fiction favorites…Winnie the Pooh


“You ought to write ‘A Happy Birthday’ on it.”
That was what I wanted to ask you,” said Pooh.  “Because my spelling is Wobbly.  It’s good spelling but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places.  Would you write ‘A Happy Birthday’ on it for me?”
…Owl licked the end of his pencil, and wondered how to spell “birthday.”
“Can you read, Pooh?” he asked, a little anxiously.  “There’s a notice about knocking and ringing outside my door, which Christopher Robin wrote.  Could you read it?”
“Christopher Robin told me what it said, and then I could.”
“Well, I’ll tell you what this says, and then you’ll be able to.”
So Owl wrote…and this is what he wrote:
Pooh looked on admiringly.
“I’m just saying ‘A Happy Birthday,'” said Owl carelessly.
“It’s a nice long one,” said Pooh, very much impressed by it.
“Well, actually, of course, I’m saying ‘A Very Happy Birthday with love from Pooh.’ Naturally it takes a good deal of pencil to say a long thing like that.”
“Oh, I see,” said Pooh.

(from In Which Eeyore Has a Birthday and Gets Two Presents,  a chapter in Winnie-The-Pooh)

This blog cannot go on any longer without giving my 5-Star, Highest Recommendation, All-Time Favorite rating to A.A. Milne’s Pooh stories.  There are two volumes of Pooh stories, the first called Winnie-The-Pooh, and the second called The House at Pooh Corner.  Together they are among the best literature ever written for children.                         

If you only know Pooh Bear through the Disney films and book spin-offs, trust me, you don’t know Pooh Bear.  I have been racking my brain for an analogy that would suffice to compare the two without sounding Very Harsh!  The only thing I could come up with is listening to a 5th grade trumpeter play a Louis Armstrong number.  Cute, perhaps…but utterly inferior.   Home-baked bread hot from the oven vs. Wonder Bread.  You get the idea.  Disney’s Pooh Bear is pablum for toddlers; Milne’s Winnie the Pooh is literature that is as enjoyable for adults as for children.  The humor and characters can be enjoyed by children, yet perhaps are even more appreciated over time.

Part of the appeal of these books are the characters, who exhibit such familiar attitudes and frailties — Pooh, the humble, loveable Bear of Very Little Brain; Piglet who is small and timid, yet who tries so to appear brave and clever; Rabbit, the bossy, know-it-all; Eeyore, the gloomy pessimist; Owl, the pseudo-intellectual…and so on.  We laugh at ourselves when we laugh at the inhabitants of the 100 Acre Wood.  In addition, Milne’s language and style are delightful and essentially augment the charm of the books.  His capitalization, repetition, dialogue and storytelling are masterful.  Finally, the illustrations done for Milne by E. H. Shepard are brilliant, artistic, tasteful, and have bound themselves to the stories so as to be inseparable .

My own children are always a bit aghast at their peers who know nothing of the original Winnie the Pooh, and who blankly stare at them when they exclaim over the delights of Pooh stories.  Do not deprive yourselves or your kids of meeting and falling in love with the real Pooh.  Wait until they are, say 5 or 6 years old, and then journey together into the world of heffalumps and honeypots, Pooh Sticks and stoutness exercises.

I still haven’t figured out how to link to Amazon — I am highly techno-challenged! — but I will keep trying.  I’ll put the images on anyway.  Personally, I prefer the old books in which Shepard’s illustrations are black line drawings rather than the colorized drawings in the new editions, but I’m guessing most people would choose the newer ones.  Be aware that there are a couple of books which combine the two volumes of Pooh stories; they don’t contain any different stories.  My stained, battered copy of The World of Pooh was a gift from my parents in about 1969 and it has traveled the world with me!