A. A. Milne and Peter Dennis - Winnie-The-Pooh: The Color Edition

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The Friends of My Youth — Part Two

May 22, 2000
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Perfect as an English summer day

Cons:Oh, don't be a drip, of course there aren't any

Being on a children's book binge — for reasons soon to emerge — I am revisiting with great joy the scenes of my childhood and certain glimpses of the moon. Books were my world, a better one, often, than that outside the door, nor do I regret, repine, or apologize for that. In fact, they enriched that world outside, which was on occasion the Wild Wood and Wide World both, as against my literary Riverbank....

Certainly among the fondest memories of those days are toddles with Mumsie down to the bridge over the creek, where we would play Pooh-sticks with small branches or pinecones, in a time when all was cloudless summer....

I believe, with C. S. Lewis, that the test of a children's book — bearing in mind that works for which adults once waited in the rain, as serial installments came out: Dumas, for example, or Conan Doyle's Holmes stories in The Strand magazine: are nowadays dismissed as fit only for children — the true test is that it can be reread joyously and on deeper levels with each passing year, as the child becomes a youth, the youth a don, even. Against this touchstone, Winnie the Pooh, along with The House at Pooh Corner, assays as pure gold.

If my young friend and writing partner Chris Conti — caconti here on epinions — can rightly and justly reference the characters of the commedia dell'arte in his review of Dame Agatha's Murder on the Links (qv his review), I need feel no compunction in suggesting that the denizens of that purer world The Hundred Acre Wood are personified humors, in the traditions of the old mystery plays and psychomachiζ that Lewis himself analyzed as a critic. Christopher Robin's friends are projections of our component selves (don't look at me like that: read some of Leah's Jungian stuff), whilst they are also fully rounded characters we — if we are at all interested in books or people — love and cherish for life.

When I write a sentence such as that, mean it though I do and defend it though I can, I am Owl. In my irascible yet dithering comments here onsite, I am all too often Rabbit. At one point or another, most here have seen me as Roo, or as Tigger. I try not to let it show when I am — as I too often am — the trembling and trepidatious Piglet ('Welcome to "Trespassers W": have a seat'); some of you have found in me, even if I am a bear of very little brain, the staunch friendship for which Pooh is known. (Pooh will always be my favorite bear. Paddington is second.) And it is hardly a secret that I am Eeyore in attitude and general cheerfulness. That is part of what gives these works immortality: we are, all of us, at various points, Pooh, and Rabbit, and the bumptious Tigger. And it's all right. Being afraid. Being sad. All right: because there is a friend always to lean on ('You shall live with me' if you get flooded out).

Kid stuff? Hardly. The books are a lasting delight, in quiet humor, in the superb Ernest Shepherd illustrations (it was Chesterton who called such marvelous coincidences 'spiritual puns': think on this, though — an earnest shepherd indeed for the lambs). They are immortal in bringing that sense of peace and pastoral one otherwise finds only in George Herbert or Izaak Walton, in conveying a sense of home and its simple joys akin to Rupert Brooks's prewar longing for the old rectory at Grantchester ('And is there honey still for tea?'). All that and a concentrated course in friendship, agape and philia, and ethics.

And we dismiss these as children's books?


Recommend this product? Yes

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