By Michael Bond A Bear Called Paddington (New Ed) Paperback – 10 Apr 2014
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At the end of the story is a postscript by Michael Bond in which he writes about the way he really just kind of stumbled upon writing a children’s book, and how certain characteristics of the characters come from real people he knew. You can look upon this book as either a novel, as the chapters continue in a logical order, as well as a series of short stories, as each chapter tells of the further incidents of what has become a legendary bear.
We first meet Paddington at Paddington station, by which time he has stowed away on a ship from Darkest Peru and entered the country illegally. When Mr and Mrs Brown see him they being kind hearted but foolhardy folk, give Paddington a place to live with complete disregard to immigration laws. But I think that they may have bitten off more than they can chew, because Paddington, which is the name they give to the bear is quite a handful.
From the beginning of this book we see that Paddington although very polite, can be exceptionally clumsy, and thus he gets into all sorts of trouble and causes a certain amount of mayhem and worry wherever he goes. My sister and I had the stories read to us when we were little, then we read them ourselves, and watched the TV production on the BBC at the time, and although it has been years since I last read this particular book I could still remember parts of the story.
In our house we used to practice that famous stare that Paddington gives to some people at times, and I have even taught a former girlfriend how it goes, which has caused many in the past to become quite worried. Paddington works for all ages as the stories are so full of comic incident and misunderstandings, which we can all relate to. Thus if you are reading this to a child you will find that you love this story just as much now as when you were little yourself.
I first read Paddington Abroad nearly fifty years ago, at a time when I myself had never been abroad. I was, therefore, utterly intrigued with the accounts of Paddington’s preparations for his first foreign holiday with the Brow family, and enchanted by his adventures once he arrives in France. Now, nearly fifty years later and reading it to my great niece, that enchantment remains intact. The stories work just as well now, and my great niece was as delighted with this book as I had been.
Michael Bond’s trick is to write with great simplicity, and he never patronises the reader, of whatever age. His humour works on to levels, delighting his child readers at the most direct level, but also appeals to parents (and great uncles). Paddington has an occasionally alarming honesty, which, supported by his disarming ‘hard stare’, enables him to cut through facades.
In this volume, some of the highlights include Paddington causing consternation at his bank when he attempts to withdraw some money for the holiday, falling foul of passport control, playing the big bass drum in a parade through a French village, and finally even participating in the Tour de France. All very funny and marvellously handled.
But that is not the real reason for this review. This is a super children's book, written in a more innocent age than our own (though fast corroding even at that period, the 50's). This is just the sort of stuff I want my children reading. If you want to sustain your child(ren)'s innocence for just a little bit longer then the omnibus edition of Paddington Bear is just the job. Hours of reading fun for parents and children. 5 stars easily.