My girls and I have just finished The House at Pooh Corner, and I wonder, how did I miss this growing up? Until I was a teenager, Winnie the Pooh was nothing more than a Disney cartoon character to me. By the time I was in my late teens, I had a nostalgic affection for Ernest H. Shepard’s artwork (called “Classic Pooh” in retail), and I even have checks printed with this artwork. For Pete’s sake, I even decorate Louise’s nursery in “Classic Pooh”! And I had never even read the books! For shame.
Really though, even though my girls did enjoy this read aloud a lot (“We’re on chapter ____!” Lulu would faithfully announce every time I got out the big blue book for our post-lunch reading session), I think it takes being a parent or at least a person who loves a little child to really appreciate Milne’s genius. I confess I was more than a little teary-eyed when I finished “Chapter Ten In Which Christopher Robin and Pooh Come to an Enchanted Place, and We Leave Them There.” Okay, I was a blubbering, sentimental sap and my girls stared at my quizzically with little grins on their faces. I’ve always been saddened by the end of childhood, and of course, Milne’s take on it got me right in the heart:
Then, suddenly again, Christopher Robin, who was still looking at the world, with his chin in his hands, called out “Pooh!”
“Yes?” said Pooh.
“Yes, Christopher Robin?”
“I’m not going to do Nothing any more.”
“Well, not so much. They won’t let you.”
Pooh waited for him to go on, but he was silent again.
“Yes, Christopher Robin?” said Pooh helpfully.
“Pooh, when I’m–you know–when I’m not doing Nothing, will you come up here sometimes?”
“Will you be here too?”
“Yes, Pooh, I will be, really. I promise I will be, Pooh.”
“That’s good,” said Pooh.
“Pooh, promise you won’t forget about me, ever. Not even when I’m a hundred.”
Pooh thought for a little.
“How old shall I be then?”
“I promise,” he said.
Still with his eyes on the world Christopher Robin put out a hand and felt for Pooh’s paw.
“Pooh,” said Christopher Robin earnestly, “if I–if I’m not quite—-” he stopped and tried again—”Pooh, whatever happens, you will understand, won’t you?”
“Oh, nothing.” He laughed and jumped to his feet. “Come on!”
“Where?” said Pooh.
“Anywhere,” said Christopher Robin.
See what I mean?
All sentimentality aside, though, this is good stuff. I couldn’t help but think as I was reading how each character in the story would come out if psychoanalyzed, not because I know much about such things, but just because the characters seem to lend themselves to it somehow. As it turns out, someone else already thought of that. I can just see Rabbit hurrying along to his next self-appointed assignment; Piglet and Pooh, hand-in-hand, off on another “expotition”; Eeyore lumbering along to discuss what he already knows is bad news; Tigger driving Rabbit to distraction; and Kanga, the consummate mother, keeping dear little Roo out of trouble. Truly, Milne’s characterization is impeccable.
I think A.A. Milne would have been an interesting person to have the privilege of knowing. According to the short biography included in The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie the Pooh, Milne was the son of two London schoolteachers and could read by the time he was two. From the time he was but a schoolboy, he was writing “verses, parodies, and short humorous pieces for the school’s paper.” In fact, he was to work as a writer for his entire life, even while serving in World War I. His play Mr. Pim Passes By was a financial success and gave the Milnes “financial indpendence.” Milne’s wife, Daphne, suggested that he write about a stuffed bear, tiger, pig, and donkey that belonged to their young son, Christopher Robin. The rest, to borrow an old cliche, is history. Milne had this to say about his children’s works:
If a writer, why not write
On whatever comes in sight?
So–the Children’s Book; a short
Intermezzo of a sort:
When I wrote them, little thinking
All my years of pen-and-inking
Would be almost lost among
Those four trifles for the young.
Of course, it is E.H. Sheperd’s illustrations that complete this equation; without them, the books would miss part of their lump-in-the-throat inducing quality, I think. Milne obviously thought so, too, for he wrote this tribute for the first edition of Winnie-the-Pooh published in the United States:
When I am gone
Let Shepard decorate my tomb,
And put (if there is room)
Two pictures on the stone;
Piglet from page a hundred and eleven
And Pooh and Piglet walking (157). . .
And Peter, thinking that they are my own,
Will welcome me to heaven.
I really, really enjoyed reading The House at Pooh Corner aloud to my children. Although I missed reading Milne’s works as a child, I don’t think that hampered by ability to enjoy them as an adult one bit. In fact, my unfamiliarity with them quite possibly made them even more delightful to me. We read Winnie-the-Pooh sometime last year before my girls were quite ready for it, so I intend to go back and re-read it, as well as Milne’s books of poetry, When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six.
Do you have fond memories of reading (or being read) Milne’s wonderful books as a child? Or did you miss them as a child and discover them an adult like I did? This Read Aloud Thursday is devoted to A.A. Milne and our tributes and remembrances of his fine works. However, if you have nothing to share about A.A. Milne, please feel free to link us to your blog page featuring your family’s read-alouds of the week. If you don’t blog, just leave a comment.
Note: Mr. Linky works with WordPress blogs, but only to a point. It will not make a list of links, but if you click on the Mr. Linky logo, a new page will appear on which you can type your link and all other links will appear. At least, I think that’s how it works. : )