Read First, Watch After: Paddington
The first in the series of A Bear Called Paddington books was published in 1958, and it was a slim, charmingly illustrated volume written by Michael Bond. Though the story originated in the UK, kids from all over the world fell in love with Paddington, the cuddly bear who wore red and blue.
by Michael Bond
The first book is the most beloved, as it introduces Paddington and his adoptive family, The Browns. Chapter One tells how the Browns met the eponymous bear at the Paddington Train Station:
Mrs. Brown followed the direction of his arm and dimly made out a small, furry object in the shadows. It seemed to be sitting on some kind of suitcase and around its neck there was a label with some writing on it. The suitcase was old and battered and on the side, in large letters, were the words “WANTED ON VOYAGE”.
Mrs. Brown clutched at her husband. “Why, Henry,” she exclaimed. “I believe you were right after all! It is a bear!” She peered at it more closely. It seemed a very unusual kind of bear. It was brown in colour, a rather dirty brown, and it was wearing a most odd looking hat, with a wide brim, just as Mr. Brown had said. From beneath the brim, two large, round eyes stared back at her.
Seeing that something was expected of it, the bear stood up and politely raised its hat, revealing two black ears. “Good afternoon,” it said, in a small, clear voice.
“Er… good afternoon,” replied Mr. Brown, doubtfully. There was a moment of silence.
The bear looked at them inquiringly. “Can I help you?”
Mr. Brown looked rather embarrassed. “Well… no… Err… as a matter of fact, we were wondering if we could help you.” Mrs. Brown bent down. “You’re a very small bear,” she said.
The bear puffed out its chest. “I’m a very rare sort of bear,” he replied importantly. “There aren’t many of us left where I come from.”
“And where is that?” asked Mrs. Brown.
The bear looked ‘round carefully before replying. “Darkest Peru. I’m not really supposed to be here at all. I’m a stowaway!”
The first major Paddington film to be made of this beloved classic came out in 2014. It stars Sally Hawkins and Hugh Bonneville as the Browns, while Paddington is voiced by Ben Whishaw, and Nicole Kidman has the role of the malevolent Millicent. Paddington is a complete CGI creation, yet there’s a fuzzy realness to him as the bumbling bear wreaks havoc on the Brown’s humble abode (as, one might imagine, a bear would).
This movie is geared toward the younger kids, and it was a hit when it was released… and, it’s remained on the playlist for years in some households. That’s because it’s such a sweet and timeless tale.
Like the book, the film launches right into the initial meeting of the Browns and the bear. They adopt him, introduce him to their kids Judy (Madeleine Harris) and Jonathan (Samuel Joslin), take him into their home, and hilarity ensues… so does a bathtub flood and a calamity in the form of a determined taxidermist (Kidman) who simply must have Paddington for herself. As Rolling Stone reviewer Peter Travers said, “It’s the Marx Brothers meets Wes Anderson.”
The Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace, the Natural History Museum, red telephone boxes, double-decker buses, and English bobbies are all on display in this delightfully wrought tale, sure to make anglophiles of all the kids who watch it – and yes, Paddington is from the producers of the Harry Potter films, so they know a thing or two about bringing out London’s best. Everything else about Paddington is picture perfect, and so’s the story.
It’s a must-read AND a must-see; a rare and delightful combination.
Where on Earth is darkest Peru? What books-turned-films do you enjoy reading and watching with the kids? Share your favorites with us!
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