Sunday, May 1, 2016

Reading Winnie-the-Pooh as an Adult

As popular as Winnie the Pooh was when I was a kid, I never actually read any of the original stories until very recently. I remember Pooh cartoons and Pooh stickers (stickers were SUCH a thing with the girls when I was in grade school -- does anyone else remember this???) And if my parents ever read me any Pooh books, they were likely picture book adaptations.

So of all the books we received at our son's baby shower last year, I was most looking forward to reading the original Winnie-the-Pooh friends of ours gave us. And with such a beautiful edition to start our collection, I just couldn't resist adding The House at Pooh Corner as well as the two volumes of poetry When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six. I was a little amused to see two of the used copies I bought were actually inscribed because they looked like they were barely even opened, let alone read. I look forward to the day my son asks me who Rosie or Jack & Whitney are -- I don't know kid, but they were missing out on these books, I can tell you that much.

The Stories

Now, I knew Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner were not particularly short, but I was still surprised to realize they were each close to 200 pages. Both volumes are divided into 10 chapters, each of which is its own story. They are connected, but I think they could be read on their own as well. The writing style is sort of meandering which definitely took some getting used to, but I thoroughly enjoyed these stories once I got the hang of the dialogue. I struggled a bit reading them aloud, so it's good my son is a bit too young to notice! These are true classics that I know I will reread more than once. In fact, I've already listened to the first volume on audiobook. The professional narrator did a much better job than I did for sure! The Piglet noises were a little jarring, but the audio does bring the characters and stories to life. Between reading and listening, it is so clear to me now how the cartoon versions of these characters evolved from the source material.

The Poems

As for Milne's poetry, I didn't know much at all beforehand except that When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six are part of the Pooh collection. Now having read them, I think that's actually a bit of a stretch. Pooh and Christopher Robin make a few appearances, but that's about it. The majority of the poems have nothing to do with Pooh and cover a variety of other topics. They were still enjoyable, but not quite what I was expecting. I think they will only improve with rereading because I'll know better what I'm getting myself into. Also, I know I have a tendency to rush through poetry, so I'm certain there is more to appreciate in these volumes than I absorbed the first time around.

Now that I have read these four, I'm on the fence about trying The Return to the Hundred Acre Wood. It is a companion volume written 80 years after The House at Pooh Corner by another author, but supposedly captures the style of the originals in a series of new adventures. If any Pooh aficionados have an opinion one way or the other, please let me know what you think! And of course, I'm intrigued by the Winnie the Pooh cookbook, but maybe I'll just see if the library has that one.

Classics Club #9-12