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

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by Lindsay Mattick and Sophie Blackall

I love this book for its words and its structure and its illustrations and its history, and I love that I got to stick a golden Caldecott Medal on its cover.

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From the Caldecott criteria:

The Medal shall be awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children published by an American publisher in the United States in English during the preceding year. There are no limitations as to the character of the picture book except that the illustrations be original work. Honor books may be named. These shall be books that are also truly distinguished.

Let’s look at this book’s distinguished pages. And a note: these are my opinions. It’s clear that the Calde-committee found many reasons to love this book, but there’s no way to know what the overlap is. That’s ok! But here’s what I find remarkable:

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A simple, striking case cover, reminiscent of Pooh-and-friends’ silhouettes in the A.A. Milne stories.

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An invitation to the (hundred acre?) wood on the endpapers. And see if you can spot the real-life owl and rabbit on the title page, a maybe-nod to the wise and spirited friends to Pooh himself.

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The way safe and tucked-in stories at night blur the line between awake and in dreams.

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The passage of time. (And an intriguing and evocative line of text by the author here does not hurt an ounce!)

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The way the real-life storytelling lives in black and white spot illustrations, juxtaposed with the full-bleed illustrations of the past.

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The emotion and pacing of decision-making, the kind that happens when your heart makes up your mind.

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This whole spread, which I loved for the daunting, fierce red of war, and then even more for the details of maritime flags which Sophie talks about here.

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Shifts in perspective that slip you into battle and hang on the edge of your seat.

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A second story, flawlessly entered. I love how this Bear and his boy are on the right-hand side of the spread too, and how it echoes a bear-to-boy lovelock from a few pages earlier.

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The return home, not as bustling as the crew that left for the war. An understated, powerful picture.

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This album, that’s been on the modern boy’s bedside table the whole time.

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The back cover, a mirror of the front. Bookends to the beginnings of a beloved story.

It is an exquisite book.

For more on Winnie, check out my post on All the Wonders. And don’t miss Sophie herself talking about the making of Winnie here, here, and here.

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8 Comments

  • Posted January 27, 2016 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    I’ve been a life-long Winnie-the-Pooh fan and had to read this book when I heard it came out. I fell in love and knew I had to have my own copy (wish I had a Caldecott medal I could stick on mine). I’m so glad Sophie Blackwell won this distinguished award for her lovely illustrations. I agree with your opinions, Carter. You have such a wonderful way of analyzing picture books and this one is no exception. Thank you for the post!

  • carterhiggins
    Posted January 27, 2016 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    Heather, email me your address and I’ll send you one! #librarianperks

  • Posted January 27, 2016 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    I missed Owl and Rabbit!

  • Posted January 27, 2016 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    I love Sophie’s books. Can’t wait to read this one! Thanks for the lovely preview!

  • carterhiggins
    Posted January 27, 2016 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    You’re so welcome! Thanks for stopping by!

  • Mr. Bellar's Class
    Posted February 22, 2016 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    It was great to see how Winnie acted like one of the soldiers. We were all shocked when Harry had to give Winnie to the zoo. We were also noticing that one of the soldiers lost their leg during the war. We were surprised to see how the stories in one book were related and intertwined. The album was amazing we were trying to figure out if those were drawings of real pictures or copies of actual pictures. We really LOVED this book it kept us on the edge of our seats wondering what would happen next!

  • carterhiggins
    Posted February 23, 2016 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Hi Mr. Bellar’s Class! I’m so glad you liked this story. I really did too. Aren’t books awesome?!

  • Mr. Bellar's Class
    Posted February 25, 2016 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Yes