“A” is for “A. A. Milne”
I always enjoyed reading “Winnie the Pooh” to my kids; it gave me a chance to act out the parts.
They’ve grown past Winnie the Pooh age now and would no longer be interested, but when they were small they got a kick out of such readings. Pooh, humble and naïve, wasn’t difficult to do. Piglet’s lines were delivered in a higher register, and with a certain amount of controlled squealing, as he was lively and full of spirit. Eeyore was easy; you just dropped your voice an octave or so and added overtones of melancholia and weltschmerz.
So I was interested indeed to read that A A Milne has published a new book of the series: “Return to the Hundred Acre Wood.” Though it seemed a bit odd since A A Milne died a half-century or so ago.
Turns out that it’s a new book in the series all right, but it’s by someone else, David Benedictus. If you’ve got to do a sequel of a classic, his is the way to do it. He has done a remarkable job of capturing the tone, the voice, the spirit of the original work, and the new illustrator does the same – you’d swear the pictures in the new book are by Ernest Shepard, the original artist who turned Milne’s creatures into world-famous icons.
But there’s a question. Should a great classic be rewritten? Why? After all, the original stories are available to today’s youngest generation; the Pooh characters and their activities seem fresh and new to little kids, even though they may be a bit tired and outworn to us oldsters.
The world-wide success of the Milne books has been phenomenal. The Soviet Union – remember the Soviet Union? – put out a postage stamp on the subject, which would have set you back three kopeks in 1988.
And there is today a street in Warsaw named after the bear, in Poland known as “Puchatka.”
They’ve done sequels of classics many times. “Peter Pan” was recreated in this way, and of course there was a huge kerfuffle when a sequel to “Gone With the Wind” was published.
What’s your opinion? Should they have left the original Winnie the Pooh book alone, or is it a good idea to come up with a new, well-done version of the stories?
1 year ago