Michael Bond, the British author of the beloved Paddington Bear book series, has died at the age of 91 after a brief, unspecified illness.
Publisher HarperCollins confirmed the news Wednesday: “It is with great sadness that we announce that Michael Bond, CBE, the creator of one Britain’s best-loved children’s characters, Paddington, died at home yesterday at 91 following a short illness.”
The marmalade-loving bear clad in duffel coat and hat, who travelled from “Darkest Peru” to London’s Paddington station, first appeared in A Bear Called Paddington in 1958. The bear arrived at London’s Paddington train station wearing a sign saying “Please look after this bear. Thank you.”
Eventually adopted by the Brown family and named Paddington, he went on a series of misadventures. The little bear appeared in some 20 books and a feature film — one of the most successful family films of all time.
Bond even made a brief cameo in the 2014 “Paddington” movie, playing a character listed as the “Kindly Gentleman.”
The books have sold some 35 million copies worldwide and have been translated into 40 languages. Bond said he based the character on a teddy bear that he bought for his wife as a stocking stuffer and named him after the station he used for his daily commutes.
Paddington has gone on to become an enduring symbol of Britain, and a statue of him stands on the platform at his namesake train station.
Ann-Janine Murtagh, executive publisher of HarperCollins Children’s Books, said Paddington “touched my own heart as a child and will live on in the hearts of future generations.”
Explaining the character’s enduring appeal in 2008, Bond said “there’s something about bears which sets them apart from the other toys.”
“I think dolls are always wondering what they’re going to wear next,” he told The Associated Press. “Bears have this quality that children, in particular, feel they can tell their secrets to and they won’t pass them on.”
Many Twitter users shared their sorrow over Bond’s passing. Clearly, this is a book series that touched many people around the world.
Bond leaves behind his wife, two adult children and four grandchildren — and a bear for generations to enjoy.