Title: A Bear Called Paddington
Author: Michael Bond
Date of Publication: 1958
Age Appropriateness: All ages. Though not all ages will perhaps understand the humor inherent in the book, all ages will be able to sympathize with the erstwhile bear. There is no material that would be offensive to the youngest child, with the possible exception of Paddington’s uncanny ability to get himself into trouble.
Overall Rating: Excellent. The book is both wonderfully innocent and hilariously funny.
Language: the worst word in the book is “nasty”
Violence: A bear accidentally runs into a man and knocks him down.
Adult Content: n/a
Disturbing or scary elements:
A bear has to travel by himself because his guardian had to go into a home for retired bears. A bear is worried he doesn’t have enough money to pay for room and board. A bear is very hungry. A bear talks about getting his head stuck in a cup when he tries to drink. A woman asks a man what he had done to a bear when she finds the bear covered in cream and jam. A bear slips and falls into a saucer of hot tea. A taxi driver threatens to charge extra for transporting a sticky bear. A driver is startled and narrowly misses hitting a bus. A man and a woman appear to be arguing with another man. A bear thinks a woman may be a bit fierce. A bear feels homesick for his aunt. A man is a little bit afraid of his housekeeper.
A bear finds he can’t get out of a bath and calls for help. A bear fears he’s going to drown in a bath because he forgets to pull the plug out. A bear hits himself in the eye with grapefruit juice. A bear gets lost in a crowd. A bear is unable to immediately rejoin the adult looking after him. A bear pushes a “stop” button on an escalator, thinking that it’s an emergency. A bear gives a rude man a hard stare, causing him to collapse into a chair, sweating. A bear feels sick after riding an elevator. A bear can’t see and thinks someone turned all the lights off. A bear knocks over a display stand onto himself. A woman and a girl talk to a store detective about a missing bear. A bear falls off a small tower he constructed.
A bear is startled when a store detective knows his name. A man waves his fist at another man. An adult is alarmed by a small bear in his dressing room. A man tries unsuccessfully to cheat a bear. A bear gets stuck in a prompter’s box. A family is anxious about a bear who’s been missing for a couple of hours at high tide and the family finds his hat floating in the water. A bear gets stuck in a box that came with a set of magic tricks.
Morally problematical content:
A bear stows away on a ship from Peru. A family takes in a bear, though they think it might be illegal. A family gives a bear an English name because no one can pronounce his Peruvian name. A bear stands on a table to eat. A woman complains to her daughter about what happens when she leaves her husband alone for five minutes. A bear is reluctant to take a bath. A bear asks if he can sit in a puddle instead of taking a bath. A family neglects to report a stowaway to the authorities. A bear draws a map of Peru on a bathroom floor with shaving cream. A bear bails water out of tub using his hat to keep the water from getting dangerously deep.
Two children warn a bear about what an adult will say if they don’t clean up a mess. A family pretends not to recognize a bear after he has had a bath. A girl tells a bear that he’s “the stickiest bear imaginable.” A bear saves a piece of bacon in his suitcase for later. A bear decides not to tell a adult about bailing out the bathtub. A bear decides not to tell an adult that he’s stored a piece of bacon for later. A man looks at a bear’s hat distastefully. A man is rude to a woman and suggests she try shopping in the bargain basement. A bear stares very hard at a rude man, causing the man discomfort. A young man who works for the rude man approves of the bear’s actions. A rude man gives a cold look to his employee. A bear stares very hard at the rude man. A woman rests her shopping bag on a bear’s head and the bear pushes it off. A bear discovers that he’s knocked over a window display and tries to put it back together.
A bear accidentally ruins a man’s painting and tries to fix it by painting his own picture over it. A boy hopes to get sick to avoid school. A bear gives a man a hard stare because the man held his painting up the wrong way. A woman is offended when a bear doesn’t want to check his coat if he has to pay for it. A bear accidentally drops a sandwich on a man’s head. A bear talks loudly in a theatre. A bear watching a play doesn’t understand that the actors are just acting and tries to intervene. A bear goes to rescue a girl from the play he believes has been thrown out by her father. A bear gets ink all over his sheets when he writes letters. A bear is given a magic trick set and practices with it. A bear believes he has made a jar of marmalade disappear. A disagreeable man crashes a party to get a free meal. A bear accidentally destroys a man’s watch. A man tells a lie about how much the watch cost. A man storms out of a party he crashed. A man laughs at another man. A man pretends to pull a sovereign out of his ear.
The book is told in a series of short stories revolving around the bear Paddington. The episodes are short and charming. The characters besides Paddington are not given much depth, but character studies would bore the young audience the book is intended for. The stories of the well-meaning bear with “a strong sense of right and wrong” are charmingly told without being saccharine, and an older audience can appreciate the humor that does not get crass or vulgar.
While Paddington often does things that should not be imitated by a child, he is never, ever intentionally naughty. Sometimes he doesn’t immediately own up to something he has done, but out of a sense of sheepishness, not because he means to be deceitful. He is always found out later, anyway. The adults in the story are usually kind, helpful and protective with the exception of a few minor characters.
A well-meaning bear often gets into scrapes but always lands on his feet.
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