Sunday, January 3, 2016

"The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh": A Review

The World of Pooh was published in 1957,
the same year I was born. Serendipity!
This is probably something only my oldest and closest friends know, but I've long been a Winnie-the-Pooh fan of the purest sort. Pooh for me is E.H. Shepard's illustration, not Walt Disney's cartoon.

From the time my mom bought me The World of Pooh, a combined edition of Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, back in the '60s, Pooh has warmed my heart and inspired me to never grow old. (With all due respect to Peter Pan, of course.)

It's often been said that A. A. Milne wrote the stories for children, and he did. His own son, Christopher Robin Milne, was the inspiration for them and he wrote them at the urging of his wife, Daphne. But he wrote them with the advantage of having once been a child himself, while also having the benefit of looking back on childhood and valuing those experiences in a way that children can't. It's how it is with a lot of things - hindsight is 20/20.

This makes the stories just as enjoyable to read as an adult as they were when we were children. Every few years, I read all of them again and they just never get old. I am always reminded of some of life's greatest realizations and often they feel just as new as the first time I realized them.

When I received a review copy of Kathryn Alto's The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh, I was giddy. For about five years (1998-2003), I had a website dedicated to Classic Pooh books and memorabilia - The Literary World of Winnie-the-Pooh, of which remnants can be found on The Wayback Machine.

Getting to see the real Winnie-the-Pooh and Friends at the Stephen A. Schwarzman
Building of The New York Public Library in 2010 was a little bit surreal.

It's been on my bucket list to visit the real Hundred Acre Wood in East Sussex, England, and one day I will. I'm sure of it. I suspected that reading Kathryn's book would make me want to buy a ticket and leave tomorrow, and I was right.

Timber Press is known for their volumes of quality gardening books that have been published over the last 38 years. And while gardeners will  enjoy some aspects of this book, you don't have to be a gardener to truly appreciate it.

Though much of the information was familiar to me, as a Pooh aficionado, I enjoyed learning some new things I hadn't known before, and it will be new to those who haven't studied Milne and Pooh in depth. Theirs is a fascinating story based on a very lovely place that is real and timeless.

We get to see actual photographs from Cotchford Farm when the Milnes lived there and we get to see the area as it looks now, remarkably little changed, given the popularity of the stories for 90 years and the penchant for commercialization to which such things often fall prey.

The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh takes us through the land of Pooh and his friends, with descriptions and explanations as to how the stories unfolded before Christopher Robin, and came to be told by his father. We learn a little about method writing (brilliant!), and a lot about the charming area, including flora and fauna.

By the time we're done with the book, we have not only a wonderful sense of place, but an even greater appreciation for the Pooh stories. It's a marvelous blend of information that carries enough appeal that it will satisfy the writer, the reader, and the gardener.

A. A. Milne and Christopher Robin Milne, with Pooh
Origin of photo unknown

If a writer, why not write
On whatever comes in sight?
So – the Children's Books: 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.

- A. A. Milne

 Trifles? Hardly.

I received a copy of The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh from Timber Press for review purposes. No other compensation has been give to me for my thoughts on this book. This blog post contains affiliate links.


Terra said...

This book sounds charming. I like the story behind the stories.

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