This Day In Literary History
On January 13th, 1926, the famous English children's book writer Michael Bond was born. He was born in Newbury, Berkshire, England.
As a boy, Bond was educated at Presentation College, a Catholic boys' school. During World War II, he served in both the RAF (Royal Air Force) and the Middlesex Regiment of the British Army.
Michael Bond began his writing career in 1945 at the age of nineteen. He sold his first short story to the London Opinion magazine. He continued to write stories and plays and later took a job as a cameraman for the BBC.
While working for the BBC, he would film the popular Blue Peter children's TV series. In 1958, his first book was published. It was a children's book, and the first in a beloved series of classic children's books that would bring its author international fame.
A Bear Called Paddington told the story of a bear from "Darkest Peru" who is sent to England by his Aunt Lucy. He arrives in London's Paddington Station wearing his bush hat, coat, and boots, carrying a battered suitcase and his favorite food - marmalade sandwiches.
He is found by the Brown family - Mr. and Mrs. Brown and their two children, Jonathan and Judy. Pinned to the bear's coat is a note that reads "PLEASE LOOK AFTER THIS BEAR. THANK YOU."
The Browns decide to adopt the charming, well-mannered bear, whom they name Paddington. They bring him home, where he gets into all sorts of misadventures and annoys the Browns' foul-tempered next door neighbor, Mr. Curry.
Two years before his book was published, on Christmas Eve, 1956, Michael Bond noticed a lone teddy bear on the shelf of a London store. He bought it as a Christmas present for his wife.
That gave him the idea for the story of Paddington, and he based the details of the bear's arrival on old newsreels he'd seen during the war that depicted child evacuees leaving London with labels around their necks and carrying small suitcases.
The Paddington books would become hugely popular in both the UK and the U.S., and be published in many other countries. Bond would write over a dozen Paddington books throughout the years.
In the early 1970s, he began a new series of books featuring another popular character, Olga da Polga. The first book in the series, The Tales of Olga da Polga, was published in 1971.
Olga da Polga is a guinea pig and a teller of tall tales in the tradition of Baron Munchhausen. Something fairly ordinary will happen to her, and she'll give a wildly exaggerated account of it to her friends. Bond would write numerous books featuring Olga da Polga's alleged adventures.
In 1975, while he was working on his Olga da Polga series, Michael Bond served as the producer of a BBC TV series based on his Paddington books. The animated series was famous for its unique look.
While the other characters and the backgrounds were two-dimensional animations, Paddington was rendered in 3D stop-motion animation. Whenever Paddington touched two-dimensional objects, they would become 3D like him.
The series was a huge hit in the UK and just as successful when it premiered on American television. In 1989, a new Paddington animated series premiered on American TV, produced by the Hanna-Barbera studios and starring the voices of Charlie Adler as Paddington and Tim Curry as Mr. Curry.
A Paddington feature film was produced in 2014. Directed and co-written by Paul King, the film starred Nicole Kidman, Michael Gambon, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, and Ben Whishaw as the voice of Paddington.
Michael Bond wasn't keen on a film adaptation of his cherished books, saying "They don’t like to consult you, just like publishers don’t like you to be alone with the illustrator – in case you’re plotting, which you often are."
But he loved the final product, and even appeared in a brief cameo. Released in January of 2016, the film was a critical and commercial success. It grossed $25 million - half its budget - in the opening weekend alone.
A sequel, Paddington 2, was released in 2018. Though popular with fans and critics, it didn't do quite as well on its opening weekend, grossing $11 million on its $40 million budget, but its worldwide theatrical gross was $227 million.
In the 1980s, Bond began yet another series of novels, this time geared toward adult readers. It was a series of humorous mystery novels featuring Monsieur Pamplemousse, a French food critic and amateur detective.
Assisting him in his investigations of crimes is his faithful bloodhound, Pommes Frites. The first book in the series, Monsieur Pamplemousse, was published in 1983.
In addition his popular novel series, Michael Bond has written numerous other books, including non-fiction books such as a travel guide and his autobiography, Bears and Forebears: A Life So Far (1996).
In 1997, he was awarded the OBE (Order of the British Empire) for services to children's literature. Ten years later, in 2007, the University of Reading awarded him an Honorary Doctor of Letters.
Michael Bond died in June 2017 at the age of 91. If you visit Paddington station, you'll see a bronze statue of Paddington Bear, sculpted by artist Marcus Cornish. In Saint Mary's Square, there's a sculpture of Michael Bond holding a Paddington teddy bear.
Quote Of The Day
"It's nice having a bear about the house." - Michael Bond
Today's video features a clip from the classic 1970s BBC TV series adaptation of Paddington, produced by his author, Michael Bond. This was one of my favorite shows when I was a kid. Enjoy!