The original Paddington Bear books were written by author, Michael Bond between 1958-1979.
There were eleven in the series, and each told of the adventures about a young bear from Darkest Peru. A stowaway, he is discovered by Mr. & Mrs. Brown at Paddington Station (and is thus named). They take Paddington home and he becomes part of the family.
Paddington gets into all sorts of innocent trouble through misunderstandings of the English language, which makes him a charming loveable character that children can only too well relate to.
He is a bit of a ragamuffin character, with his uncle's old hat covered in marmalade stains, and this aspect of his character is captured perfectly by the rough sketches illustrated by Peggy Fortnum.
In 2008, as part of Paddington's fiftieth anniversary, Michael Bond wrote a twelfth book called Paddington Here and Now. I was wary at first, not sure how it would compare to the previous books.
I needn't have worried much, however, as Bond retains all the humour, misunderstandings, and wide-eyed innocence of the character intact.
That is not to say there aren't noticeable differences. Upon opening the book, you will immediately see that the illustrations have changed. At first I thought
that Peggy Fortnum had changed her style - after all, her name was still on the front cover. It turns out, however, that Fortnum merely illustrated the cover, and the drawings inside are by R.W. Alley
Instead of the scruffy drawings from fifty years ago, we are presented with cutesy round faced characters. Paddington now looks like a cuddly teddy, and although he is now drawn much shorter (in fitting with Bond's description), his more clean cut and presentable appearance doesn't suit as well.
Within the story itself, you will find that Paddington has been transported in time. Like the original books, Here and Now is set in present day; the only problem is that present day is fifty years later from the first book.
I didn't notice at first, partly because none of the characters have aged, but also due to Bond's talented and timeless writing style. I only realised that something was up when currency was mentioned. Instead of things costing a few pence, Paddington was having to pay pounds.
My suspicions were confirmed when Paddington's friend Mr. Gruber takes him on a ride on the London Eye.
I am two minds about this transition. In my heart I wish that Bond had kept Paddington in the 50s-70s setting, but on a practical level I completely understand why the book was updated to 'here and now'. Publishers are wanting to appeal the current generation, and children born in the last decade are going to be completely unfamiliar with the culture and currency of fifty years ago. When you are trying to get a young child into reading, the last thing you want to do have to do is start explaining all these old fangled ways.
In 2012, Bond published book number thirteen in the series. Here, the change in tone was more marked. As well as being set in present day, Bond makes a lot of pop culture references; the main theme of Paddington Races Ahead is the Olympic Games. For me, this ruins the timeless quality Paddington had (although I must admit the tale about using oysters to travel on a bus was very amusing).
I also felt that Bond was becoming a bit of a lecturer; he started adding a lot of exposition, and used the Brown's children, Jonathan and Judy, to do it. This made them sound like annoying know-it-alls, and not very teenage-like.
In conclusion, children of this era are going to love the books. They are well told, funny, and current. Adults, however, may be left feeling disappointed and hankering for the good old days when buns were tuppence and Paddington was allowed to remain blissfully ignorant.