In life there are certain memories that cling to us — wraithlike bits of our childhood that drift around us through the years, never quite losing their ability to serve up a bit of magic. For me, stories of Winnie-the-Pooh are indelibly associated with hours of comfy, curled-up and cuddled-down reading. The stories’ many simple puffs of wisdom are unique. Take, for instance, Piglet’s “Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.” * Originating from the pen of A.A. Milne, the ponderings of Pooh and his friends have a guileless quality that appeals to all ages.
I suppose that’s why I approach the just-released authorized sequel, RETURN TO THE HUNDRED ACRE WOOD by David Benedictus with reservations. I’ve read an excerpt and cannot find the familiar distinctive voice that gave the original characters their enduring appeal. As a writer I understand why: Benedictus is not Milne. He simply does not have that “tiddley-pom” voice to impart to his interpretation of Milne’s characters.
In an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times Marjorie Miller says, “Literature belongs to its era and can’t simply be added to decades later, especially after the author has died. Call me cranky, but I don’t think we need another Pooh book. And we certainly don’t need a new character like the otter, Lottie, that Benedictus has added, even if she helps address a gender imbalance in the Hundred Acre Wood. Why couldn’t Benedictus have made the haughty otter the hero of her own book, giving future generations of children a new story, while leaving intact the Pooh tales their parents and grandparents treasured?”
I agree with Miller, but not for the same reason. From what I’ve read of Benedictus’s book I don’t think it has the ring and rhythm of Milne’s version or the verbal simplicity that captivates both young and older readers. That disappoints me.
“When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.”**
Hmmm… with that thought expressed it may be that you won’t agree with my opinion at all. “Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?”*** No, but perhaps I should stop right now before we’re all bothered.
What’s your opinion? Are you bothered by the idea of a sequel that isn’t written by the original author? Will the children in your life welcome the new stories?
* Pooh’s Little Instruction Book, inspired by A.A. Milne
** The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne
*** Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
(Sequel: Return to the Hundred Acre Wood, written by David Benedictus and illustrated by Mark Burgess, is published by Penguin Young Readers Group.)