Michael Bond, author and creator of the beloved Paddington Bear children’s books has died this week at age 91 (read the Guardian article here).
The story of Paddington Bear starts on Christmas Eve 1956, when Michael Bond bought a small bear for his wife Brenda. As they lived close to Paddington station, he named the bear Paddington. The bear inspired him to write the first book in only ten days. In Bond’s’ own words:
“I bought a small toy bear on Christmas Eve 1956. I saw it left on a shelf in a London store and felt sorry for it. I took it home as a present for my wife Brenda and named it Paddington as we were living near Paddington Station at the time. I wrote some stories about the bear, more for fun than with the idea of having them published. After ten days I found that I had a book on my hands. It wasn’t written specifically for children, but I think I put into it the kind things I liked reading about when I was young.”
Almost two years later, in October 1958, Bond published his first book: A Bear Called Paddington. He kept on writing until his death, producing more 26 Paddington books with Paddington’s Finest Hour, the last book, published in April 2017. They have been translated into 40 languages (including Latin) and have sold over 35 million copies worldwide. The Paddington-craze also generated toys and other merchandise, stage plays, TV programmes and more recently two movies: Paddington (2014) and Paddington 2, coming out in November this year.
How does it all start in the books? The Brown family find Paddington at Paddington railway station in London. Paddington is sitting on his suitcase with a note attached to his coat that says “Please look after this bear. Thank you.” He arrived there as a stowaway, coming from Peru since his aunt went to a “Home for Retired Bears.” He came to London looking for adventure, his suitcase even reads “Wanted on Voyage”. The Brown family decides to take him home, which is where all of his adventures start. The stories usually start from a misconception on Paddington’s part or him trying to right a wrong situation. Each book contains stand alone stories, which is how they were used in the TV-series that followed later.
But Michael Bond was not just the writer and creator of Paddington Bear. He first started writing during World War II while in Egypt with the army. After he left the armed forces, he wrote a lot of short stories, articles and plays. He then went on to work at BBC, where he worked as a cameraman on the television show Blue Peter. He also wrote numerous books about Olga da Polga, a guinea pig who loves regaling her friends with wildly exaggerated versions of what has happened to her. Then there’s the series about Monsieur Pamplemousse, a French food inspector and detective. And finally, he also wrote numerous books about varying subjects and in different genres, including his own memoirs. Not only did he write over 150 books, he was also one of the oldest, active writers as he was still writing and publishing at 91 years of age.
Personally, I’ve only read some of his Paddington books, I hadn’t even heard of his other work until I researched him for this blog post. I’ll be sure to add Olga and Monsieur Pamplemousse to my library list for the next time I get to read to my niece.