Paddington by Michael Bond

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Paddington by Michael Bond

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Category: For Sharing
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Magda Healey
Reviewed by Magda Healey
Summary: The iconic marmalade-loving bear in a duffle coat makes his first appearance in this abridged for younger children version of the original. The illustrations are dynamic and bring the story to life, while shorter & simpler text makes this book a good way to introduce younger readers to Paddington.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 32 Date: April 2007
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
ISBN: 978-0007236336

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Paddington Bear is one of these enduring classics, a fantasy creature that entered the shared cultural consciousness. I read his stories in translation as a child in Communist Poland, and they are still popular now. This particular picture book is a re-issue of the 40th birthday edition, richly illustrated by R.W. Alley, and presents what was the first chapter of the original first volume of Paddington's adventures, the story of his arrival in Britain and at the Brown's family house at 32 Windsor Gardens.

As we all should know, Paddington was found by the Brown family at the station of the same name, sitting on a suitcase, with a tag saying "please look after this bear" attached to his coat. He has arrived from Darkest Peru, as his Aunt Lucy has gone to live in the Home for Retired Bears in Lima. The first story is also one of the best ones, and it has the typical paddingtonian humour, partially slapstick, partially situational. The hapless bear causes a bit of mayhem at the station cafe and then there is the question of having a bath...

I have once heard that the original Paddington (1958) was created partially in response to the first large wave of non-white immigration in the UK, as a way of evoking empathy and understanding (while at the same time subtly reinforcing the message of the superiority of then still very much alive British imperial culture). But to me Paddington Bear, and certainly in this book, is much more like a child: impulsive, largely unaware of side effects of his own activities, just beginning to learn the complicated rules of being an independent person, polite conventions, but still rather at loss as to how to do things in a 'proper' way. Small children will delight in the images of Paddington surfing on cream buns, dripping custard onto the drivers coat & will probably remember their own shaving foam drawings on the bathroom floor (and walls, and mirror, and the door...).

The text is abridged and thus substantially simplified. This is both a Bad Thing (as it loses a lot of style) and a Good Thing, as it makes the story more suited to picture-book reading audience. I would love to say that it's hard to believe that Paddington is almost 50 years old, alas, it's not. The original Paddington has aged a bit: not in his essential appeal, but the milieu our Bear in the Hat inhabits and the language that goes with that milieu is now a little bit dated and thus more difficult for children to understand. His readers 50 years ago would be well acquainted with many things that might be rather alien to modern children. But this picture book, in its simpler format, doesn't pose these problems.

The illustrations are bright, very dynamic and stay just this side of Watchtower realism. All the humans are a little bit too nice looking & earnestly interested for my personal liking, but one has to say that for a small child, they would bring the story to life very well.

For children who might find the text-only (or text-with-and-odd-drawing) Paddington too heavy going, or to introduce the younger ones to Paddington, it's ideal. Generally, it's not a bad picture book for the transitional period when children are too big for toddler picture books but might be just too young for the chapter-every-night stage yet.

Thanks to HarperCollinsChildren'sBooks for sending this book.

Other children's classics still going strong include Judith Kerr's Mog the Forgetful Cat and The Tiger Who Came to Tea as well as Dr Seuss' The Cat in the Hat.

Booklists.jpg Paddington by Michael Bond is in the Top Ten Timeless Picture Books To Treasure Forever.

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