241 pages. Illustrated by Sophie Blackall. Family archive (appendix with photos).
As it turns out, the fictional Winnie the Pooh was inspired by a zoo bear named Winnie (short for Winnipeg), which a young Christopher Robin visited.
But how did a Canadian bear cub end up in a London zoo? An orphaned female bear cub was purchased as a mascot by Canadian soldiers on their way to Europe in WWI, and donated to the zoo when the soldiers left the U.K. for the Continent.
So what is this novel? A mother tells her young son the story of the bear their ancestor purchased when in the army. The story is based on the known facts, fleshed out with reasonable conjecture. And in this version, Winnie can talk to other animals because she loves everyone, and finds her mission in life.
I thought the story got off to a slow and predictable start, but I was quite entertained once Winnie became involved with army life. The idea of a bear with a life goal is a fun concept.
There's a brief appendix with photos of the historical Canadian soldiers and their mascot, and Winnie at the zoo.
Can you wargame it? At one point, Winnie is trained to track scents in a trench system. (One of the reasons she is donated to the zoo is that her owner fears she'll be weaponized if she goes to the front.) Bear soldiers, anyone?
This could be a fun book to read to your kids (or grandkids). Heck, I even enjoyed it myself.
Reviewed by Editor in Chief Bill .