Saturday, January 26, 2008

Winnie the Pooh

Last night I reread one of my favorite books of all time. A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh. I can't begin to count how many times I've read--either on my own or read aloud--this brilliant book. The characters? Christopher Robin. Winnie ther Pooh. Piglet. Rabbit. Owl. Kanga and Roo. And of course the ever-sullen Eeyore. They're so wonderful. So lovable. So perfect. The language? So beloved. So familiar. So right. I really couldn't imagine a world without Pooh. Pooh captures everything that is so right with the world. The innocence. The charm. The love. The kindness. There's just something so good, so pure about Christopher Robin and his chums.

Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it. And then he feels that perhaps there isn't. Anyhow, here he is at the bottom, and ready to be introduced to you. Winnie-the-Pooh.
When I first heard his name, I said, just as you are going to say, "But I thought he was a boy?"
"So did I," said Christopher Robin.
"Then you can't call him Winnie?"
"I don't."
"But you said--"
"He's Winnie-ther-Pooh. Don't you know what 'ther' means?"
"Ah, yes, now I do," I said quickly; and I hope you do too, because it is all the explanation you are going to get.

Christopher Robin and his stuffed bear, Winnie-the-Pooh, love to be told stories. (I think everyone likes to be told stories.) Pooh especially likes to be told stories about himself because as Christopher Robin says, "he's that sort of Bear."

The first story about Winnie-the-Pooh starts off like this, "Once upon a time, a very long time ago now, about last Friday, Winnie-the-Pooh lived in a forest all by himself under the name of Sanders."

I just love that beginning. Don't you? It's silly; it's fun; it's just right. Once upon a time . . . about last Friday. Genius.

The stories themselves are very interactive. The narrator speaks to the child directly. I really think Pooh is the kind of story that is meant to be read aloud. And read aloud often. It bears much repeating. It only grows better each time it is experienced.

According to the 80th Anniversary edition of the book Winnie the Pooh has been translated into thirty-one different languages!

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