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.
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