How Bothered Are We About the New Winnie-the-Pooh?

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.

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Return to the Hundred Acre WoodI 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.

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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?”

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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.

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“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.”**

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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.

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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?

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Excerpts from:

* 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

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(Sequel: Return to the Hundred Acre Wood, written by David Benedictus and illustrated by Mark Burgess, is published by Penguin Young Readers Group.)

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13 thoughts on “How Bothered Are We About the New Winnie-the-Pooh?

  1. JodyHedlund says:

    I wasn’t aware of the new Pooh book! Thanks for sharing your thoughts about it. I don’t think anything can compare to the original versions of books. But having young children, I know they’re attracted to the newer, even with Nancy Drew or others that have remakes, my children like the brighter, faster pace.

    • I guess it’s not a new phenomenon… all the Walt Disney original books and movies have reappeared in new, brighter formats, both before and after Disney’s death. But I don’t recall the characters’ personalities and speech tags changing in them. I should probably read the complete Benedictus book to see if the excerpt gives an accurate picture but since it also has a new illustrator I’m loath to jeopardize my own memories of the original!

  2. Heather says:

    Well, it’s certainly a book I’m not buying for my kids. I think media makes our kids want everything flashy, new, and fast. I’m trying my best to pull my kids away from that, while I still have some degree of control! :)

    And did you know…..I just found out about this last week…..that on Sesame Street, Ernie and Bert are no longer puppets, but now in cartoon form?

    How I long for the days of Mr. Dressup for my kids.

    • The trend seems to be for newer, bigger, louder, faster… and it isn’t limited to children’s literature either. Sophisticated toys, television and video games have helped imagination take a back seat to vivid reality which I think is very sad. After all, future generations of writers *need* good imaginations. But I suppose the up side is that remakes may keep the original characters fresh albeit changed to meet the expectations of the next generation.

  3. Dave Ebright says:

    I’m not bothered by it but can’t imagine the sequel coming close to capturing the magic. A A Milne was writing for his son, making the boy’s stuffed animals come to life. Different era, pace & language – sure, but the story came from down deep, created for an audience of one.

    Maybe someday I’ll post about it, but, for the short version, I started writing stories for my grandson, since I don’t get to see him often. That blossomed (so far) into 2 books. He was my audience of one & maybe that’s why I love writing these silly adventures.

    On the funny side – Jack & Isabel (my grandkids) are convinced “Poppy is a pirate”.

    • The “created for an audience of one” concept might well be why there is such a special voice that can’t quite be duplicated. I hadn’t thought of that.

      Your grandchildren are lucky kids, getting stories written especially for them! They obviously know you well if they recognize your voice in your stories. :)

  4. joylene says:

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Carol. I’m from Manitoba, so I feel an added displeasure to the original book. No, I’m of the mind that if it ain’t broken, why fix it.

    Apparently, an author from back east was asked to write another StarTrek book. This all feels very much market-orientated to me.

  5. Tricia says:

    I hate when things are given a “fresh” new look. I haven’t seen the new book, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they made him skinny. And Rabbit soft tempered. And Tigger mellowed out. I could go on.

    Why would anyone tamper with such a masterpiece. Is Dr. Seuss next?

    • I’m with you. I like the original. The excerpt shows actual pages and the characters look fairly much like their predecessors, but I’ve heard that Eeyore has been given a little brighter outlook on life, which is downright wrong!

  6. Tricia says:

    Oh, no. Not Eeyore. Now that’s a drag. His new brighter outlook has put me in a new gloomy mood.

  7. Gin says:

    These “sequels” rarely live up to the originals. I remember 15-20 years ago someone tried to write a continuation of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books–they were horrible! They were preachy, condescending, and totally lacking in merit. They have also disappeared with nary a whimper.

    • Stories like these endure because of the imagination and storytelling ability of the original author. Someone else can choose to tell more stories of the characters but IMHO they’ll never ring with the same appeal of the originals. Thanks for visiting here, Gin.

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