February 19, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Paddington Bear Creator Michael Bond Dies at 91

Michael Bond

Michael Bond, the creator of the classic children’s literature character Paddington Bear, died in London on Tuesday, June 27. He was 91. The Paddington Bear books have sold over 35 million copies and have been translated into more than 40 languages.

The duffel coat–clad and Wellington-wearing bear first appeared in 1958, when A Bear Called Paddington was published by William Collins, Sons—now known as HarperCollins. In that book, Paddington, who hails from Peru, is found in London’s Paddington Station with a tag asking “Please look after this bear. Thank you.”  He is subsequently adopted by the Brown family, who live at 32 Windsor in the Notting Hill area of London. Many U.S. children were introduced to marmalade and other bits of British culture thanks to this polite bear.

According to Bond, the image of Paddington in a railroad station with a note affixed to his blue duffle coat hearkens back to his memories of seeing refugee children during World War II, holding suitcases, with identification tags pinned to their clothing. In 2014, the author told The Guardian that “Paddington Bear, in a sense, was a refugee, and I don’t think there’s no sadder sight than a refugee. This makes the character of Paddington just as [an] important part of today’s world as he was in 1958.”

An SLJ review of the re-release of A Bear Called Paddington noted, “the book’s success, and that of its eight sequels, rests on its gently humorous tone and its respect for the child reader.”

“Bond’s prose is fun to read, with the solemn, serious Paddington providing humorous contrast to the absurd goings-on around him,” wrote reviewer Shelle Rosenfeld in her SLJ review of Paddington at Large (Houghton Mifflin, 1962).  An SLJ review of Paddington Takes the Test (Harper, 1979) by Anna Biagioni Hart commented, “the consequences of his literal-mindedness are hilarious.”

Bond was born on January 13, 1926, in Newbury, Berkshire, England, into a family of readers. He served in the military and became a full-time author in 1965, following the publication of six Paddington books. In 1967, he started another series of books about a mouse name Thursday. Bond followed that with a series about a talkative guinea pig, Olga Da Polga. The Tales of Olga Da Polga (Macmillan, 1971) received a Notable Book citation from the American Library Association.

“I lean heavily on humanized and fictionalized animals for my characters,” Bond said in a 1980 Horn Book interview. “It just happens that way. Paddington to me is much more real than he would be if he were a small boy. In fact, if he were a small boy, I don’t think the book would work at all. With animals, you can have the best of both worlds; you can combine the sophistication of an adult with the naïveté of a small child.”

Bond was honored with an Order of the British Empire for his service to children’s literature in 1997 and was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2015.

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Rocco Staino About Rocco Staino

Rocco Staino @RoccoA is the retired director of the Keefe Library of the North Salem School District in New York. He is now a contributing editor for School Library Journal and also writes for the Huffington Post.

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