First published 60 years ago today, Paddington Bear is a well-known and much loved figure created by Michael Bond.
Originally, Paddington was a bear from Africa; however, his agent pointed out that the African Atlas Bear had been extinct for many years so his birthplace was changed to Peru and he became an Andean- or Spectacled- Bear. South America’s only species of bear, sadly the Andean Bear’s IUCN status is vulunerable with population trends decreasing.
In October 2015, I was lucky enough to visit Seven Stories in Newcastle for their ‘A Bear Called Paddington’ exhibition which celebrated the way many different artists have portrayed this iconic character over the past six decades. It was fascinating to see how different illustrators had shaped his character over the years.
When it was first published in hardback on the 13th October 1958, ‘A Bear Called Paddington’ was illustrated by Peggy Fortnum. She went on to illustrate all the novels in the series.
Fred Banbury then illustrated a series of books about Paddington which Michael Bond started to write in 1972. These offered more detailed pictures of Paddington than the original line drawings by Penny Fortnam.
Ivor Wood created a cartoon style Paddington for the London Evening News and was also responsible for the animated television series where a three dimensional Paddington appeared with two dimensional coloured cut outs of the other characters.
In the 1980s, David McKee illustrated a new series of Paddington books for younger readers and from the 90s, R W Alley has been Paddingron’s illustrator.
More recently, Paddington has starred in two films, cementing his place in he hearts of the next generation.
Yesterday, Book Group decided to celebrate the occasion by reading some of ‘A Bear Called Paddington’ and then making Paddington biscuits! This got very sticky- almost marmalade level- but the children had great fun. Next time, we need to work out a way of making an edible hat!
Next week, there will be a Paddington quiz in the library for everyone to enjoy! This wonderful bear and his stories will continue to bring pleasure to everyone. Many teachers owe their ‘teacher look’ to his ‘hard stare’ and once read, his stories are not easily forgotten. Here’s to his next 60 years!
“Things are always happening to me. I’m that sort of bear.”