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

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

“Winnie the Pooh” and the “House at Pooh Corner” were often requested when I was growing up and it has been such a pleasure to be able to share them with my children.  With Finding Winnie, we get the story behind the story and my children were delighted to learn that Winnie-the-Pooh started out as a real bear.  Echoing the format of Winnie the Pooh, the book opens with a conversation between a mother and a little boy, Cole, asking for one last story… Just like Christopher Robin, Cole has lots of questions.  Cole’s questions though are about Harry, his great-great grandfather, and Winnie, a black bear cub, his great-great grandfather adopted on the way to Valcartier and took to London along with 36,000 men and 7,500 horses during WWI.  Winnie became the camp mascot and followed Harry everywhere, but when it was time for Harry to be shipped to France, Harry decided it was too risky to take Winnie and that is when the real Christopher Robin entered the picture. This is a wonderful story of an impulsive animal rescue that ended up being the inspiration for a series of stories that have thrilled generations of children, though perhaps the chagrin of the real Christopher Robin whom the public never allowed to grow up! If you’re planning a trip to Winnipeg or the London Zoo, you have to read Finding Winnie and of course all of the Pooh stories written by A. A. Milne.  In Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg, there’s a statute of Harry Colebourn and Winnie as well as the Pooh Gallery filled with Winnie the Pooh Memorabilia.  The real Winnie the Pooh owned by Christopher Robin is on permanent display in the New York Public Library and at the London Zoo,  sure to delight any Winnie-ther-Pooh fans! If you’d like to add Finding Winnie to your child’s collection, click here:  Finding Winnie:  The True Story of the World’s Most Favorite...

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Review: The Mousehole Cat-Cornwall with Children

Review: The Mousehole Cat-Cornwall with Children

I have always had the sneaking suspicion that my cat thinks she owns me and not the other way around.  In the Mousehole Cat, Antonia Barber tells the legend of Tom Bawcock from the perspective of his owner, the cat, Mowzer. Mowzer had “an old cottage with a window overlooking the harbor, an old rocking chair with patchwork cushions, and an old fisherman named Tom.” Tom spent his days in the most useful way possible, catching fish for Mowzer’s who was very particular about his fish.  On Mondays they made morgy-broth, on Tuesdays they baked hake, on Wednesdays they cooked kedgeree, on Thursdays they grilled fairmaids, on Fridays they fried launces, on Saturdays they soused scad and on Sundays, they made star-gazy pie.”  My children were definitely inspired to try different types of fish as we explored old recipes and traditional Cornish fare. Mowzer led an idyllic life, well tended by Tom with no reason to complain.  All was well until one winter there was a terrible storm that did not end as the Great Storm-Cat raged outside of the harbor walls.  With the storm raging, boats couldn’t get in or out and the town slowly ran out of food.  Just before Christmas, Tom talked to Mowzer and told him that “no man can stand by at Christmas and see the children starve.” He would be venturing out to face the storm and catch fish for the town.  Mowzer knows that men are no more than mice in the Great Storm-Cat’s paws and determines to go with him.   They will face the Great Storm-Cat together. Nicola Bayley’s beautiful images of the storm cat playing with boat are beautiful as is the language used to describe the actions of the storm toying with the boat as Mowzer and Tom work to save the town.  Mousehole, Cornwall is a traditional fishing village on the south coast of Cornwall between Penzance and Land’s End.  The Guardian put together a list of things to do in Cornwall with children a few years ago. There’s lots to explore in Cornwall including a castle on the Island of St. Michael’s Mount and a nearby Bronze Age Lanyon Quoit and of course giant sand dunes and caves along the coast with time to stop to try one of Mowzer’s favorite...

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Review: Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh-Canada with children

Review: Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh-Canada with children

Did you know that Winnie-the-Pooh was based on a real bear?  At the White River train station in Ontario, Canada, Harry Colebourn, a veterinarian with the Canadian Army on his way to base bought a bear cub and named her Winnipeg. In Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh, we learn all about A.A. Milne’s inspiration for Winnie-ther-Pooh. In Winnipeg, Winnie quickly became the camp mascot and was given free reign at the camp, sleeping under Harry’s cot every night and following him as he made his rounds tending the horses and other military animals.  As World War I advanced, Harry and his platoon were transferred to England and of course Winnie went with them, sailing across the Atlantic, and proving to be a much better sailor than Harry! Winnie quickly settled in at camp in England, watching the soldiers practice marching and continuing to sleep under Harry’s cot.  When Harry discovered he was going to be sent to France, he knew he couldn’t take Winnie to a battlefield, but what to do with a bear? This was a great story about the inspiration behind Winnie-the-Pooh and Christopher Robin’s fateful visit to the London Zoo.  I always enjoy learning about the sources of inspiration behind beloved stories and Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh is no exception. While you can no longer feed bears at the London Zoo, you can still see a statue of Winnie and Harry.  You can also visit the original Edward bear (who changed his name to Winnie the Pooh) along with  Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga, and Tigger at the New York Public...

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Review: Dodsworth in Rome-Italy with children

Review: Dodsworth in Rome-Italy with children

“‘Where are you going?’ asked Dodsworth.  ‘You said roam,’ said the duck, ‘so I’m roaming.’ ‘I meant, Rome, Italy,’ said Dosworth…The duck paused for a moment.  ‘I knew that,’ he said.” The adventures in Dodsworth in Rome arise from the duck’s misunderstandings and confusion in visiting another country, well except for gelato.  The duck is definitely not confused about gelato!  My children loved duck’s puns and malapropisms as Dodsworth and duck enjoy many of the not-to-be missed sights of Rome including making their way through the crazy traffic, the Coliseum, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, the Spanish steps, wandering through Flea Markets, and of course visiting Vatican City to tour the Sistine Chapel and Saint Peter’s Square. There isn’t much of a plot, but the duck’s self-centeredness is entertaining as he tries to paint a duck on the Sistine Chapel (everything should have a duck) and he loses their luggage when he forgets he’s standing on their suitcase during a pizza throwing contest (which he enters because he’s good at throwing food…) Along with the sights, they enjoy lots of kid friendly food, eating pasta, pizza and lots of gelato as they make their way through the city; though I think I’d get sick if I ate 7 scoops of gelato at once, it might be fun to try! If you enjoy Dodsworth in Rome, the duck and Dodsworth have many other adventures together including trips...

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Review: Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine-Isle of Wight

Review: Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine-Isle of Wight

Aren’t Queen’s allowed to do what ever they want? Shouldn’t a queen have the right to swim wherever and whenever she likes? But in  “Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine,” by Gloria Whelan, with illustrations by Nancy Carpenter, even Queens have rules they must follow.  “Queen Victoria looked out at the sea.  It was blue, it was cool, it was nice as could be. The day was so hot; the sun was so bright.  Her petticoats itched and her corset was tight.  She whispered a wish, it was only a whim.  ‘How grand it would be to go for a swim.'”  I’m sure most children can relate to the feeling of wanting to abandon restrictions and play in the water, at least mine do!  Any opportunity to get wet, whether in the ocean, a fountain, a sprinkler, or water balloon fights are actively pursued during the summer.  They’re certainly familiar with “drippy, and slushy and soggy and sodden” clothes! Fortunately, Prince Albert steps in to help solve the problem and with the assistance of their children (who are up to no good on pretty much every page of the story) and builds a bathing machine that allows the Queen to preserve her dignity and go for a swim! This charmingly rhyming book is based on a true story and the actual bathing machine Prince Albert constructed can still be seen on the Isle of Wight at Osborne House.  From Roman Villas to Victorian castles, as well of course as beautiful beaches, there’s lots for families do see and do on the Isle of Wight. Interested in adding Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine to your child’s collection?  Click here: Queen Victoria’s Bathing...

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Review: The Case that Time Forgot-London with children

Review: The Case that Time Forgot-London with children

We stumbled upon this great series while we were on vacation and my boys have been devouring this audiobook as fast as we can listen, wanting to play them even for short errands across town.  We have found that audiobooks, particularly mysteries, are great at creating focus in kids who otherwise seem to have very short attention spans.  Challenging everyone in the car to figure out the mystery as a team compels them to actually listen closely to the whole story, ask questions and pose hypotheses.  It can be a great family collaboration, sibling strife preventer, and productive training device.  We can literally get two continuous hours of focus (aka “relative peace”) on family road trips listening to mystery audiobooks. The Case That Time Forgot (Sherlock Files) by Tracy Barrett is the third in the series about Xena and Xander Holmes, the great-great-great grandchildren of Sherlock Holmes who have inherited his book of unsolved cases and are determined to crack the mysteries that defeated Sherlock Holmes.  Despite the fact that the crime involved happened more than 100 years earlier, Xena and Xander are determined to put together the clues with a little help from modern technology and the SPFD (Society for the Preservation of Famous Detectives).  Much to their frustration, they aren’t allowed to solve mysteries full time, but have to juggle school, social conflicts, homework, and parents! The Case That Time Forgot is an enjoyable read, with enough allusions to Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes to bring back fond memories for a grownup.  It’s also a great source of inspiration for places to visit in London.  You’d of course want to visit The Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221b Baker Street, and the story takes you to a combination of indoor and outside sites such as the Clockmakers’ Museum at Guildhall, Cleopatra’s Needle, The Rosetta Stone at the British Museum, and Big Ben at the Palace of Westminster.  It would be a lot of fun to try and solve some of the clues and visit the sites as the story develops, introducing children to history as well as a scavenger...

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