This May, 2018, the last Paddington picture book that Michael Bond wrote is being published.
As always, Paddington finds himself in a bit of hot water. This time he gets swept up into the boys choir at St Paul’s Cathedral in London. It turns out bears have an unusual approach to the choral canon of church music. You’ll have to read the book to discover the details.
As always, Mr Bond found this most recent Paddington adventure in the usual sideways fashion that seems the way of clever authors. For the Queen’s 90th birthday, celebrated at St Paul’s, Mr Bond was asked to write a few appropriate words. In preparation, he took the opportunity to take a behind the scenes tour of the grand building. Frankly, I think he would have been the first admit that the tour and the commissioned words had nothing to do with one another. He just wanted to see the parts of the building to which the general public didn’t have access. Who wouldn’t?
Of course, Mr Bond, being Mr Bond, couldn’t help but consider how Paddington might navigate a building of such scale and history. And, thus, this story was born.
When it came time to illustrate the story, and after complaining about how easy it was for Mr Bond to write the words “St Paul’s Cathedral” while noting how complicated it was to draw Mr Wren’s annoying detailed building, I also wangled a behind the scenes tour. The kind canon showing me around turned the other check to my taking a few clandestine photos to make sure the details got put down correctly. Following here are some photos, early sketches and final drawings. Enjoy.
The first thing I needed to do was to see how Paddington would fit in with the choir.
Initial sketches went from pretty rough to more polished black and white……then to full color.
Next I tried to picture Paddington in the cathedral, in a progression like this…
All was going well.
So, relying on my sneaky photos from the Whispering Gallery, I put together the page in which Paddington sees a disturbance in the nave while he peers over the railing of the gallery. Then he rushes down the twisty stone stairs to help out.
Later in the choir rehearsal room, Paddington continues to impress with his singing skill.
But, of course all ends well in the vast upstairs…
…and I figured out how to draw a cathedral and Paddington returned to number 32 Windsor Gardens with a book of postcards to send his Aunt Lucy at the Home For Retired Bears in Peru, because Paddington knows that receiving something special in the mail always makes a bear’s, or a person’s, day better.
I’m an 87-year-old female fan of dear Paddington, with a book of Paddington stories I purchased in New Zealand long ago. Next time someone asks what I want for Christmas, I’ll say…. No! I’ll buy it myself: Paddington At St. Paul’s. I love that little bear and will enjoy his adventures there, as I recall enjoying Evensong in that cathedral once upon a time.