Saturday, December 08, 2007

Is Paddington Bear an Illegal Alien?

From the Times Online comes word that Michael Bond is working on his first Paddington Bear novel in 29 years, a book that will be published next summer to mark the 50th anniversary of Paddington's introduction to young readers around the world. The very fact that Mr. Bond is writing a new Paddington story is a nice surprise, but this one seems to have a very different tone from the Paddington books that I remember reading to my girls when they were small.

In a surprisingly political opening chapter to Paddington Here and Now police interrogate the duffelcoat-wearing stowaway from darkest Peru about his residency status and right to remain in England.
Further plot details are guarded as fiercely as the marmalade sandwiches that Paddington keeps under his hat “for emergencies”. Presumably, however, he fixes his police interviewers with a particularly hard stare because he survives the brush with the law to continue wreaking his familiar brand of mild havoc around London.
...he (Bond) was reluctant to add to the 11 books unless he had a strong, contemporary storyline, according to Sue Buswell, who bought the rights to the new book for HarperCollins Children’s Books.

She told The Times: “We started talking about it several years ago and he had a twinkle in his eye. This novel chimes with where we are now rather than 1950s Britain. It’s about the nature of what makes a place your home, where you belong. These are important questions and they are less clear-cut than they were when Michael wrote the first book.”

In the book a misunderstanding leads to Paddington being arrested and taken to his local police station where he faces questions about his immigration status. Fans of the bear will know that his Aunt Lucy arranged for him to stow away on a ship’s lifeboat from Peru after she went to live in the Home for Retired Bears in Lima. Therefore, he has no papers proving his identity, Ms Buswell said, “although it all works out as it always does with Paddington”.
I'm going to take a "wait and see" attitude on this one, I think. On the one hand, as I said, it's really great to hear that a new Paddington story is in the works because my daughters really enjoyed hearing me read about his various misadventures. On the other, I worry a bit that this one will be so politically correct that it will lose the charm of past books and will make many parents reluctant to "preach" political correctness of this sort to their children.

I'll keep my fingers crossed that Mr. Bond doesn't go completely overboard with a message of blind tolerance of those illegally crossing the world's borders because I'd like to read the new one to my grandkids...sort of an unbroken circle kind of thing.


  1. Oh my, I LOVED Paddington Bear when I was a kid.
    Thank you for renewing the memory, Sam.
    I STILL love Paddington.
    He is my favorite........ bear.

  2. Paddington is pretty cool, Cip. My kids loved the way he was always in and out of trouble...and just kept coming back for more.