Retro Review: Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne Reviewed by Anita Ferreri
Christopher Robin and his friends silly old Pooh, bouncy Tigger, wise Owl and morose Eeyore began their adventures in a magical world, the Hundred Acre Woods, in Milne’s 1926 text, Winnie-the-Pooh, and continued their adventures in The House at Pooh Corner. Their antics are further depicted in two books of verse, When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six. In the 1960’s, Walt Disney saw the potential immortality in Milne’s characters and bought the rights to market Pooh and his friends. There have been numerous Disney adapted stories, cartoons and movies that have allowed images and stories of Pooh and his friends to be readily available and accessible to new generations of children all over the world; however, there is something almost surreal about the original texts that inspires readers to don British lilts and assures characters’ words become part of readers’ lives.
Truth be told, I discovered Milne’s origins and his classic texts after I found myself quoting an endearing Disney picture book about a blustery day to my then-three-year-old daughter. What I found was that you need to go way back nearly a hundred years to get to the beginning of this story. Back in 1913, a soldier purchased an abandoned cub and named him “Winnipeg,” after his hometown in Canada. The two lived together until the soldier went off to fight in 1914. At that point, the bear went to the London Zoo where A. A. Milne and his son Christopher Robin spent many an afternoon watching the antics of a lovable bear Christopher referred to as “Winnie-the-Pooh.” Milne’s classics may have been inspired by the bedtime stories he told his son; however, in publishing his tales, he has inspired generations of readers who think deeply about characters and generations of thinkers who value vivid descriptions, vocabulary and verse.
There are at least two reasons why every parent and teacher should share these classics with their children. First, these are tales of carefree friends in a land where all stories have happy endings. Even young children can understand how silly Pooh is when he suggests he could use a balloon to float up and get honeycomb out of a tree. Even young children will smile when Pooh explains that bees will think a green balloon is part of the tree and a blue balloon is part of the sky. There is something timeless in the way everyday adventures become the fodder of chapters. We want our children to be happy with their world like Pooh, who observed:
“What I like best in the whole world is Me and Piglet going to see You,
and You saying ‘What about a little something?…and it being a
hummy sort of day outside, and birds singing.”
– House at Pooh Corner
In some ways, life within these books is just the way we think childhood should to be: a peaceful prelude to adult life.
The second reason we should share these stories is because nestled among carefully chosen words of prose and verse there are profound statements about growing up and learning to maneuver the world of adulthood. Anyone who has snuggled next to a child would concur with Pooh, “Sometimes, the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” When you drop your child off at college, you just might both hear Pooh’s words etched on your heart:
“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together…
there is something you must always remember…
you are braver than you believe,
stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.
But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart…
I’ll always be with you.”
– House at Pooh Corner
Whether you are led to these classics through Disney or seek them after reading newly released adventures, there is something very special about sharing Milne’s masterful word choice and intermingling of prose and verse that just might spur thinking and creativity for a lifetime. As Pooh, who was not really a bear of very little brain, noted when asked how to spell love, “You don’t spell it…you feel it.” I suspect that Disney images and newly released stories might even be an impetus for a whole new generation of readers who will love A. A. Milne’s classics and who will quote Winnie-the-Pooh throughout the 21st century. How many other books, originally published in 1926, can say that?
Milne, A.A. Winnie-the-Pooh. Originally published in 1926
Milne, A.A., The House at Pooh Corner. Originally published in 1928.
During the day, Anita Ferreri is a literacy specialist in Westchester County, New York. After school and during summer vacations, she is an adjunct professor at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education. She loved exploring books with her own children when they were younger and is now eagerly devouring books and telling stories with her youngest nieces, Grace and Violet. You can read her blog at http://drferreri.blogspot.com/ and keep up with her through Twitter AJF@anita.ferreri