Cindy: After a year on the 2015 Sibert Medal committee I said I was taking a short break from nonfiction, but when I saw the cover art, the title, and the name Sally Walker on Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh (2015), I just couldn’t resist. Last year saw the publication of many soldier-and-dog stories, including Ann Bausum’s Stubby the War Dog: The True Story of World War I’s Bravest Dog (2014)—but a bear?
Harry Colebourn, a Canadian Army Veterinary Corps lieutenant, had a chance meeting with a bear cub at a train station in 1914. He bought the cub for $20 and named him “Winnipeg” for the Corps’ hometown. Winnipeg became “Winnie” and Harry’s fast friend. The two were inseparable until the war took them too close to the battlefront and Harry made the hard decision to leave Winnie at the London Zoo. It was there that a young boy named Christopher Robin met a bear so gentle that children were allowed to pet and hand-feed him. That night, Christopher’s teddy bear got a new name, “Winnie-the-Pooh,” and his father, A. A. Milne, told him the first of many stories about a bear and boy—stories that children are still reading to this day….