Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear

A #1 New York Times Bestseller and Winner of the 2016 Caldecott Medal

Before Winnie-the-Pooh, there was a real bear named Winnie. And she was a girl!

In 1914, Harry Colebourn, a veterinarian on his way to tend horses in World War I, followed his heart and rescued a baby bear. He named her Winnie, after his hometown of Winnipeg, and he took the bear to war.

Harry Colebourn’s real-life great-granddaughter tells the true story of a remarkable friendship and an even more remarkable journey–from the fields of Canada to a convoy across the ocean to an army base in England…

And finally to the London Zoo, where Winnie made another new friend: a real boy named Christopher Robin.

Here is the remarkable true story of the bear who inspired Winnie-the-Pooh.


  • Age Range: 3 - 6 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: AD590L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 56 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (October 20, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316324906
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316324908
  • Product Dimensions: 10.4 x 0.5 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (261 customer reviews)
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  1. Purchased this for my nephew, which is six years old. He absolutely loved the book, the illustrations and the whole concept of the origins of Winnie the Pooh. This book follows Winnie from his origins of being found in Ontario all through the various stages of how Winnie came to be Winnie, that we know and love!

    He loved the watercolored illustrations and it was really well done throughout the book, ending in photos from the original storylines.

    This is a must have book for all younger kids! AAA+++

    I’ve added some pics of the beautiful illustrations and ending photos for you to see what I mean, when I say it’s really well done.

    Hope it helps:)

  2. Usually I am not an impulse shopper. But today I am. I just heard the author interviewed on NPR and am bewitched by this true story. I will order the book now and tuck it away for Christmas. Perhaps even my older children will get tears in their eyes, as I did, upon hearing this jewel of kindness that returned itself 100 fold.

  3. I’ve read other versions of the story of Winnie, but this is a superb one to read with my grandchildren. I especially like the illustrations and the actual photos of the main characters and diary entries! Highly recommend!

  4. Summary: When Cole asks him for a bedtime story, his mother tells him the tale of Harry Coleburn, a veterinarian who rescued a bear at a train station. It was 1914, and Harry was traveling from Winnipeg to basic training before going overseas to be an army veterinarian. The bear, named Winnie for Winnipeg, went with him on all his travels, proving himself to be a most intelligent and entertaining addition to the troops. Finally, it was time to go to the front, and Harry knew he couldn’t take Winnie with him. Winnie found a new home in the London Zoo, where he was later discovered by Christopher Robin Milne, and found his way into stories written by Christopher’s father, Alan Alexander (A. A.) Milne. The story unfolds in much the same way the Winnie-the-Pooh books do, with a parent telling a child a story. At the end, the mom reveals that Harry Coleburn was her great-grandfather and is her son Coe’s namesake. Six pages of photos of Harry, Winnie, Lindsay, and Cole are included at the end. Grades K-3.

    Pros: Lovely illustrations illuminate Lindsay’s fascinating and endearing story to her son. The revelation of the family connection is an interesting bonus, and the photos enhance that.

    Cons: Two excellent, well-illustrated picture books telling this exact same story (see Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh by Sally Walker) in the same year seems like an unfortunate glut on the market.

  5. Wow! What an amazing book and story. This is one of those forever books that you cherish in your collection and bring out often.
    Mattick captures one of the joys of parenthood and weaves it into this lovely story beautifully. Every family will be able to relate to wanting to teach their kids about their ancestors and this book provides a great gateway to that discussion. Other themes of being okay with letting go and learning about non-fiction are explored and handled beautifully.
    You will not be disappointed with this book! Kudos to Ms Mattick on her first book. I’m a big fan and can’t wait to see what’s next!

  6. [email protected] Baking Bookworm says:

    The world over knows about Winnie the Pooh but do they know the real story behind this popular bear? In this beautifully illustrated picture book for children author Lindsay Mattick takes readers through the story of how this bear was found in White River, Ontario by Canadian soldier and veterinarian, Harry Colebourn. She, yes Winnie was female, became a mascot of sorts for Colebourn’s troop and won their hearts as they prepared to head off to fight in WWI.

    The story then goes on to show how author A.A Milne and his son, Christopher Robin were first introduced to Winnie in a London zoo. It’s through Milne’s series of books that Winnie became a household name.

    This is a sweet story featuring beautiful illustrations but it’s the the addition of the picture album at the back of the book that really makes this book stand out. The author also happens to be the great granddaughter of Colebourn and her inclusion of pictures of the real Winnie with Harry and his troop as well as pages from Harry’s diary during the war give it a personal feel.

    This is a uniquely Canadian story involving a bear who won the heart of a soldier, his WWI troop and the entire world. It is a great way to introduce children to the real history behind this bear who is loved the world over.

    **This book review can also be found on my blog, The Baking Bookworm ([..]) where I share hundreds of book reviews and my favourite recipes. **

  7. I ordered this book to be used when I was the “mystery reader” in my grandson’s third grade classroom. It sounded interesting, and it didn’t disappoint. Although it is the true story of Winnie the Pooh, it wasn’t the least bit childish or ‘dry’. In fact, there were two fifth grade students who were unexpectedly part of the group, and they were as interested as the younger children. The book is a story within a story–a mother telling a bedtime story to her son. Through her tale, we learn about how a young bear cub travels from Canada to England during WW I and is ultimately placed in the zoo for safekeeping while his soldier/owner/friend goes off to war. Since the cub was raised around people, it has been socialized and soon befriends a frequent zoo visitor, a young boy named Christopher Robin Milne. And with that bit of information, I’m sure you can guess the wonderful connection. The books ending has a warm-hearted twist.

    The book contains not only has this delightful, true story but includes actual pictures of people and supporting documents that take this book from storytelling to reality in a way that children can easily understand and accept. I definitely recommend this book…well written, interesting, and has a few surprising facts that will inform a few adults as well!

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