13/02/2015

Paddington Goes to Town (by Michael Bond)


I loved the Paddington books, as a child. My imagination was captured by Michael Bond’s stories of the orphaned bear found in a London railways station, who makes his home with the Brown family and their housekeeper Mrs Bird. I collected quite a few of the series, over the years and they’ve been read by a variety of people. I was delighted to learn that a new film about Paddington was released last year; he's now considered a classic cultural icon, at least in the UK.

For some reason, I had not read any of the books about him for many years. But I recently picked up ‘Paddington Goes to Town’ after it was returned by a nine-year-old friend who had borrowed it. It is apparently the eighth book in the series, but it really doesn’t matter which order they’re read in. Each book is complete in itself, and, indeed, each chapter within the book stands alone, although sometimes reference is made to events in earlier chapters.

This book begins with Paddington being an usher at a friend’s wedding, rather to his family’s surprise. Inevitably the small bear has no idea what an usher is, and assumes it’s a person who asks people to be quiet; no sooner has that misunderstanding been ironed over than Paddington finds himself in big trouble when the ring goes missing.

Further chapters see Paddington trying to play golf, visiting someone in hospital and being mistaken for a foreign doctor, helping his best friend Mr Gruber to put a finishing touch on his patio, and going carol singing - with yet another case of mistaken identity. The stories are light but amusing; written for children of perhaps eight to ten years old, they’re not condescending and never use ‘simple’ language. Instead they offer insights into the everyday life of a typical family who just happen to have an unusual bear staying with them.

Paddington’s mistakes and misunderstandings often make me smile, and the resolution of the plots - which, naturally, always turn out well - are reassuring and hopeful. It took me about an hour to finish it, and I found it quite uplifting and enjoyable.

I don’t remember details about the others books well enough to compare them, but it certainly ranks as a good read which would make an ideal bedtime read-aloud for any child from the age of about five and upwards. It appeals to boys and girls, and if the conversation and events seem dated, they provide a good starting point for discussions about life in the 1960s for an upper-middle class English family.

Definitely recommended. I'm delighted to discover that this book - and others in the series - are still in print, both in paperback and very inexpensively for the Kindle.

Review by copyright 2015 Sue's Book Reviews

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