The beginning of the book felt like an uphill battle to read. Perhaps it was too much set up and not enough character? The character shines through more brightly later on in the stories toward the end. The opening was also a lot more initial set up and seemed to be a beginning of a larger plot which didn’t turn into anything while the final chapters were more or less stand-alone vignettes with their own internal mini three act structures. I think I preferred these smaller self-standing stories to the beginning. In form and structure, the book was more like a collection of short stories about Paddington than it was a novel with its own three act structure, which is what I had expected. As a result of this, I’m surprised that Paddington was made into a movie instead of a television show.
Paddington gets himself into the same types of trouble a typical 3-6 year old would in not understanding the culture, mores, and standards around him. In this sense the book falls into a category similar to Amelia Bedelia, who perennially doesn’t understand colloquialisms and other homophones. The difference is that, because he’s a cuddlier small bear, he’s cuter and thereby one is prone to be more forgiving than they would be of a child or of a grown woman who’s so dense that she apparently doesn’t have any linguistic intelligence at all.
Because Paddington is a bear and not a young child, the family also allows him to do things by himself that no sane parent would allow a young child to do: go to the market by themselves, wander around in a crowded theater unattended, float out into the ocean without a keen eye being kept on them. It’s this slight change which allows our young bear to get into far more trouble than a human youngster might.
Toward the end, I began to read using rapid serial visual presentation (with Spritz), and the language and quirks came through just as well as any other parts of the book. I did find myself picking up my Kindle Paperwhite to highlight a few choice passages and funny parts for later reflection though. There was a nice prologue with some interesting observations by the author several decades after he wrote the original. With a bit of thought, some of these make great advice for budding authors.
In sum, an entertaining an charming book whose self-contained chapters lend themselves well to bedtime stories.
- 05/27/16 marked as: want to read; “I’d watched the recent film version during the late Spring and thought I’d circle back around and read this again to see how closely the film followed the story. I haven’t read it since I was a child in maybe 3rd or 4th grade.”
- 09/06/16 started reading
- 09/08/16 ??.0% done;
- 10/01/16 18.0% done;
- 10/02/16 22.0% done;
- 10/26/16 33.0% done; “The plot moves somewhat slowly and the action is mostly what one would expect from a 5 or 6 year old–except that it’s a bear–but the charming language and the way in which is told makes all the difference. Bacon in a suitcase–indeed!”
- 10/28/16 47.0% done;
- 10/30/16 70.0% done;
“Chapter 5: Paddington and the “Old Master”
The pledge and the turn are reasonably well executed, but the prestige is lacking a bit.
Chapter 6: A Visit to the Theater
It’s episodes like this that make me wonder why they turned Paddington into a movie instead of a TV sitcom.”
- 10/31/16 Finished book;
“Chapter Seven: Adventure at the Seaside
The set up for this was short and sweet and the ending was what we’ve come to love in a Paddington story.
Chapter Eight: A Disappearing Trick
This is just hilariously charming. I do wish the uncivil neighbor had been better set up in a prior story, but the short treatment done here is sufficient for the hilarity that ensues with Paddington attempting a magic show.”
Highlights, Quotes, & Marginalia
Chapter One: Please Look After This Bear
It said simply, PLEASE LOOK AFTER THIS BEAR. THANK YOU.
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“You can’t just sit in Paddington Station waiting for something to happen.”
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“How’s that to be going on with?”
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“Things are always happening to me. I’m that sort of bear.”
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Chapter Two: A Bear in Hot Water
“That’s the trouble with being small—no one ever expects you to want things.”
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– Your Bookmark on page 16 | Location 231 | Added on Tuesday, September 6, 2016 10:43:26 PM
if the water didn’t get much less, at least it didn’t get any more.
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“If Mrs. Bird sees this, I don’t know what she’ll say.”
“I do,” exclaimed Jonathan. “She says it to me sometimes.”
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– Your Bookmark on page 19 | Location 288 | Added on Sunday, October 2, 2016 3:50:49 PM
– Your Bookmark on page 25 | Location 369 | Added on Wednesday, October 26, 2016 8:14:38 PM
Chapter Three: Paddington Goes Underground
The man sniffed suspiciously and called across to an inspector. “There’s a young bear ’ere, smelling of bacon. Says he made a mistake at the bottom.”
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Chapter Four: A Shopping Expedition
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Don’t see this word often in America, much less the Anglicization Madam or Madame
“I’ll have one for worst if you like,” he said. “That’s my best one!”
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Paddington trying to keep his old hat.
Paddington had a very persistent stare when he cared to use it. It was a very powerful stare. One which his Aunt Lucy had taught him and which he kept for special occasions.
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Bears were rather unpredictable. You never quite knew what they were thinking, and this one in particular seemed to have a mind of his own.
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– Your Bookmark on page 33 | Location 491 | Added on Friday, October 28, 2016 1:41:19 AM
– Your Bookmark on page 34 | Location 517 | Added on Friday, October 28, 2016 7:58:30 PM
“I think,” said Paddington, “if you don’t mind, I’d rather use the stairs.”
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– Your Bookmark on page 41 | Location 618 | Added on Saturday, October 29, 2016 2:24:05 PM
Chapter Five: Paddington and the “Old Master”
“That bear gets more for his ten pence than anyone I know,” said Mrs. Bird. “I don’t know how he gets away with it, really I don’t. It must be the mean streak in him.”
“I’m not mean,” said Paddington indignantly. “I’m just careful, that’s all.”
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“I don’t mind him just thinking,” said Mrs. Brown, with a worried expression on her face. “It’s when he actually thinks of something that the trouble starts.”
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Originally it had been a painting of a lake, with a blue sky and several sailing boats dotted around. Now it looked like a storm at sea. All the boats had gone, the sky was a funny shade of gray, and half the lake had disappeared.
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Only Mrs. Bird had her suspicions when she found Paddington’s “spots” on his towel in the bathroom, but she kept her thoughts to herself.
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“I think,” said Paddington to the world in general, “they might have stood it the right way up. It’s not every day a bear wins first prize in a painting competition!”
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Chapter Six: A Visit to the Theater
But it’ll be an experience for him, and he does like experiences so.
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Judy started to help him off with it.
“Mind my marmalade sandwich!” cried Paddington as she placed it on the ledge in front of him. But it was too late. He looked round guiltily.
“Crikey!” said Jonathan. “It’s fallen on someone’s head!” He looked over the edge of the box. “It’s that man with the bald head. He looks jolly cross.”
“Oh, Paddington!” Mrs. Brown looked despairingly at him. “Do you have to bring marmalade sandwiches to the theater?”
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– Your Bookmark on page 60 | Location 916 | Added on Sunday, October 30, 2016 10:05:45 AM
Chapter Seven: Adventure at the Seaside
Paddington gave him a hard stare. “You said there was a bird,” he said. “And there wasn’t.”
“I expect it flew away when it saw your face,” said the man nastily. “Now, where’s my pound?” Paddington looked at him even harder for a moment. “Perhaps the bird took it when it flew away,” he said.
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The man looked serious. “And you say he can’t swim?” he asked.
“He doesn’t even like having a bath much,” said Judy. “So I’m sure he can’t swim.”
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The man looked at the picture. “We could send out a description,” he said dubiously. “But it’s a job to see what he looks like by that. It’s all hat and dark glasses.”
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This is hilarious thinking that people aren’t going to notice a small bear with such a costume amongst people.
“What’s going on at the pier, chum?”
Without stopping, the man looked back over his shoulder and shouted, “Chap just crossed the Atlantic all by ’isself on a raft. ’Undreds of days without food or water so they say!” He hurried on.
The lifesaving man looked disappointed. “Another of these publicity stunts,” he said. “We get ’em every year.”
Mr. Brown looked thoughtful. “I wonder,” he said, looking in the direction of the pier.
“It would be just like him,” said Mrs. Bird. “It’s the sort of thing that would happen to Paddington.”
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Chapter Eight: A Disappearing Trick
Paddington thought this was a good idea, especially when he was told that bears had two birthdays every year—one in the summer and one in the winter.
“Just like the Queen,” said Mrs. Bird. “So you ought to consider yourself very important.”
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“I shall have a lot of ‘thank-you’ letters to write.”
“Perhaps you’d better leave them until tomorrow,” said Mrs. Brown hastily. Whenever Paddington wrote any letters, he generally managed to get more ink on himself than on the paper, and he was looking so unusually smart, having had a bath the night before, that it seemed a pity to spoil it.
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“Well,” said Mr. Brown, “so long as you don’t try sawing anyone in half this evening, I don’t mind.”
“I was only joking,” he added hurriedly as Paddington turned an inquiring gaze on him.
Nevertheless, as soon as lunch was over, Mr. Brown hurried down the garden and locked up his tools. With Paddington there was no sense in taking chances.
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Mr. Curry had a reputation in the neighborhood for meanness and for poking his nose into other people’s business. He was also very bad tempered and was always complaining about the least little thing which met with his disapproval. In the past that had often included Paddington, which was why the Browns had not invited him to the party.
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“For this trick,” he said, “I shall require an egg.”
“Oh, dear,” said Mrs. Bird as she hurried out to the kitchen, “I know something dreadful is going to happen.”
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“For my next trick,” said Paddington, “I would like a watch.”
“Are you sure?” asked Mrs. Brown anxiously. “Wouldn’t anything else do?”
Paddington consulted his instruction book. “It says a watch,” he said firmly.
Mr. Brown hurriedly pulled his sleeve down over his left wrist. Unfortunately, Mr. Curry, who was in an unusually good mood after his free tea, stood up and offered his. Paddington took it gratefully and placed it on the table. “This is a jolly good trick,” he said, reaching down into his box and pulling out a small hammer.
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“You ought to be ashamed of yourself, telling lies in front of a young bear!”
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“You know, Henry,” said Mrs. Brown as they watched Paddington go up the stairs to bed, looking rather sticky and more than a little sleepy, “it’s nice having a bear about the house.”
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Postscript (by Michael Bond)
I realized I had a book on my hands. It hadn’t been written with any particular age group in mind, which was fortunate, because until then I had always written for adults, and if I had consciously aimed at a young audience I might have “written down,” which is a bad idea. Anyway, I agree with Gertrude Stein: a book is a book is a book, and it should be enjoyable on all levels.
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This is a brilliant bit of advice to writers of all stripes, but particularly children’s writers. Most of the best YA and children’s literature I’ve read didn’t pander down to their audience.
you never know quite what bears are thinking, and he was right. You feel you can trust them with your secrets and they won’t pass them on.
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This is an interesting insight into Paddington’s character and is somewhat similar to my comments above about what makes having a talking bear that seems somewhat common interesting in these stories rather than just a young child which would have made the stories very bland and unbelievable.
Another thing about bears is that one perceives them in the wild lumbering around on two legs, so they are already halfway to being human.
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Another bit which makes the stories slightly more plausible psychologically.
The first book in a series is always the most fun to write. The world is your oyster, and you can go wherever your fancy takes you. However, at the same time you build in certain parameters which are there for all time.
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Again great advice for writers, particularly those writing a multi-part series.
Paddington was, and always will be, very real to me. He has his feet firmly on the ground, and he has a very strong sense of right and wrong. So much so that when I come up against a problem in my own life, I often ask myself what he would do.
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Each time I boarded a plane I knew it wouldn’t be long before he would be asked up to the flight deck. On one occasion I left him up there, strapped into a spare bucket seat while the crew explained the controls. A little later on, I received a second message asking if I would mind him staying up there because he wanted to practice landing the plane. I didn’t tell the other passengers!
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Guide to highlight colors
Yellow–general highlights and highlights which don’t fit under another category below
Orange–Vocabulary word; interesting and/or rare word
Green–Reference to read
Red–Example to work through
A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond was originally published on Chris Aldrich | Boffo Socko