A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
MARCH 26:

  • Happy birthday T. A. Barron (The Lost Years of Merlin), Julie Danneberg (First Day Jitters), and Jerry Pallotta (Apple Fractions).
  • It’s the birth date of Robert Frost (1874–1963). Read Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening illustrated by Susan Jeffers.
  • In 1830, The Book of Mormon was published in Palmyra, New York. Read Nauvoo: Mormon City on the Mississippi River by Raymond Bial.
  • The groundbreaking ceremony for Vietnam Veterans Memorial was held in Washington D.C. on this day in 1982. Read The Wall by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Ronald Himler.
  • It’s Make Up Your Own Holiday Day.

March has been set aside to celebrate the idea that “Humorists are Artists.” Funny books are among the hardest things to write for children—and often the writers get less respect than their more serious counterparts. I am, therefore, always happy when the Almanac can celebrate humor and humorists.

Published in 1958, Michael Bond’s A Bear Called Paddington has been making children and families chuckle for more than fifty years. As his creator states in the 50th anniversary edition of the book, Paddington the Bear from Darkest Peru has his head in the clouds, his feet on the ground, “and a strong sense of right and wrong.”

But like so many books of the fifties coming out of Britain, the Paddington saga had its roots in the experiences of the author during and before World War II. As a child Michael Bond watched newsreels of children being evacuated from London, with just a label around their neck and a suitcase. After the war, he began working for the BBC, monitoring services at Caversham Park where Polish and Russian refugees arrived.  During the day he worked as a cameraman on programs like Blue Peter for the BBC, and at night, in his spare time, he took these experiences and transformed them into delightfully funny stories.

A very polite stuffed toy, Paddington the Bear arrives in London with a suitcase and a tag around his neck that says, “Please look after this bear. Thank you.” Fortunately, he quickly gets adopted by the Brown family, and they name him after the station where they find him. Paddington, who loves marmalade and all types of food, manages to get himself and the Browns in various messes, sticky or otherwise. He behaves, in fact, like many two- or three-year-old children. On a shopping trip for new clothes, for instance, Paddington creates havoc while still managing to draw a lot of shoppers to the store—hence all is forgiven.

For more than fifty years, the book has been perfect as a read-aloud or first chapter book for those four through ten. The 50th anniversary edition contains glorious full-color art by Peggy Fortnum, the original illustrator of all the Paddington volumes. Ernest and thoughtful, but also a whirlwind, Paddington gets to do the kinds of things children might like to do—with none of the consequences.

Michael Bond admits to being inordinately fond of his creation, this free spirit who comes and goes as he pleases. “In my next life—if there is such a thing—I wouldn’t mind being a bear. Provided, of course, I could be a bear like Paddington.” Well, I have always been grateful that Michael Bond, who I got to travel with on book tour, was a polite and thoughtful writer rather than a bear. Today a tip of my hat to him and his best creation, Paddington the Bear. Michael Bond is a true artist—one who can make children and parents laugh, again and again.

Here’s a passage from A Bear Called Paddington:

Paddington had found the paints in a cupboard under the stairs. A whole box of them. There were reds and greens and yellows and blues. In fact, there were so many different colors it was difficult to know which to choose first.

He wiped the brush carefully on his hat and tried another color, and then another. It was all so interesting that he thought he would try a bit of each, and he very soon forgot the fact that he was supposed ot be painting a picture.

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Originally posted March 26, 2012. Updated for .

Tags: Animals, Bears, London
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for A Bear Called Paddington
One year ago: Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle
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COMMENTS

  1. jama says:

    The 30+ Paddingtons I live with and I thank you very much for this beary wonderful post. They send their love and extra fancy marmalade to you!!

  2. Star says:

    Oh, I love this silly bear! I still have a stuffed Paddington Bear that my parents got me when I was a tot. My own girls play with it now!

  3. AStevens says:

    I love Paddington!! Thank you for this post.

  4. Eliza says:

    The Paddington Bear stories are so full of charm, heart, and humor. I love the scrapes he gets into and how he always lands on top. I hope this post brings more readers to these stories. They’re perfect read-aloud stories. Kids still love them and find them funny. But only the ones written by Michael Bond. There have been Paddington Bear stories written by other authors but they don’t have the charm of the originals.

    I have the 50th anniversary edition you mention. It is truly lovely. I bought it to give as a baby gift but had to buy another one for myself. Peggy Fortnum’s illustrations are fabulous.

    Michael Bond has also written a series of adult culinary mysteries featuring Monsieur Pamplemousse, a Michelin Star type restaurant critic, and his faithful bloodhound Pommes Frites, which are also funny.

  5. Thanks so much for this! We just chose this book for our kids reading club this month and I am sooo excited to read it again myself.

  6. G. Perry says:

    Silly old bear.

    Kindred spirits we are.

    How I love him.

    Hold him close. Read him out loud to little people and to yourself, over and over. Such benevolent soul warmth doesn’t come along often.

    Children are so enriched to have this treasure. Even if like me, you find it in adulthood you’d think it wouldn’t have as much force. Well, It’s glorious and grand for this big kid, and a great Rx of self-care.

    Silly old bear.

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