Love from Paddington by Michael Bond

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Love from Paddington by Michael Bond

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A wonderful companion piece to all that has gone before – while it revisits some of the best-loved episodes, it also provides more.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 144 Date: April 2016
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780008164355

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Consider some of the more pertinent questions of literature. Would things have been better if Rhett Butler did give a damn? What would Jane Eyre have done if the men with the truth hadn't made the church in time? And, of course, how does a little bear with a fondness for marmalade actually turn up in Paddington Station, so very, very far from home? Well, while the actual short stories may never have answered any of those questions, this work does – in amongst suggesting why bears don't play cricket, and a host more. As a result it may have a very different structure to the original books of linked short stories, but it's just as wonderful and characterful.

What we get are, on the whole, Paddington's letters back to Aunt Lucy, still residing in Lima's Home for Retired Bears. They're gratefully accepted, it would appear, and brand new illustrations (quite luxurious ones, compared to the more scratchy and easy-going originals) show Lucy receiving and reading the missives with much pleasure. They come with Paddington's paw print courtesy of an ink pad he's been bought, and a number rather than the date they were written, as bears have no need of calendars. And they're all in pencil – the ones scratched out from chunks of marmalade are still at sea, and Paddington with his big paws cannot type at all well.

But what is surprising, considering the 1950s beginnings of this character, is that the possibility of them being printed on a computer, or even of being emails, is mentioned. Yes, it galls almost to see the series updated. Theatre programmes are four quid each, and that when it was decades ago the actual trip to the theatre happened – the only ancient-seeming thing here is that he gets interest on his bank account. For a lot of this book revisits old ground, but from the bear's point of view. Here he sincerely mentions the first night with the Browns, when he nearly flooded the place with an over-filled bath. Here he reports back to Peru about doing DIY – failing to hang wallpaper, and sawing through the neighbour's kitchen table. Here he is introducing Mr Gruber the friendly antiques dealer, in his own words.

That doesn't mean that this is all old-hat. There are some great quippy jokes for the young audience, for a start, and for a finish there's an actual letter back from Peru – but not written to Paddington, but to us. Books like this – companion pieces, DVD extras that are worthwhile becoming a full book in their own right – only come about because of the esteem and love for the original. So while this is different to the older books, and despite the modernisations, this is just as deserving of the status 'original'. And while it might not have such a punchy narrative style, it too will receive that esteem and love.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

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