Monday, May 14, 2018

Free Time! Paddington's Day Off by Michael Bond

One day Paddington went out for a walk.

He went to see Mr. Gruber, who owned a shop in the Portobello Road market.

"It is such a beautiful day! Let's take the day off," said Mr. Gruber.
Hanging a CLOSED sign on his shop door, Mr. Gruber invites Paddington's friends Jonathan and Judy along and with a picnic lunch packed, the four of them set off, Mr. Gruber providentially taking along his suitcase with a map, guidebook, and opera glasses inside. After all, one never knows what a day with Paddington will bring!

Soon the jolly expedition has trekked far from home and enters the park.

"What's that sound?" said Mr. Gruber suddenly.

It's a band in the bandstand in the center of the park. And appropriately, they are playing the "Surprise Symphony!" What could the surprise be? While Mr. Gruber and the children are setting out their picnic, Paddinton strolls up to the bandstand to find out. Seeing a small door marked Private under the stage, Paddington opens it and walks right through, but when it closes behind him, he finds he's locked inside. It's rather dark and most unpleasant under there, and Paddington wants out. He picks up an old broom and begins to knock on the ceiling, which is actually the floor of the stage where the band is playing.


The conductor jumped!

Mr. Gruber notices that the music doesn't sound just right, and he also notices that Paddington is missing! Could there be a connection between those two things?

It's not exactly the surprise that Joseph Haydn had written in the score when the conductor opens the trapdoor onstage and Paddington climbs up from underneath.

"Oh! It's a bear," he observes.

Well, that is a surprise, as the very composed conductor hands over his baton to Paddington Bear to complete the "Surprise Symphony." It's not your usual day in the park, but as in Michael Bond's Paddington's Day Off (I Can Read Level 1) (Harper, 2017) there's always something unexpected where the very unusual Peruvian bear named Paddington is concerned.

With a series of perpetually popular children's novels beginning in 1958 with A Bear Called Paddington, and ending in 2017 with Bond's last novel, Paddington's Finest Hour, with a long-running cartoon series and two full-length Paddington movies (the 2014 Paddington and the 2018 Paddington 2) and now an I-Can-Read series by the venerable author himself, it seems that even with the death of Michael Bond in 2017 at the age of 91, Paddington will be there for children who promise to "Please look after this bear" for a long, long time.

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