A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond, 170 pp, RL 3

With the new live action movie coming out at the end of this year, there is a renewed interest in Paddington, the wayward bear from Darkest Peru. The Paddington Treasury, a collection of six picture book stories about Paddington and the Browns, the family that finds him at Paddington Station in London and takes him in, is a new, lovely collection with illustrations by American R.W. Alley, the sixth illustrator to bring this bear to the page. For a look at the other artists who worked on Paddington, click here, a  comprehensive, visually appealing website dedicated to the bear. 

Peggy Fortnum provided the original pen and ink illustrations for Michael Bond's A Bear Called Paddington in 1958. Like other classic works of British children's literature from Winnie-the-Pooh to Mary Poppins, there are some slight cultural, historical differences (the sales clerk at the department store refers to Mrs. Brown as "Modom") that might need a little explaining or adapting, but overall, A Bear Called Paddington is still highly readable and very fun and definitely a great read-out-loud bedtime book that is written at a pace that also makes it perfect for new readers ready to move from chapter books onto something that requires a bit more stamina.

When Mr. and Mrs. Brown head to Paddington Station to pick up their daughter Judy, who is coming home for the school holidays, they don't expect to take an emigrant bear home with them as well. However, that "very rare sort of bear", with his small suitcase containing only a mostly-empty jar of orange marmalade, is taken in by the Browns, who name him after the place where they found him. A Bear Called Paddington is made up of chapters in which Paddington, who had previously lived with his Aunt Lucy (who taught him English with the hope he would emigrate to England when old enough and penned the label he wore around his neck for the journey) experiences and adjusts to life in a modern city as a member of a family. Using a modern bathroom is his first fish-out-of-water experience, followed by a trip on the underground, a visit to a department store and a vacation at the beach.

In the chapter 5, "Paddington and the 'Old Master,'" a new friend, Mr. Gruber, the owner of an antiques store on Portobello Road, near the Brown's home, shares some information with Paddington  that gives him some mistaken ideas about oil paintings. In what reads like an episode of Mr. Bean,  Paddington decides to do some investigating of his own. Mr. Gruber tells Paddington that works of Old Masters are sometimes hidden underneath newer paintings, leading Paddington to look for a painting under a painting on a canvas that Mr. Brown had planned to enter into an art show.

A Bear Called Paddington is a very fun read and the gentle kind of story that is hard to find in books written these days. Don't be put off by the movie or thrown off by the Browns and their children who go to boarding school and their house keeper and posh house in a posh neighborhood. Michael Bond's bear is thoughtful, creative, inventive and kind hearted and wonderful to spend time with!

Source: Review Copy

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