Paddington bear creator Michael Bond dies at 91

LONDON — Author Michael Bond, creator of the hugely popular children’s character Paddington bear, has died at the age of 91, his publisher said Wednesday.

Bond died at home on Tuesday after a short illness, his publisher HarperCollins announced in a statement on Facebook, calling him a “giant of children’s literature.”

Bond was born in Berkshire, England, in 1926 and began writing in 1945, after serving in World War II.

He was working as a cameraman for the BBC when he came up with the idea of a small toy bear that he named after Paddington Station in London, near where he was living at the time.

Bond’s first book, “A Bear Called Paddington,” was published in 1958, and follows the adventures of a small orphaned bear as he travels from Peru to the British capital.

He is found at Paddington Station wearing a tag saying “Please look after this bear. Thank you,” and is taken in by the Brown family.

Bond has said Paddington was inspired in part by his memories of Jewish children who were evacuated to London during World War II.

“They all had a label round their neck with their name and address on and a little case or package containing all their treasured possessions. So Paddington, in a sense, was a refugee, and I do think that there’s no sadder sight than refugees,” Bond told the Guardian in 2014.

More than 35 million Paddington books have been sold worldwide, according to HarperCollins. The character has inspired an animated series and two films, including one due out later this year.

Bond’s latest Paddington book, “Paddington’s Finest Hour,” was published in April. Bond published almost 200 books during his lifetime, HarperCollins said. He was awarded a CBE by Queen Elizabeth II in 2015.

“He was a true gentleman, a bon viveur, the most entertaining company and the most enchanting of writers,” Ann-Janine Murtagh, executive publisher of HarperCollins Children’s Books, said in a statement.

“He will be forever remembered for his creation of the iconic Paddington, with his duffle coat and wellington boots, which touched my own heart as a child and will live on in the hearts of future generations.”