Saturday, April 11, 2009

Bear-y Welcome Back: Paddington Here and Now by Michael Bond

When Paddington Bear finds his shopping cart missing from the place he parked it outside the Cut-Rate Grocer's, he hustles off to report the theft of his vehicle posthaste. The young politically correct officer tries to write up the crime report dictated by the foreigner, a claimant who describes himself as a bear from "darkest Peru."

"I think it's high time I saw your driving license," said the policeman.

"I haven't got one of those either," exclaimed Paddington excitedly.


"What's that?" asked Paddington.

The policeman ran his fingers around the inside of his collar. The room had suddenly become very hot. "You'll be telling me next," he said," that you haven't even passed your driving test."

"You're quite right," said Paddington excitedly. "I took it once by mistake, but I didn't pass because I drove into the examiner's car."

The policeman gave him a long hard look. He seemed to have grown older in the short time Paddington had been there. "You do realize," he said, "that I could throw the book at you?"

"I hope you don't," said Paddington earnestly. "I'm not very good at catching things. It isn't easy with paws."

Even though it's been over fifty years since Paddington made his appearance in A Bear Named Paddington, the first in this series, Paddington is the same lively, perpetually perplexed bear who first came to live with the Browns at 32 Windsor Gardens, Notting Hill, and padded down Portobello Road to share fresh buns and cocoa with Mr. Gruber. Octagenarians Michael Bond and cover artist Peggy Fortnum prove that they haven't lost a step in this first novel in the Paddington series since 1979, Paddington Here and Now. Although the milieu is thoroughly modernized for new readers, those who grew up with Paddington will recognize the sort of problems that an immigrant bear is bound to encounter in workaday London. The old cast of characters is intact--Mr. and Mrs. Brown, Mrs. Bird, their imperious housekeeper, Mr. Curry, their obnoxious next-door neighbor, and Mr. Gruber the Austrian antique dealer down Portobello Road with whom Paddington shares his elevenses daily. Delightful Britishisms abound--"...and Bob's your uncle," and "have your guts for garters," and Paddington still wears his Wellingtons and duffle coat topped with a bush hat under which he faithfully stows an emergency marmalade sandwich.

Known to today's children as a plush bear with his own line of merchandise and some picture-book versions of his book-length adventures, Paddington's return has been greeted by adults who remember him fondly and by new readers just discovering the beloved bear's opus. Amid the stretch limos, views of the British Telecom tower, and rides on the London Eye which appear in the updated setting, like that other British bear, Pooh, Paddington hasn't changed a whisker in all these years, and that's a very good thing for us all.

Get reacquainted with Paddington and his creators at his own web site here.



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