Amazing storytelling, endearing characters and warm illustrations make these books favorites for many kids, parents, librarians and teachers.
Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick. Illustrated by Sophie Blackall. Little, Brown, 2015
Honor Book, 2016 Charlotte Zolotow Award
Author Lindsay Mattick is the great-granddaughter of Harry Colebourn, the Winnipeg veterinarian who purchased an orphaned cub at a train station while on his way to service in World War I. Mattick’s unique perspective and engaging style (punctuated with plenty of humor) make for an irresistible narrative that includes herself and her young son, Cole, as characters as she tells what is clearly a familiar and much loved story to the little boy. Harry named the cub Winnipeg (soon shortened to Winnie) and she charmed everyone. Winnie was full of affection and exploits, and it was hard for Harry to imagine leaving her behind in England when word came his unit was leaving for the front. But he took Winnie to the London Zoo and it was there, years later, that a little boy named Christopher Robin Milne first saw her. The conversational style of Mattick’s narrative is finely crafted and utterly charming. So, too, are Sophie Blackall’s warm illustrations, which are finely detailed and emotionally expansive, emphasizing the bond between mother and son, and man, child, and bear. An album of photographs of Colebourn, Winnie, Christopher Robin, and Mattick and Cole round out this winsome volume. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Start some conversation with these discussion questions:
- Pre-reading: What do you know about a bear named Winnie?
- What are the three different stories in the book?
- How do the illustrations add to the story? Do they add information, emotions, and/or movement to the story?
- In what ways, do the author and illustrator use the photos in the scrapbook in the text and Illustrations?
- Who would be on your family tree?
The First Case by Ulf Nilsson. Illustrated by Gitte Spee. Translated from the Swedish by Julia Marshall. (Detective Gordon) U.S. edition: Gecko Press, 2015
An engaging, character-driven mystery begins with an aging toad detective investigating the theft of nuts from a very upset squirrel. Detective Gordon can’t move as quickly or as easily as he once did. Then he meets a nameless mouse who is young and spry and eager and she quickly becomes his able assistant. First order of business: give her a name. He suggests one he’s always loved: Buffy. The interactions between Buffy–so bright and optimistic and open-hearted–and Detective Gordon–slightly world-weary but wise and buoyed by her presence—are warm and wonderful in a story full of understated humor punctuated by brighter, laugh-out-loud moments (often involving the squirrel). The duo inspects the scenes of the crime, gathers clues, conjectures based on what they’ve observed (clearly the suspect can climb trees, for example), then lays a trap and eventually capture the thieves. Beautiful design, including charming spot and full-page color illustrations, embellish a winning, winsome short chapter book. Add it to your read-aloud repertoire! (MS) ©2015 Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:
- Describe how Detective Gordon and Buffy are different from and similar to each other. Why do you think Detective Gordon and Buffy work well together?
- Why do you think Detective Gordon handed the squirrel the mirror?
- What rituals and routines does Detective Gordon eventually share with Buffy?
Find more resources for Finding Winnie and The First Case at TeachingBooks.net!