Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A. A. Milne

by A. A. Milne
Recommended Age: Practically any age, but best when read by a parent to a small child.

This is the first of four classic children’s books, written in the late 1920s for the author’s son, Christopher Robin. In this volume of ten sweet, silly, and courageous stories, Milne helps his son “remember” the adventures he has had with his favorite toy bear, named Edward Bear or (among friends) Winnie-the-Pooh. Pooh has a heart of gold but very little brains; but he and Christopher Robin love each other dearly. Also loved, and lovable, are the other residents of the woods where Pooh has his adventures: tiny Piglet, conceited Owl, troublesome Rabbit, motherly Kanga and her darling Roo, and my favorite of all – the hilariously pessimistic donkey, Eeyore.

Warning #1: When choosing a copy of this book, look first to see if it contains the original “decorations” by Ernest H. Shepard. If not, keep looking. This book just isn’t the same without them.

Warning #2: Don’t let the insufferable cuteness of the animated films based on this book keep you from reading it. To be sure, the books are adorable stories about the world of a very little boy’s imagination, and the toy-animal friends who populate it; but they are also guided by a sense of rightness, a gentle father’s love for his gentle child, keen observation of a variety of types of character, and a sparkling wit.

The House At Pooh Corner
by A. A. Milne
Recommended Age: Practically any age, but best when read by a parent to a small child.

The House at Pooh Corner is even better than Winnie-the-Pooh. That’s saying a great deal. These books are practically perfect. Lightly, tenderly, they depict a small child’s interior world of play, just at the time when that world starts to be pushed aside for the outer world of letters and numbers and maps and dates. It is a warm, welcoming world where toy animals come alive and have their own personalities and adventures; and where a boy named Christopher Robin – growing up too fast – loves them and is loved by them, and rightly so.

In Winnie-the-Pooh, Christopher Robin was at the age when a child is all questions, sucking raw knowledge out of the world around him. Now, in this wonderful sequel, he is a scholar, having actual lessons... but only in the morning. Thank goodness, this still leaves all afternoon for him to do – oh, nothing – with Pooh Bear, and Piglet, and Rabbit, and the deliciously depressed Eeyore, whose every droll utterance makes me laugh out loud. Plus, there’s a new friend in the forest: a bouncy, not-too-bright bundle of laughs named Tigger.

I regret very deeply that I do not have a son or daughter of my own, because this is a book I would love to read to him or her. Only, I don’t think I could manage the last chapter. Dads shouldn’t be reduced to a blubbering mess by a children’s book, at least in front of their kids. Nevertheless, I would want them to read it, as soon as they were able to do so. For I would like my children to believe, as Christopher Robin does, that the world of every child’s imagination lives on, and remembers, and believes in that child, even after the child has forgotten to believe in it.

No comments: