Sunday, February 20, 2011

Review: A Bear Called Paddington

A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond, first published 1958, 128 pages

Tonight, I'm delighted to point the spotlight at one of my very favorite children's books. A Bear Called Paddington and its sequels are stories that have transitioned well for me: I loved them when I was a kid, and I appreciate them just as much (perhaps even more) as an adult.

Mr. and Mrs. Brown (your typical middle class British couple), first meet Paddington on a railway platform. When they learn that he has just emigrated from Darkest Peru and has nowhere to go, they promptly adopt him into their family, renaming him Paddington after the station where they found him. Hilarious misadventures ensue, from Paddington's nearly drowning in the bathtub, to his dabbling in high art, to his sailing across the Atlantic in a bucket. But no matter how bad things may look, they are sure to come right in the end. As Mrs. Bird, the Brown's crusty but gold-hearted housekeeper remarks, "Bears have a way of landing on their feet."

Although Paddington may look like a typical, cutesy animal hero, his character is surprisingly complex. Michael Bond describes him in this way:

"The great advantage of having a bear as a central character is that he can combine the innocence of a child with the sophistication of an adult. Paddington is not the sort of bear that would ever go to the moon - he has his paws too firmly on the ground for that. He gets involved in everyday situations. He has a strong sense of right and wrong and doesn't take kindly to the red tape bureaucracy of the sillier rules and regulations with which we humans surround ourselves. As a bear he gets away with things. Paddington is humanised, but he couldn't possibly be 'human'. It just wouldn't work."

I think this surprising sophistication is a large part of why I still enjoy the books. Interwoven with each of Paddington's child friendly adventures is an adult joke that pokes fun at the often silly ways we choose to run our society.

But even more than that, I love the sense of well being that pervades these stories. Although Paddington tumbles into a lot of tight spots, he gets back out of them with the help of his own self confidence and the assistance of his staunchly loyal friends. For Paddington, good will makes a good world, and although I wouldn't want to read myself into it all the time, it's nice to visit every so often and revel in the comfort that a good cup of cocoa and a chat with an understanding friend can bring.

Official Paddington Bear Web Site


  1. Aw, I loved Paddington Bear as a kid! My friend had a stuffed bear and I was so jealous!

  2. I liked the cartoon when I was younger but never read the book . . . but I corrected that oversight with my own children :-)

  3. I think I read this book as a kid and while I don't remember much of it, I remember the warm, fuzzy feelings it inspired. :)

    What are your feelings on Winnie the Pooh as compared to Paddington? Now I have to go back and re-read and compare myself...


  4. I loved these stories when I was little, and even as a teenager I had a stuffed bear I named Paddington (it looked like our school mascot).