A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond

A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s difficult to write any review of this gentle and elegant classic without simply repeating the word “perfect” for quite some time. Nevertheless, I shall persist and try to give something of a review that does not mention how perfect it is on every line. A Bear Called Paddington is the first in Michael Bond’s series about a young bear. The bear has emigrated from Peru to England, and his only Aunt has gone to live in a home for retired bears. Upon his arrival at Paddington Station, the bear meets The Browns who are destined to become his new family. He also receives a new name: Paddington.

When I finished this book, I kept thinking of the idea of clarity. There is a point in British children’s literature (and it is somewhere around the mid-twentieth century) that authors found a very precise space. They were supported by liberal and often quite radical publishing ideas and indeed, a world that was busily remaking itself. Their stories have this very specific quality about them (you see it very much in authors such as Philippa Pearce and Lucy M. Boston), and it manifests itself on the page as a kind of clarity. They’re often not big stories nor super dramatic ones and they hinge perhaps on a clock that strikes thirteen or a marmalade sandwich, but they are somehow so, so acute in what they say about the world. In what they hope for it.

In a long and round about way, this is me telling you that I love this book. I love it for the kindness that it sees in the world, that it expects to be there just because it should be, because the opposite is too outlandish to even consider. I love it for the gentle softness of the stories, the way that it really is all about marmalade sandwiches at the right time, just when everything feels new and ready to be experienced for the first time. I love it for how it captures London and brings it to life, for the way it makes not only the Browns wrap their arms around this young bear and bring him home, but for the city to do it too. And I love it for the way it does all of this with such subtlety, such grace.

Like I said, it’s perfect.

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