While I'm sitting here, today promises to be an easy, pleasant, beautiful spring day. How fitting then that I'm writing about an equally easy (as in uncomplicated), pleasant, and beautiful book.
A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond is one of those books that's simply perfect for heading outdoors and reading to your kids while sitting in dappled sunlight.
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I realize that sounds somewhat corny, but the truth is the truth. If I could use only one word to describe this book it would be refreshing. Don't get me wrong. I and my children love a well-written book with lots of action, suspense, peril, and/or plot twists. But every book we read doesn't have to be one of that sort. Sometimes, a casually-told tale of an accident prone, though innocent, bear is in order.
With Paddington there's never any real danger or serious trouble, but he manages to get in the sort of scrapes that children can relate to and find humorous. For parents, at least for this parent, Paddington is pleasant. There are no cliffhangers from chapter to chapter. The book and its many sequels are merely a compilation of stand-alone tales in his day-to-day life while living with the Browns, which is drastically different from the movie from 2014 (we haven't seen Paddington 2 yet, but I'm sure it's in the same vein as the first movie). By the way, if you've only ever seen the modern Paddington movies, you don't know the real bear.
Fun Fact: Michael Bond (who passed away in June 2017 at age 91 in Paddington, England) had a cameo in the 2014 Paddington movie, and contributed to the script for both movies that have recently been released and Paddington 3, which is in the works.
I'm sure many people who will read this article, have likely already read A Bear Called Paddington and know how wonderful it is. So why write about such a popular book? I have two main reasons.
1. From time to time, we have to be reminded of the classics.
With the constant arrival of new literary works and the bombardment of technology, older books, even amazing ones, can get taken for granted or lost in the noise. Each generation has to be reintroduced to fabulous works from the past. That's part of how a classic becomes a classic. So, if you've never read about Paddinton, do so! If you've read it, but your kids haven't, read it to them! (Feel free to fill in those two commands with any great literary work.)
2. Books are different from movies and don't have equal impacts.
Earlier I referenced that we've seen the newer Paddington movie and will probably see the sequel at some time in the future. Obviously, then, I'm not opposed to watching movies. I discussed in Favorite Book Friday: Redwall how I'll often read a book to my kids then let them watch the movie so we can discuss the similarities and differences. However, I cannot stress enough how vastly different this particular movie is from the book. The only real similarities are the character names and Paddington's love of orange marmalade. The movie is action-packed and suspenseful. The book is beautiful. The two cannot be compared. Don't let Paddington from the movie be the only impression of Paddington your children have.
When we finished the book, we made some orange marmalade and a batch of homemade mini-biscuits. The Boy was so excited to try the marmalade. Here he is about to dig in. The super easy marmalade recipe we used is at the bottom of this article.
Because A Bear Called Paddington lacks the action the movie posseses, it may be tempting to assume modern children will find the book sleepy or (gasp) boring. Don't make this assumption! The Boy loves excitement and drama as much as any other kid, but he is also capable of appreciating the stories Michael Bond tells in the way he tells them. He is equally entertained reading the book as he is by watching the movie.
If children today find works like A Bear Called Paddington too slow or incapable of holding their attention, it's our fault. Everything our children consume doesn't have to be dramatic and action-packed, but if that's all we give them, that's all they will know (and subsequently seek out in real-life, but that's another article for another day). They can and will appreciate simple, well-written tales if only they are presented with them. Otherwise, there is no hope for the real Paddington, Pippi Longstocking, Laura Ingalls, Anne Shirley, Wilbur and Charlotte, (and later) Jane Eyre, Elizabeth Bennet, and a host of inspiring literary characters.
Well, this article took a much more philosophical route than I originally intended. I'm not sorry, though. I wrote from the heart as inspired by a sticky, little bear from the darkest Peru. If you haven't done so already, read A Bear Called Paddington and I think you'll understand.
.Here's the promised recipe. Give it a shot and see why Paddington likes this sweet concoction so much!
Do any of you remember the older (late 70s, early 80s) stop-motion television series based on the Paddington books? The scripts were written by Michael Bond. I saw the reruns as a kid and loved them. Here's a compilation of some of those episodes. We have it, and my kids like it. It's much closer in style to the books.
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