A Bear Called Paddington is a humorous children's novel of eight chapters by the British author Michael Bond. It was first published in the United Kingdom on October 13, 1958. It is the first of fourteen novels which Bond wrote about the character of Paddington Bear.
The novel describes how Paddington Bear from "Darkest Peru" comes to live with the Brown family of 32 Windsor Gardens, London, how he makes a friend in the form of the antiques dealer Mr. Gruber and how he makes an enemy in the form of the Browns' neighbor Mr. Curry. Although he is capable of making those he thinks are being rude or condescending towards him feel uncomfortable simply by giving them a hard stare, Paddington is very friendly, extremely polite and has a strong sense of right and wrong. However, he also has a child-like curiosity and is rather naive, life among humans in England is new and fascinating to him and he has some difficulty adjusting. As a small bear, he also has some physical difficulty coping in a world which is not designed for him, which makes him appear to be somewhat clumsy. As a result, Paddington often finds himself in trouble of some kind. Nevertheless, things always seem to work out well for Paddington in the end.
Many of the chapters in A Bear Called Paddington can be enjoyed as stand-alone stories. Children are likely to request that their favorite chapters from the novel be re-read to them over and over again.
- Please Look After This Bear
Mr. and Mrs. Brown go to Paddington, the London train station, to meet their daughter Judy who is coming home from school. Mr. Brown notices a small dirty looking bear who is wearing an odd hat and sitting on an old suitcase. The Browns go to talk to him. They find out that he has just arrived from Peru as a stowaway. He had been brought up by his Aunt Lucy but she urged him to emigrate after she went to live in a home for retired bears in Lima. The bear explains to the Browns that he traveled to England in a lifeboat and lived off one jar of marmalade. Mrs. Brown asks the bear if he would like to stay with them for a few days. The bear happily agrees. When Mrs. Brown asks the bear what his name is, he replies that he does not have a name, apart from "a Peruvian one which no one can understand." Mrs. Brown decides to name the bear "Paddington" after the station where they found him.
Mr. Brown takes Paddington to get some tea and cakes. Paddington gets himself covered in cream, jam and crumbs. When Judy first sees him, his messy appearance just endears him to her more. The family travels home in a taxi, a journey for which Mr. Brown has to pay extra because Paddington gets cream, jam and crumbs on the taxi's interior and on the taxi driver himself.
Before they go inside the house, Judy warns Paddington to beware of their housekeeper Mrs. Bird, who can sometimes be very fierce.
- A Bear in Hot Water
Paddington is happy to find that Mrs. Bird is not as fierce as he had expected. He is impressed that she knows that Peruvian bears like marmalade. Judy shows Paddington his room and the bathroom. She urges him to take a bath.
In the bathroom, Paddington uses shaving foam to make a map on the floor which shows his progress from Peru to England. When he gets into the bathtub, he finds that he has overfilled it and he has difficulty keeping his nose above water. Out of desperation, he begins using his hat to empty the tub of water.
Downstairs, the Browns are discussing whether or not Paddington should stay with them forever. Apart from Mr. Brown, everyone says that he should, even the Browns' son Jonathan who has not met Paddington yet. In truth, Mr. Brown wants Paddington to stay too and Mrs. Bird has no objections. It is decided that the bear should remain with them always.
Mr. Brown says that he felt a drop of water. Judy notices a damp patch in the ceiling. She and Jonathan go upstairs, rescue Paddington from the bathtub and clean the bathroom. Judy points out to Paddington that he could have simply pulled out the plug.
After his bath, Paddington is asked to tell the Browns his life story but he falls asleep in a chair.
- Paddington Goes Underground
Paddington wakes up the following morning and finds himself in bed. He is told that he will be going on a shopping trip that day. Mrs. Bird brings him a breakfast of grapefruit, eggs, bacon, toast, tea and marmalade, which Paddington decides to mix together on one plate. After he has finished eating, Paddington is left with one large piece of bacon. He decides to save it for later and puts it in his suitcase. When Paddington goes out with Mrs. Brown and Judy, a dog notices the smell of bacon and starts following them. By the time they arrive at the Underground train station, six dogs are following them.
In the busy Underground station, Paddington gets separated from Mrs. Brown and Judy. He sees them going up an escalator while he is going down another. Mrs. Brown and her daughter try to run down the up escalator. Paddington tries to run up the down escalator, before deciding to use the emergency button to stop all the escalators.
A ticket inspector threatens to prosecute Paddington, saying, "Persons are expected to abide by the regulations". When Judy points out that Paddington is not a person, the ticket inspector has no choice but to let him go.
- A Shopping Expedition
Mrs. Brown, Judy and Paddington go to Barkridge's department store where Mrs. Brown buys Paddington a duffel coat and a green woolen beret. Having had enough of escalators after her experience in the Underground, Mrs. Brown decides to take the elevator. Unfortunately, after his large breakfast, the trip in the elevator makes Paddington feel sick. Mrs. Brown tells him to sit still while she goes to look for Judy, who has gone off shopping on her own.
Paddington finds that he is near the store's main entrance and decides to go out for some fresh air. On his way to the front door, the hood of his duffel coat falls over his eyes and he finds himself in the dark. By mistake, instead of going out the front door, Paddington finds himself in a shop window. When he removes his hood, he finds that he has knocked over a display of cans. A large crowd gathers outside the window as Paddington tries to stack the cans again, before they fall over while he is on top of them.
Mrs. Brown and Judy alert a store detective to Paddington's disapperance. When the detective goes to investigate what is drawing a large crowd, he immediately recognizes Paddington and calls him a criminal. However, the store manager is delighted with Paddington for attracting the biggest crowd which Barkridge's has seen in years. Paddington is given a large jar of marmalade as a reward.
- Paddington and the 'Old Master'
Some time has passed since the events of the previous four chapters. Paddington has settled down into life with the Brown family. He often goes shopping for the family on the nearby Portobello Road. It is on the Portobello Road that he meets Mr. Gruber, an antiques dealer who had lived in South America when he was young.
Paddington tries to sell Mr. Gruber some of the shiny coins which he brought with him from Peru. Mr. Gruber tells Paddington that shiny things are not always valuable. He shows the bear some dull old coins called sovereigns which are worth fifty pounds each. To further demonstrate that things are not always what they seem, Mr. Gruber shows Paddington a painting which he is in the process of cleaning. Mr. Gruber has found that the painting of a ship which he bought was painted on top of an older picture of a woman. Mr. Gruber thinks that the painting of a woman may be by an "old master" and may be very valuable.
At home, Paddington finds a painting in a canvas bag in the shed. It shows some boats on a lake. Paddington applies some paint remover to it but is disappointed to find that the canvas underneath is blank. He tries to paint back what he removed but then finds that he wants to add more color instead. He puts the painting back in the canvas bag.
The following day, Mr. Brown wins first prize for his painting at a craft fair, for his "remarkable use of color". He decides to donate his prize money to the home for retired bears in Lima.
- A Visit to the Theater
Mr. Brown has received tickets for a box on the first night of a new play starring the famous actor Sir Sealy Bloom. Mrs. Brown is worried that Paddington might take the play too seriously.
Just before the play begins, Paddington causes a minor commotion by dropping a marmalade sandwich from the balcony and loudly complaining about not being able to keep the opera glasses for which he paid two shillings. This contributes to the bad evening which Sir Sealy Bloom is having. He is already unhappy about playing the villain in the play, a man who throws his daughter out of his home. Sir Sealy is also upset because the prompt boy has not turned up for work and there is nobody to help him when he forgets his lines.
During the interval, Paddington goes to Sir Sealy's dressing room to tell him to stop mistreating his daughter. Sir Sealy is startled. However, Sarah, the actress who plays his daughter, tells Sir Sealy to take the fact that Paddington thought it was all true as a compliment to his acting. The two persuade Paddington to sit in for the prompt boy for the second act. As a reward, Paddington receives autographed photos of Sir Sealy and Sarah, two shillings and a pair of opera glasses.
- Adventure at the Seaside
On his first trip to the coast, Paddington is taken to the resort town of Brightsea. The family sees a sign for a sandcastle building competition, which states that all sandcastles must be built by individuals, not groups. Mr. Brown suggests that Jonathan, Judy and Paddington go to different parts of the beach to build their castles on their own. Paddington digs a large moat and goes to sleep in it. The tide then comes in.
The Browns report Paddington's disappearance to a lifeguard. The lifeguard reassures the family that, instead of being swept out to sea, Paddington might just have gone to join the crowd of people gathering to see something interesting on the pier. When they get to the end of the pier, the Browns find Paddington in the sea, using his pail as a boat and using his shovel as a paddle. A rumor has spread around that the bear has been on the ocean for a long time, which Paddington himself believes. When he sees Mr. Brown, he innocently asks, "Is it still only Tuesday? I thought it was later than that."
- A Disappearing Trick
It has been two months since Paddington came to live with the Brown family. The family decides to hold a birthday party for him. Since Paddington does not know how old he is, the Browns decide to make it his first birthday party. Mrs. Brown tells Paddington that bears have birthdays twice a year, in the summer and the winter, that way his age will soon advance.
Although he was not invited, one of the people who goes to Paddington's birthday is the Brown's bad tempered neighbor Mr. Curry, who is said to have already been angered by Paddington on several occasions.
Paddington puts on a magic show at his party, using the magic set which Mr. and Mrs. Brown gave him as a present. However, he has not rehearsed properly and is still reading the instruction book while performing the show. Nevertheless, Mr. Curry is highly impressed with the performance. When Paddington asks if anybody can lend him a watch, Mr. Curry happily offers his. Only after he has smashed the watch with a hammer does Paddington see in the instruction book that it is necessary to have a second watch in order for the trick to work. Mr. Curry leaves, angrily saying that he will never have tea with the Browns again.
Mr. Gruber suggests that Paddington try a trick in which a torn playing card appears in an audience member's ear. At the conclusion of the trick, the object which appears in Mr. Gruber's ear is not a torn playing card but one of the valuable sovereign coins from his shop. Mr. Gruber gives the coin to Paddington as a birthday present.