Paddington Bear was a big part of my childhood. My mother read several of the books to me, and I used to love watching the television show on The Disney Channel in the 1980s. Phrases like “Darkest Peru” and “Please look after this bear” have become family in-jokes that we cite frequently. Michael Bond began to write the Paddington books in 1958, but they have remained fresh and funny over the years.
I picked up the Audible edition of A Bear Called Paddington last year during a sale on children’s audiobooks, but we didn’t listen to it until last month. The girls have been vaguely interested in Paddington since the movie came out last year. We haven’t had a chance to see it, but when we finished listening to The Little Prince, they picked A Bear Called Paddington as our next audiobook. The Audible edition is read by Stephen Fry, and gives a delightful and whimsical performance.
The story begins with the Brown family finding a bear at Paddington Station. The bear declares that he is emigrating from darkest Peru because his Aunt Lucy, who raised him, had to go into a home for retired bears. She taught him to speak English in preparation for this inevitability, and then the bear stowed away on a boat with a jar of marmalade. Mrs. Brown talks Mr. Brown into taking the bear home. They decide to call him Paddington, because of the station in which he was found. Paddington proves to be a lively addition to the family. Trouble seems to follow him wherever he goes, but the Brown family loves him so much that they are never too cross about the messes Paddington makes. Over the course of the book, Paddington manages to flood the bathroom, go on a disastrous shopping trip, cause mayhem at the seaside, and attempt to discover a painting by an Old Master.
My daughters thought that Paddington’s predicaments were very funny. Paddington never intends to make trouble; situations tend to arise from people not understanding Paddington or vice versa. Paddington is a loyal friend, and he is very grateful to the Brown family for giving him a place to live and treating him like family.
We enjoyed Stephen Fry’s reading. The story is funny on its own, but he brought a sense of enthusiasm to the production that helped make the story even funnier. It looks like he has only narrated one other Paddington book, and we’ll probably end up getting that one as well.
I would absolutely recommend A Bear Called Paddington. It’s great for reading out loud, and the antics should appeal to children from kindergarten through the middle of elementary school. There are several sequels out there; we actually have many of the Paddington books that I had as a child. I think we are going to spend time over the summer reading some of the Paddington books together.