear Named Winnie with Stephen Fry and Michael Fassender. 
Of all the stories written about teddy bears over the generations, the adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Michael Bond’s Paddington Bear are arguably the most enduring and to discover that Winne was real, and had a life and following long before Disney discovered it, will delight both young and not-so-young.  A must-have book for any fan. 
Originally published February 16, 2016
Updated February 2023

Bunny’s First Christmas





Bunny's First Christmas

Bunny’s First Christmas











Bunny’s First Christmas

Enid Blyton

Becky Cameron

Hodder Children’s, 2022

32pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99


As Christmas approaches, most of the toys in the toyshop are excited to be going to new homes. But Bunny, the littlest one, is worried. He can’t imagine life outside the shop or without his best friend, the sailor doll. When Bunny is selected as a present to be given away at a Boxing Day party, he hopes desperately to go to kind children. Luckily, a happy surprise is in store for him!

Despite it being nearly a century since Enid Blyton was at her writing peak, her stories like this one never date – they still delight little children who revel in the magic and charm of Christmas.  That so many of her books remain in print, have been translated into 90 languages and have sold over 600 000 000 copies is testament to the quality of her stories and the pleasure they offer.  This is just one of many that have endured taking  the reader into a world where toys talk and come alive to have adventures and feelings, just as they do. Who hasn’t worried about not knowing anyone, making new friends or being left out of the fun?

A classic that deserves to be. 


A Very Play School Christmas





A Very Play School Christmas

A Very Play School Christmas











A Very Play School Christmas

Jan Stradling

Jedda Robaard

ABC Books, 2022

24pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


Since it first aired on Australian television on 18 July 1966, the toys of Play School have shared so many adventures with young children and now they are back to spend Christmas together at Jemima’s caravan park.  

Young children will delight in seeing the familiar friends share the joys and fun of an Australian Christmas as they take part in the Christmas present hunt and lucky dip.

And given that is more than 55 years since we first met them, this is one to add to the favourites collection to be shared and shared again, perhaps even 55 from years from now! 

The Magic Faraway Tree: A New Adventure

The Magic Faraway Tree: A New Adventure

The Magic Faraway Tree: A New Adventure











The Magic Faraway Tree: A New Adventure

Jacqueline Wilson

Mark Beech

Hodder Children’s, 2022

285pp., hbk., RRP $A35.00


2856pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Seventy-plus years ago, the stories of Enid Blyton were the core of the young child’s reading diet.  A trip in the magic wishing chair or a visit to a land through the mysterious cloud above a huge tree were a much-anticipated part of the bedtime routine introducing us to the fantasy genre and leading us on to read series like The Famous Five and The Secret Seven  or any other of her 700 books and 2000 short stories for ourselves. 

Such were the memories made that that generation went on to share her work with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and some, like me, went on to become teachers and shared them with a new class of fans every year for 50 years!!! So to discover that Jacqueline Wilson had been given permission to weave new adventures among the branches of the Faraway Tree so new, modern readers can share the magic and mystery made this high on my list of review requests.  And I’ve had my nose in it all afternoon not only meeting the new and familiar characters like Silky, Moonface, the Saucepan Man and Dame Washalot among others but recalling my own introduction to them all those years ago and the joy and wonder I’ve brought to children over the years when I have shared them.  

In this new adventure, Milo, Mia and Birdy are on a countryside holiday when they wander into an Enchanted Wood and following a rabbit who can speak to them through the thick forest with its mysterious whispering leaves, discover a beautiful tree that stands high above the rest. The Magic Faraway Tree is home to many remarkable creatures including a fairy called Silky, her best friend Moonface and more. Little Birdy is only too happy to find that fairies are real. Even her older brother and sister are soon won over by the magic of the Faraway Tree and the extraordinary places they discover above it.

Keeping true to the original concept, including the writing style, this is both a nostalgic visit to past pleasures as well as the gateway to reading the entire series which remains in print.  IMO, this is one of the best series to introduce young readers to reading novels because each chapter is pretty much complete in itself making it ideal for a both a read-aloud session and a read-alone session, yet there is the continuity of both the storyline and the characters to be able to pick it up and set it down without having to orient yourself to a whole new read.  While there is drama in each chapter . the plot remains straightforward so there are not too many twists and turns to confuse the novice reader. 

My well-thumbed, well-read 1971 editions of the series have pride of place on my bookshelf, and this new adventure will be sitting there with them too, ready for when my grandchildren are ready to read it to theirs.  Hachette, the publishers, kindly sent me a hardcover version but it is also available in paperback at a more accessible price so more generations can lose themselves in the magic.  

Diary of a Rescued Wombat

Diary of a Rescued Wombat

Diary of a Rescued Wombat












Diary of a Rescued Wombat – The Untold Story

Jackie French

Bruce Whatley

HarperCollins, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


Twenty years ago, a baby wombat was rescued from its burrow in southern New South Wales and began a story that not only continues today through the adventures of her granddaughter Wild Whiskers posted on Jackie’s FB page,  but which brought a whole new dimension to the stories published for preschoolers at the time. For despite Diary of a Wombat  being simple one-word captions accompanying Bruce Whatley’s adorable illustrations, those words told a story, endeared the character to the readers and left them wanting more.  And despite being simple one-word captions accompanying Bruce Whatley’s adorable illustrations, that book was loved by all ages and went on to win the Young Australian Readers’ Award (along with a host of others) for that year, an award for which I was co-coordinator but which was entirely decided by the reviews and votes of children throughout Australia.  

Since then, as well as being made into a stage presentation and having a commemorative coin minted to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its publication, Diary of a Wombat is now a must-have staple in the collection of any new-born baby, as familiar and as loved as Grandma Hush and Poss, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie and a small handful of others who have survived the test of generations. 

But what led Mothball to become such a part of Jackie French’s family and for her descendants to be as loved as she is?

In this new book, Jackie and Bruce take the reader back to where it all began, to where little Mothball was initially rescued and how she developed a love of carrots (but not so much for toilet paper) and how she learned she could train the humans she lived with to do her bidding.  In a world full of prequels and sequels, in my opinion, this is one of the best prequels ever!!!  And not just because it is charming and engaging and brings back so many memories including the beginning of a long-standing personal friendship with the author, but because of the joy and wonder and awareness that it is going to bring to another generation of children as the wombat is cited as being the most endearing of Australia’s indigenous creatures by so many.  

In her book The Fire Wombat , Jackie tells of the impact that the fires that ravaged the landscape three years ago had on the wildlife; but now our country has been devastated by floods and many wombat burrows and other habitats are under threat again.  How many other little Mothballs are there that now need our help, our care and our support?  By telling the original story in this way, so that both books go hand in hand, a new generation of readers is going to feel a similar connection to these creatures and thus ensure their safety and survival.  

The memory of Miss 6 sitting up in bed beside Miss 2 and reading Diary of a Wombat to her, one of the first she had ever read independently and was so determined to share with her little sister, is one of my most precious.  So my review copy is going to be in a special Santa Sack this Christmas, even though the girls are now 16 and 12, and it will be as warmly welcomed there as it will be by any other little (or big) reader who is given it. 


Where’s Wally?

Where's Wally?

Where’s Wally?











Where’s Wally?

Where’s Wally? The Super Six

boxed set, six books + puzzle & poster.,  RRP $A69.99



Where’s Wally? At the Movies Activity Book

24pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99



Martin Handford

Walker Books 2021-2022

One of the most enduring memories from my days in the library is watching groups of young boys, particularly, racing in at lunchtime to get hold of a Where’s Wally book and then being bunched around a table, heads together, eagerly being the first to spot him amongst all the other incredible busyness on the page. They were so popular that they had to be on the Not For Loan shelf, and I can still hear the shouts of delight as new discoveries were made – often not even involving the finding of Wally, but something else intriguing. So as well as developing their visual acuity, so important for discerning letters and words accurately and interpreting details in illustrations, they were thoroughly engaged in a print resource at a time when the personal screen was just emerging as the entertainment-du-jour.

So it is grand that Walker Books have just released a compendium of six of the classic titles – Where’s Wally?, Where’s Wally Now?; Fantastic Journey; Where’s Wally in Hollywood?; The Wonder Book and The Great Picture Hunt–  all in the original large size format and at a price that allows libraries and families who don’t have these basics to afford them.

Then, as well, there is the new Where’s Wally? At the Movies Activity Book in which readers can visit the sound stage to watch a song and dance rehearsal, plan out your own film plots in the writers’ room, choose a star-studded cast, then step on to the red carpet for a glitzy, glamorous movie premiere through an array of games, puzzles, searches and stickers.

There are a handful of series of books that were available 20 years ago that I credit with getting a generation of reluctant readers to engage with text and start a lifelong journey of reading – the incredible work of Martin Handford in the Where’s Wally series is one of them.

The Ugliest Dog in the World 30th Anniversary Edition

The Ugliest Dog in the World

The Ugliest Dog in the World













The Ugliest Dog in the World 30th Anniversary Edition

Bruce Whatley

HarperCollins. 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


As the clock ticks around, and pages are pulled off the calendar, it seems no time at all when a favourite that surely was just released yesterday, celebrates an important anniversary.  Last week it was the 120th anniversary of Peter Rabbit, this time it’s Bruce Whatley’s The Ugliest Dog in the World. Surely it’s not 30 years since I first heard the hoot of children’s laughter as they pored over the hilarious text and illustrations in this classic! I particularly remember the kids labelling the “lady next door” as Ms …  (a colleague) “because she looks just like her!” Out of the mouths of babes, and, in this case, some things can’t be unheard – even 30 years on.

This is the perfect book for teaching this generation about ‘beauty being in the eye of the beholder”, that everyone views the same thing differently, and that body image really doesn’t matter.  And even if the dog doesn’t meet the standards for Crufts, it still brings love and joy to its owner and that’s all that matters. 

Only the best books endure, and this is one of those.



The Tale of Peter Rabbit 120th Anniversary

The Tale of Peter Rabbit 120th Anniversary

The Tale of Peter Rabbit 120th Anniversary











The Tale of Peter Rabbit 120th Anniversary

Beatrix Potter

Warne, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A16.99


In 1902 publishers Frederick Warne & Co. took a punt on publishing a children’s book that had been privately printed but rejected by other publishers.  

Not only were the stories of Peter Rabbit and the infamous Mr McGregor’s garden were available to children around the world, but also their iconic format of small books with white covers, glossy pages and lots of white space around the pictures and text.  Now, in 2022, a new edition – this time with a splendid gold cover – has been issued to mark the 120th anniversary of that first publication.  

This is the original tale with Peter at his most adventurous, cheekiest and lovable self as he wriggles into Mr. McGregor’s garden, with Beatrix Potter’s original text and her beautifully engaging illustrations but in a new, larger format, that allows families to share the stories together.

When it was first released, creator Beatrix Potter patented a Peter Rabbit doll in 1903 and followed it almost immediately with a Peter Rabbit board game. becoming one of the first to introduce broader merchandise to accompany the core product and thus Peter has featured on a range of goods for both children and adults, including toys, dishes, foods, clothing, and movies, thus establishing his familiarity and popularity with succeeding generations.  

If you, or someone you know, is establishing a library of must-have children’s classics, then this is an essential. And having whet the appetite, continue to share the joy with the others in her repertoire

Book 1: The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902)
Book 2: The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin (1903)
Book 3: The Tailor of Gloucester (1903)
Book 4: The Tale of Benjamin Bunny (1904)
Book 5: The Tale of Two Bad Mice (1904)
Book 6: The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle (1905)
Book 7: The Tale of The Pie and the Patty-Pan (1905)
Book 8: The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher (1906)
Book 9: The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit (1906)
Book 10: The Story of Miss Moppet (1906)
Book 11: The Tale of Tom Kitten (1907)
Book 12: The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck (1908)
Book 13: The Tale of Samuel Whiskers (1908)
Book 14: The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies (1909)
Book 15: The Tale of Ginger and Pickles (1909)
Book 16: The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse (1910)
Book 17: The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes (1911)
Book 18: The Tale of Mr. Tod (1912)
Book 19: The Tale of Pigling Bland (1913)
Book 20: Appley Dapply’s Nursery Rhymes (1917)
Book 21: The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse (1918) 
Book 22: Cecily Parsley’s Nursery Rhymes (1922)
Book 23: The Tale of Little Pig Robinson (1930)

And don’t forget the recently-discovered Book 24 – The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots

And in serendipity, this post from A Mighty Girl with lots of info and links to works about Beatrix Potter, herself…

Today’s A Mighty Girl Community Pick is in celebration of Women’s History Month: “Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit” by Linda Marshall. When Beatrix Potter was growing up, girls weren’t supposed to do… well, much of anything. They didn’t go to school and were expected to stay at home and keep house — but Beatrix wanted to do more. The nature-loving girl had a gift for drawing and writing, and grew up to write a story about a naughty rabbit named Peter that became a tremendous success. So when developers threatened the countryside that she loved, she used the money from her books to purchase acres and acres of land in England’s Lake District, leaving it in a trust so that future generations could enjoy it as much as she did. This gorgeously illustrated picture book biography celebrates Beatrix Potter’s many accomplishments, including her little-known contribution to saving the countryside that inspired her beloved stories. Highly recommended for ages 5 to 9.
For another fascinating picture book telling her story, we also recommend “Beatrix Potter, Scientist” for ages 5 to 9.
To share her inspiring story with older kids, we recommend the illustrated biography “Who Was Beatrix Potter?” for ages 8 to 12 while adult fans of Beatrix Potter and her many books will love “Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life“and “Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature
For more children’s books about girls who love exploring the great outdoors, visit our blog post, “Explore Your World: 30 Mighty Girl Books About Outdoor Discovery” 

The Velveteen Rabbit

The Velveteen Rabbit

The Velveteen Rabbit











The Velveteen Rabbit

Margery Williams Bianco

Hélène Magisson

New Frontier, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A14.99


Sitting at the top of the Boy’s Christmas stocking is a stuffed rabbit, sewn in a snuggly fabric called velveteen, and by far the most impressive present amongst the nuts, oranges, chocolate almonds and a clockwork mouse.  But in a time of new-fangled mechanical toys the wonder doesn’t last long and the Velveteen Rabbit is soon discarded for toys with more whizbangery and it sits forlorn and forgotten in the nursery.

Wondering what it has done to deserve this fate, it confides in wise Skin Horse that he longs to be a real rabbit.  Skin Horse tells him that toys do become real when they are loved by children.  But the chances of that happening seem unlikely until the Boy becomes ill with scarlet fever and his nanny gives him the rabbit for company…

Reimagined with new illustrations in the softest of palettes, this is a classic story  first published in 1922, that epitomises this year’s CBCA Book week theme of Dreaming with eyes open.  It is not only quite an intense story with a number of twists and turns meaning it is probably one better shared and discussed with a child over a few sessions, but as with the stories of that era, it was intended to teach young children lessons about life and there are a number of these embedded in the narrative.  So it throws up issues such as whether one’s looks really matter – it is who we are rather than what we look like; that there are hills and dales and ups and downs in everyone’s life and having the resilience to see them through shapes who we are and builds us for the next drama; that loving someone can be painful and that it can mean letting them go; to be careful what you wish for because the grass may not always be greener; and most importantly, IMO, is that who we are is enough.  We don’t need to depend on the validation of others for our self-worth and confidence.

It might even spark a philosophical discussion about reality – what is real and how do we distinguish between the various versions of reality that the author presents with such conviction and so convincingly? If reading is dreaming with your eyes open, where is the border? 


Eric Carle’s Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and Other Nursery Rhymes

Eric Carle's Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and Other Nursery Rhymes

Eric Carle’s Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and Other Nursery Rhymes











Eric Carle’s Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and Other Nursery Rhymes

Eric Carle

Penguin, 2022

10pp., board book., RRP $A19.99


Children learn their mother tongue by listening to it, playing with it and sharing it and hence rhymes like those in this book have endured over generations because of the rhythm and repetition than encourages them to engage all their senses.  Added to that there is often the bonus experience of sitting on the lap of a loved someone and sharing something that goes beyond the exchange of sounds and syllables.

There would be few young children who are not familiar with The Very Hungry Caterpillar and so to have this little critter wandering in and out of the pages of this book, illustrated in Carle’s distinctive style and palette will have surefire appeal.  Add to that, the fun of lifting the flaps to discover what is underneath and all in all this is a wonderful addition to the libraries of our youngest readers.  

Five rhymes feature – “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” “Hickory Dickory Dock,” “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider,” and “The Wheels on the Bus.” – carefully chosen because each focuses on something the little one can relate to and by using the technique of not disclosing the final line until the flap is lifted, there is plenty of opportunity for the child to predict what might be uncovered, thereby not only showing off their existing knowledge but also having power over the print!

Ideal for those who know the VHC already but for those who don’t, it opens up a whole new reading experience as they discover his adventures!  There’s a reason the little character has endured since 1969!