PADDINGTON by Michael Bond and R.W. Alley – Retro Review by Stacey Shubitz
I recently read Michael Bond and R.W. Alley’s Paddington for what I thought was the first time. I called my mom after reading it and said, “How come you never read the Paddington books to me when I was a kid?”
“Of course, I did,” my mother vowed.
And while I do believe her, since we constantly borrowed books from the library when I was a little girl, I don’t recall any of Paddington’s adventures! In fact, I didn’t know much about Paddington, other than that he wore a red hat and a blue coat, until I read The Paddington Treasury aloud to my daughter this past summer. Let’s be honest, I thought he was British. Turns out he’s originally from Peru, which is where he traveled from to England with only marmalade for sustenance packed in his brown suitcase!
I (re)read the original Paddington picture book as one of my #bookaday books this summer while my daughter napped. I had a feeling she’d be delighted by Paddington’s slip and fall on the table in Paddington Station and his mishaps in the bathroom when he started bailing the water out of the tub with his red hat. As soon as she awoke, I read it to her. She declared “again” as soon as we finished the story. And just like that, we were hooked!
We’ve read all of the stories (i.e., Paddington, Paddington at the Palace, Paddington at the Zoo, Paddington in the Garden, Paddington and the Marmalade Maze, and Paddington the Artist) in the Treasury multiple times. We cheered when Paddington was invited into the gates of Buckingham Palace to take a photo next to the guard. We smiled when Paddington received his gold star on National Garden Day. We remarked on Paddington’s artistic talent when we saw the self-portrait and family portraits he created. Despite our enjoyment of the other stories in The Paddington Treasury, we find ourselves returning to Paddington again and again. For some reason, the story of how Paddington was named after the train station and how he came to be part of the Brown family doesn’t get old for either of us.
I’m a sucker for bear books, so it’s not a surprise I took to Paddington quickly. One of the things I like the best about Paddington, as a character, are his mishaps. Nothing ever seems to go perfectly for Paddington. Even though he gets sometimes flusters, he doesn’t act out. He didn’t have a temper tantrum when his marmalade fell into quick-drying cement. Instead of pounding his paws on the ground, he turned the marmalade-infused cement into rocks for his rock garden. He handles himself with grace despite the misfortune he might be experiencing. This makes Paddington a behavioral role model for anyone with a toddler (like me!) since he has even-keeled responses!
Michael Bond began writing about Paddington Bear in 1958. Since then he has published fourteen novels and an array of picture books that detail the adventures of this well-manned bear. On December 25th, the Paddington movie will hit theaters in the United States. This means yet another generation of children will become acquainted with Paddington! Before you head to the movie theater this holiday season, go straight to your local bookstore or local library and pick up some of the Paddington stories. They’re classics that are sure to delight.
Stacey Shubitz is a Pennsylvania-based literacy consultant (http://www.staceyshubitz.com) and a former elementary school teacher. She is the co-author of Day by Day: Refining Writing Workshop Through 180 Days of Reflective Practice (Stenhouse, 2010). She’s presently writing another book for Stenhouse, which has the working title of Craft Moves: How to Use Mentor Texts in the Classroom. She blogs at Two Writing Teachers and can be found on Twitter at @raisealithuman.