Last week, on 27th June, Michael Bond, the creator of Paddington Bear, died, aged 91. He had written over 150 children’s books in a career spanning 60 years (Horwell, 2017). A Bear Called Paddington, the first book featuring the bear from Darkest Peru, was published in 1958. It was followed by more than 20 novels and picture books, with the last one, Paddington’s Finest Hour, appearing this year. Michael Bond also wrote a series of books about a guinea pig called Olga da Polga (a personal favourite of mine) and another about the detective, Monsieur Pamplemousse, and his dog, Pommes Frites. But his most beloved creation is Paddington Bear, who is “charming and sweet and gentle” and “reflects the best of us” (Morpurgo, 2017). Flowers and jars of marmalade have been laid around the bronze statue of the bear in the duffle coat at Paddington Station in London as a tribute to Michael Bond.
Michael Bond and Paddington Bear-in 60 seconds by The Telegraph
In response to Michael Bond’s death, Michael Morpurgo, the renowned children’s author and former Children’s Laureate, wrote a touching piece about Paddington, “an immigrant from Peru who is found on a station platform with a label around his neck” (Morpurgo, 2017). That label became known the world over and said simply “Please look after this bear. Thank you.” These words take on a deeper meaning when we consider the current refugee crisis in Syria and the reaction by other countries, which include closed borders and proposed walls. The kindness shown to Paddington by the Brown family is much in need in our world today. For as Michael Bond said, “Paddington, in a sense, was a refugee, and I do think that there’s no sadder sight than refugees” (Bond, in Pauli, 2017).
Paddington himself was an illegal immigrant
Paddington has become as much a part of British culture as that other famous bear, Winnie the Pooh. Both are instantly recognisable and have made the transition from books into films and merchandise. In 1976, the original TV series, Paddington, aired, with its distinctive combination of a three-dimensional bear, hand-drawn backgrounds and character cut-outs. It was narrated by Michael Hordern, who famously said that “his most challenging roles had been God, Lear and Paddington Bear” (Horwell, 2017). I have happy memories of watching the show as a child. So for old times’ sake-and because it’s so good-here is the first episode, entitled Please Look After This Bear.
Paddington Bear-Please look after this bear by Paddingtonbeartoons
I’ll end with a quote from Michael Bond that I feel we would do well to remember when working with children :
I think the most precious thing you can give a child is your time. And I think the next most precious thing you can give a child is an interest in books. If you’re brought up with books being part of the furniture, with a story being read to you when you go to bed at night, it’s a very good start in life. I never went to bed without a story when I was small (Bond, in Pauli, 2017).
Farewell, Michael Bond. Thank you for the joy and laughter you brought to the world through your books. You will be greatly missed.