AA Milne grew to loathe his most famous creationby Lucinda Smyth / October 13, 2016 / Leave a comment
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Best Bear in All the World (Egmont, £14.99)
This October marks the 90th anniversary of the publication of AA Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh. To celebrate, and take financial advantage, the publisher Egmont has produced a sequel to the original series entitled Best Bear in All the World. Within its lavish gold covers, the Best Bear contains four new stories by Paul Bright, Brian Sibley, Kate Saunders and Jeanne Willis, with accompanying illustrations by Mark Burgess in the style of EH Shepard. A new character, Penguin, joins the usual suspects from the Hundred Acre Wood.
The collection follows on from a series of birthday celebrations for the loveable bear, including a new Disney cartoon film released in May, and an exhibition at the British Library, which features a map of the Hundred Acre Wood (see “What’s on this month” p78). Such attention has been far from unwelcome. Winnie-the-Pooh’s popularity reached fever pitch this year. In a July poll, he was voted the UK’s “best-loved children’s book character,” above Harry Potter and Bilbo Baggins. Later that month, it was reported that a Pooh-shaped cloud was spotted hovering over a children’s charity event in Dorset. In an interview with the Telegraph, the film star Jim Broadbent—the narrator of the Disney cartoon—said: “Without Winnie-the-Pooh, I wouldn’t be an actor.” He appeared to be speaking seriously.
Charming as the Winnie-the-Pooh stories are, it is hard to see why they have been so successful. Their premise is not unique: several other children’s stories published around the same time—such as Rupert Bear, who first appeared in the Daily Express in 1920—feature an anthropomorphic ursine character. Today, the quaintness of Pooh’s world seems dated and cloying even for a children’s book. The series revolves around a trouser-less bear congregating with a donkey, a kangaroo, a tiger and a piglet in a forest in Sussex. It is bizarre.
Two reasons are at the root of Pooh’s success. The first is the elegant simplicity of Milne’s writing. He has a knack for seamlessly threading philosophical wisdom into a straightforward narrative, producing stories that are thoughtful and instructive without being heavy-handed.…