Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh

About the Book

Dur­ing World War I, while trav­el­ing to a mil­i­tary camp in Cana­da, vet­eri­nar­i­an Har­ry Cole­bourn pur­chased an orphaned bear cub. He had no idea that his gen­tle bear would become one of the most famous bears in literature.

illus­tra­tion from Win­nie: The True Sto­ry of the Bear Who Inspired Win­nie-the-Pooh, copy­right Jonathan D. Voss, Hen­ry Holt & Co.

Behind the Book

Harry and Winnie at the London Zo
A stat­ue of Har­ry and Win­nie at the Lon­don Zoo. (pho­to cred­it: Sal­ly M. Walker)

When Har­ry bought Win­nie at the White Riv­er train sta­tion in Ontario, Cana­da, she was six to sev­en months old. Win­nie died on May 12,1934 at the age of twen­ty. News of her death and her con­nec­tion to Win­nie-the-Pooh were report­ed in news­pa­pers in Eng­land, Cana­da, and the Unit­ed States.

Win­nie-the-Pooh, by A.A. Milne, was pub­lished in 1926; a sequel, The House at Pooh Cor­ner, came out in 1928. Milne also wrote two books of poet­ry in which Win­nie-the-Pooh appears: When We Were Very Young (1924) and Now We Are Six (1927). Accord­ing to Milne, Christo­pher Robin gave the name “Pooh” to a swan he once knew. When the swan flew off and made its home else­where, the name remained behind, unused. There­fore, it was avail­able to com­bine with “Win­nie” when Christo­pher Robin need­ed it.

Awards and Recognition

  • Best Books of the Year
  • Ari­zona Young Read­ers Award 2018
  • CCBC Choic­es (Uni­ver­si­ty of Wis­con­sin) 2016
  • New York Young Read­er Award 2018
  • Nebras­ka Gold­en Sow­er Award Mas­ter List 2018
  • Ten­nessee Vol­un­teer State Book Award Mas­ter List 2017–2018
  • Wyoming Bucka­roo Award final­ist 2015–2016


“Beau­ti­ful­ly illus­trat­ed with human­is­tic, old-fash­ioned wash­es, Walk­er’s true tale is a low-key heart warmer about an unex­pect­ed inter­species bond.” (Book­list)

“Read­ers will be cap­ti­vat­ed by the fic­tion­al­ized pic­ture book account of the bear that even­tu­al­ly became the inspi­ra­tion for A.A. Mil­ne’s acclaimed “Win­nie-the-Pooh” series.” (School Library Jour­nal)

“Ide­al for Win­nie the Pooh fans, this clear, straight­for­ward biog­ra­phy reveals the bear behind the tale.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Walker’s short, descrip­tive text pro­vides the essen­tials of the sto­ry,  and Voss’s water­col­or illus­tra­tions por­tray the unusu­al sit­u­a­tion with a  mix of real­ism and humor.” (The Horn Book)

“This is an intrigu­ing and well-writ­ten look at a dif­fer­ent era….Voss’ water­col­or and pen and ink illus­tra­tions paint a casu­al and affec­tion­ate por­trait of man and bear.” (Bul­letin of the Cen­ter for Chil­dren’s Books)


writ­ten by Sal­ly M. Walk­er
illus­trat­ed by Jonathan D. Voss
Hen­ry Holt & Co., Jan 2015
hard­cov­er: 978–0805097153
40 pages, ages 5 and up

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