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

City of Light

City of Light

City of Light











City of Light

Julia Lawrinson

Heather Potter & Mark Jackson

Wild Dog Books, 2023 

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


February 20, 1962 and astronaut John Glenn is about to become the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth in a spaceship.  From his viewpoint he will be able to see big things, huge things, giant things like the Pyramids, the Amazon, and the Grand Canyon. But how will he see a little boy and a little girl in a little street, in a suburb in a small city like Perth?  There is a way – and he did!

This is a story based on the true story of how Perth turned its lights on to say hello to John Glenn and capture the excitement of one of the first forays into space by humans. It tells of a simpler time when life was very different and such events were huge news, and how the idea of two small children captured the imagination and brought a community together.  

For those of us who remember a time when the world really was a smaller place without television, let alone the internet and a 24/7 news cycle, life was very different and apart from exploring the enormity of this event in itself, readers are also taken back to that time through both the illustrations and the text – the time that their grandparents were children and could have been those kids in the story.  Teachers’ notes offer lots of ideas to compare and contrast the times including imagining how they might signal a spacecraft passing overhead in 2023.   Would  they run around the neighbourhood in an era of phones and text and email? A purposeful way of examining how a specific timeframe and context shape the storytelling.  

But as well as being an account of a real event, it is also a story of hope. Because amid the constant bombardment of overwhelming commentary of climate change, plastic pollution, the cost-of-living and more immediate disasters like the earthquake in Türkiye-Syria, our young readers need to know that they can have ideas and do things that will change big things, even in a small way.  But that small way can grow into something that becomes momentous.  

Lots of potential for lots of exploration of so many topics





Say No To Plastic

Say No To Plastic

Say No To Plastic











Say No To Plastic

Ned & Shane Heaton

Tamzin Barber

Little Steps, 2022

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95


Use less plastic, every day.
“Be the Change.” Start today.
The ocean should be clean and blue.
But who’s it up to? Me and YOU

Young readers are invited to join Heidi the Piedy, Roy the Boy and Fran his Nan as they travel from their favourite beach to New York City, to talk to the world’s nations about plastic pollution. and to learn that sometimes, the smallest voice can have the strongest message. 

Written in rhyme with integrated activities that offer opportunities to interact with the text, this is another which focuses on the impact of plastics in the environment and particularly the ocean.  While New York may seem to be remote from the Australian classroom, nevertheless this demonstrates the global nature of the problem and offers suggestions that even our youngest children can do to help. 

As well as consolidating the problem of plastic, it also offers the opportunity to compare and contrast two  texts with a similar message and audience for purpose, style and impact enabling students to become more critical readers. 

The Odd Fish

The Odd Fish

The Odd Fish











The Odd Fish

Naomi Jones

James Jones 

Farshore, 2022

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


When Little Fish and her family encounter an odd new fish bobbing along on its own, they embark on an exciting journey to reunite it with its family. But young readers will immediately see what Little Fish cannot – that Odd Fish is a plastic bottle and just an infinitesimal piece of the millions of tonnes of plastic that find their way into waterways and oceans each year and which have also entangled Octopus and given Turtle a tummy ache because they can’t tell the difference either. 

The issue of everlasting plastic objects in our oceans is becoming one of the hottest environmental problems both for the planet and the curriculum, so this story which draws direct connections between action and consequence for young readers is important in bringing it down to a level that they can understand and appreciate.  And thus they can be empowered to do something, no matter how small that might seem.  

Created as a consequence of the authors watching Blue Planet II  with their young family, as well as building awareness of what might happen if we throw that bottle in the water it offers suggestions for ways that even they can do their little bit, even if it’s just collecting their soft drink bottles and taking them to the recycling centre, perhaps even taking advantage of the Container Deposit Scheme. 

Apart from building awareness of the global implications of the environmental issue, this would also be a good text for examining the authors’ purpose for writing and how the text has been created to spread a particular message to a particular audience…

Colonial Settlement: France vs Britain

Colonial Settlement: France vs Britain

Colonial Settlement: France vs Britain












Colonial Settlement: France vs Britain

What If History of Australia (series)

Craig Cormick

Cheri Hughes

Big Sky, 2022

190pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


As the dust begins to settle on the media coverage of the controversy over the date, events and perceptions of Australia Day, as the debate and  vote on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice  referendum  gathers momentum, it will flare up again and again. 

But had Captain Cook not landed here in 1770 and claimed this land for the British, would it have been left untouched by all except the First Nations people until now? What if Captain Cook’s ship sank when it hit the Great Barrier Reef in 1770? And what if the French settled Australia first? And what if King Louis 16th and Napoleon both ended up here, fighting over who was the rightful ruler in exile? And then the British arrived…

This is a new series (the second focuses on the gold rush) that looks at Australia’s history through a different lens, posing those alternative questions that we encourage students to ask as they delve deeper into common topics and start to form their own opinions.  As well as posing the questions, it also explores the possible answers such as what if John Batman’s treaty with the indigenous peoples of what is now Melbourne was legitimate and other treaties were initiated because of it. What if La Perouse had beaten the First Fleet into Port Jackson, would the aristocrats fleeing the French Revolution have settled here, including King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

While it is intended as a humorous look at times past, nevertheless it provides a lot of information not usually found in more traditional historical texts, and its value in encouraging our students to pose alternative questions and consider what might occur if there were a different outcome has value across all branches of the curriculum.  If we are to encourage them to be creative and critical learners  then they must have access to model texts that do this.  While it is more for those who are mentally mature enough to put themselves in the shoes of others and consider different points of view, it definitely has a place in both the primary and secondary school libraries. 















Pollination – How Does My Garden Grow?

Chris Cheng

Danny Snell

CSIRO Publishing, 2023

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


When you live high up in an apartment in the city, it can be easy to take things like your food and clothing for granted, but take a trip to your grandparents in the suburbs and your eyes can be opened and your thinking changed entirely!

For even though young city kids might now know that bees are important, in this intriguing book they learn not only of the bees’ critical role in the survival of the planet as they flit from flower to flower, but also all the other pollinators who carry the precious gold dust – appropriate that it is gold, in the scheme of things – from plant to plant, not only providing food for humans but also for their own kind so that the cycle can continue on.  So, just as pollination itself is essential to the survival of the world’s ecosystems, so it is essential that we protect the pollinators.  As the child learns, something as simple as placing a bright-coloured flower in a pot on a balcony can contribute.

Linked to the Science strand of the Australian Curriculum, particularly the Biological Sciences understanding that “Living things grow, change and have offspring similar to themselves ” as well as being used in conjunction with Bee Detectives,  Plantastic,The Butterfly and the Ants     and Wonderful Wasps, this is an excellent foundation for helping our youngest readers understand a concept that many adults wouldn’t believe they could even pronounce!

Extra notes and some suggestions at the end of the story offer further information as well as some ideas for the best plants to put in a “Pollinators Paradise” if the school were to go down the path of creating a special, year-round garden to attract and protect the local pollinators.  Imagine the investigations that would spark…


Questions and Answers about Money

Questions and Answers about Money

Questions and Answers about Money











Questions and Answers about Money

Lara Bryan

Marie-Eve Tremblay

Usborne, 2023

14pp., board book., RRP $A19.99


At a time when a kids’ book about money, Barefoot Kidssells more copies in its first week than the controversial memoir of a popular prince, the release and review of this new title from the ever-reliable Usborne would seem very relevant.

In its lift-the-flap, question-and-answer format it introduces readers to all sorts of aspects of this daily essential from its early history to earning, managing and spending it. In an era where click-and-buy is so accessible, even to our children, understanding more than the recognition of coins and notes is essential and so this has been written in consultation with a British expert so that children can start to build a solid foundation for future money management.

As is usual with Usborne publications, it comes with pre-selected Quicklinks so readers can take their investigations further and as a precursor to Scott Pape’s Barefoot Kids, it is a winner.  An essential part of  the library’s collection to support the maths curriculum.


Alphabetical Sydney

Alphabetical Sydney

Alphabetical Sydney











Alphabetical Sydney

Antonia Pesenti

Hilary Bell

NewSouth, 2022

56pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


This is our Sydney, the brightest and best of it,
North to the south to the east and the west of it.
Bats and cicadas, lawn bowls and the zoo,
This is our town. Let us share it with you.

As the holidays stretch out, this might be the perfect book to share with young readers to plan what they might do for the next few weeks.  For those in Sydney it could become a checklist of things to see, do and visit, ticking off each item as it is discovered, some of which are as easy as going outside.  While it has places such as Luna Park and the Harbour Bridge, it also has entries like J for Jacaranda and N for nature strip and even learning that Vinegar is a quick antidote for bluebottle stings! And who hasn’t needed U for Umbrella in recent days?  Meanwhile those in other places could be challenged to start building their own alphabet of their region, perhaps creating something that could be offered to the local Information Centre as a guide for tourists – practical and purposeful.

This is the 10th anniversary edition of this gem that offers all sorts of potential once you start thinking about it beyond just a rhyming read. 


Which Egg?

Which Egg?

Which Egg?











Which Egg?

Roxane Gajadhar

Rob Foote

Little Steps, 2022

28pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95


When a huge wind blows the eggs of Stork, Parrot and Crocodile off their nests so they all end up in a jumble,  who knows which egg is which? Luckily, they have the sense and patience to wait for the eggs to hatch, and sure enough they are able to tell which baby belongs to which parent.

 Even though the theme of whose egg is whose is familiar, nevertheless it sets up all sorts of investigations for young children to follow.  Stork, Crocodile and Parrot each mentions a particular characteristic that their baby will have to enable them to identify them so not only could the child predict what that might be, but they could also think about what might be the significant indicator for other creatures they know, such as a zebra having stripes, and maybe setting up a parent-child matching game.  This could lead to them looking at themselves and their parents and seeing what of which they share.

More broadly they could start to develop their research skills by investigating which creatures hatch from eggs – clearly it’s not just birds. Chickens Aren’t the Only Ones was always my go-to text for this  and the children were always fascinated with what they learned, often leading into questions about their own origins.  

This is another story evolving from The Book Hungry Bears television show in which the main characters share picture books, hungry to learn all they can from those they settle down to share together, encouraging young readers to do the same and which is becoming one of my favourite series for young readers because of the places they can go because of their reading.

Book of the Microscope

Book of the Microscope

Book of the Microscope











Book of the Microscope

Alice James

Usborne, 2022

64pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


Give a little child a magnifying glass and you will entertain them for hours.

Give a little child a pair of binoculars and you will entertain them for days,

But give them a microscope and you will entertain them weeks, if not a lifetime.

There is something fascinating that draws little people into looking at little things, so much smaller than they are and which captures their interest and imagination.  How well I remember the times it was our turn to have the school’s class set of microscopes and the anticipation and oy of discoveries made.  It didn’t surprise me that now Miss 16 had a microscope and a telescope on her Santa lists when she was but a babe!

So this book which explains what a microscope is, how it works and how to use it will be a welcome companion to a gift of the real thing. There are so many things to look at in and around the home that it can be overwhelming but with brilliant illustrations and accessible text, the reader is directed to focus on specific things such as the shapes and textures of thinks like moss or pollen and thus when they choose their own investigations they have learned the sorts of things to look for and at. There are even projects such as peeling a leaf or growing body bacteria  so the budding scientist is even more actively engaged.

Apart from being a brilliant suggestion for keeping young readers entranced as the long summer holidays approach, being an Usborne publication means there are safe links to follow to learn and discover more including using a virtual microscope.  

As well, the TL’s best friend Peter Macinnis still endorses the GoMicro, a device that attaches to a smart phone and for which he has written a series of free lessons for kids to use to explore the world around them.   More information about the device and how it can be purchased and used in schools (included purchasing a class set for $270) is here  or contact Peter directly for the teaching notes.