A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond
Paddington is among the most famous of literary bears, but despite his fame, many people don’t really know Paddington aside from his love of marmalade, famous blue coat and yellow hat and tag pleading “PLEASE LOOK AFTER THIS BEAR.” Several years ago, I had the opportunity to reacquaint myself with Paddington and I fell in love all over again. I’d handed off my battered childhood copy to a student who was both an insatiable reader and someone who trusted me completely. I had no idea what I started. Every day during reading she sought me out, either wanting clarification on a Britishism, or laughing hysterically over something in the story and wanting to share the joke. The rest of the class was captivated. WHAT was so interesting? They begged and cajoled and finally I consented to read it aloud to them. Once I’d finished, I had an index card completely filled with names, a waiting list for each book of the Paddington series that I owned. Another student demanded that I explain interlibrary loans to her mother so that she could read even more Paddington. Forget Diary of a Wimpy Kid, forget Harry Potter (which was waaaay too hard for most of them anyway), these kids wanting Paddington. He really is one very special bear.
The vocabulary and reading level is probably such that it can be read independently by advanced third graders, with some help on the British terms for things. But Paddington makes an ideal read-aloud for young listeners. The chapters are often a small story about Paddington and are fairly self-contained.
A minor complaint – It is a bit too bad that Paddington is expected to completely abandon his Peruvian past – in fact, he admits to having a Peruvian name “which no one can understand”.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – Paddington only wears a hat to begin with.
Profanity – None.
Death, Violence and Gore – None.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – None.
Frightening or Intense Things – Paddington has trouble keeping his head above water when alone in the bath.