Award: 2018 Finalist for The Governor General’s Award for Young People’s Literature – text
Upper elementary students who grew up loving “Winnie-the-Pooh” will be enchanted by this new historical fiction novel that tells the story of Captain Harry Colebourn and his adoption of a small, orphaned, black bear cub in northern Ontario in 1914. He named the cub Winnipeg – Winnie, for short. The novel explores all the adventures that Winnie might have had as the mascot of the Second Canadian Infantry Brigade, her friendships with soldiers of the Veterinary Corps, and with the horses they cared for, plus the experience of the sailing to England in 1944 to fight in the Great War. Unable to take her to France, Colbourne left Winnie in the care of the London Zoo for the duration of the war.
After the war, Christopher Robin Milne, and his father, became frequent visitors of Winnie at the zoo, and as a result of their visits invented many adventures that included Winnie, Christopher Robin, and his stuffed toy, Piglet. Christopher’s father, A.A. Milne, published the now classic “Winnie-the-Pooh” stories in 1926.
Winnie’s Great War is co-authored by Captain Colbourne’s great-granddaughter, Toronto author, Lindsay Mattick; and, Josh Greehut, Toronto author of many “Flat Stanley” books. The whimsical and touching, black and white pencil drawings that punctuate the text are by Caldecott Medal-winning illustrator, Sophie Blackall.
In addition to the story of Canada’s famous bear, young readers will gain historical facts and information about World War 1 – reference to famous battles, the role of horses in the Canadian Infantry, and the role of the Canadian Veterinary Corps. End pages include archival photographs and diary entries that have been preserved by several generations of Harry Colebourn’s family.
The conversational narrative style in this novel (between mother and her young son) will engage middle school readers as the plot unfolds and friendships develop between animals, and between Winnie and “her boys” in uniform. Themes of enduring friendship, bravery and courage predominate against the realities of war.
A useful novel to support Grade 5 Social Studies – Histories and Stories …of People in Canada