Friday, 16 January 2009

Enchanting

Following on from my recent post on the new Winnie the Pooh, I had a couple of other things to mention. Firstly, thanks very much to the two people who pointed me in the direction of this Radio 4 programme (accessible UK readers only, I'm afraid) about Winnie the Pooh in Russian (Vinni Pukh, apparently) - its popularity and the changes they made. I haven't listened to it yet, but what a fascinating idea. I'm going to be big and ignore the fact that the blurb says EE Shepherd instead of EH Shepard...

The other item related to the world of Winnie is no.25 on my 50 Books You Must Read But May Not Have Heard About. That's right, we're half way. Let's go into big font for that, actually.


25. The Enchanted Places
by Christopher Milne


Well, I say The Enchanted Places but I'd actually like to put forward three titles, Christopher Milne's autobiographical trilogy. The Enchanted Pl
aces is the first one, and the most widely available; the second is The Path Through The Trees and the third is The Hollow on the Hill. They all have rather different characters, but should all be read...

Christopher Milne, to start at the beginning, is Christopher Robin, AA Milne's son and the only human allowed into the Hundred Acre Wood. The Enchanted Places is mostly cen
tred around the Pooh books and characters, and what it was like to grow up as the child millions of children wished and pretended to be. At the same time it is a memoir of his father, honest but affectionate - and, a brief snapshot of what Christopher Robin grew up to be. To quote the introduction, 'I am making a double appearance, first as the boy I am describing and secondly as the adult through whose eyes I am seeing him'.

There's a danger that, to the cynical heart, this all sounds mawkish and sentimental, but those are two words I should never apply to Christopher Milne. He writes about meeting journalists, being the s
tar at a pageant, preferring Euclid to a sponge cake - but all with a dry and sensible hat on. Nor, contrary to some widespread belief, does he loathe everything connected with his father - I believe there were some years when he wanted to distance himself, but by the time he wrote The Enchanted Places, he'd changed his mind. For anyone even remotely interested in Winnie the Pooh, I do encourage you to find this memoir - it's currently out of print, I think, but lots around secondhand. Parts of sad, much will feel nostalgic, all reveals writing talent to run in the Milne family.

I suspect some will have already heard of The Enchanted Places, but it's less likely that you'll have read the sequels. I'll only mention them, but they're definitely worth finding and buying and loving.

The Path Through The Trees - actually my favourite of the three, this volume looks at Christopher Milne's time in the army, his marriage, and running a bookshop. I loved the chapters on the different ventures the bookshop made, the decision over whether or not to stock the Pooh books, the customers he got - it would be fascinating if written by any bookshop owner, but Milne's account is even more interesting.

The Hollow on the Hill - Milne's first love, Nature, takes centre stage in this volume, writing about the Devon countryside and his garden. I don't remember this one so well, to be honest, which makes me think I might try and re-read the whole trilogy this year...


8 comments:

  1. I thought I had the 'Enchanted' book but when I looked, it was something else (Enchanted Places - illustrations and descriptions in various books).

    What I do have is _The Pooh Sketchbook: drawings by Ernest H. Shepard for the Pooh stories by A.A. Milne_, edited by Brian Sibley, with a Foreword by Sir Roy Strong. (publ. E.P. Dutton, New York, 1984 - first publ. by Methuen Children's Books in 1982)

    There are many, many drawings (made between 1924 and 1928) - some with captions & many with short paragraphs about them. Some of the drawings were not published - some/most(?) are of the sketch variety, preparations for the finished drawing.

    I'm definitely with you about the Disney characterizations - have always disliked them and never buy anything of that sort.

    One of my favorite baby (or small child) gifts has been soft toys (Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore) of the Shepard type illustrations - very reasonably priced, at Target - but, recently they stopped stocking them and I haven't found them anywhere else. They have also carried other baby gifts (blankets, crib sheets, baby books, etc.) with the Shepard illustr. I hope they don't discontinue those.

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  2. I was listening to a podcast yesterday about the return of Winnie The Pooh. I so look forward to reading more of these charming stories.

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  3. These all sound really interesting, and I must get Pooh out again, as I've not read about him for years!
    Coincidentally, tommorrow is the anniversary of A.A. Milne's birth, in 1882!

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  4. "The Book of Nonsense" by Edward Lear.

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  5. I have the exact same edition of Enchanted Places. i know I have read it and enjoyed but that's all I can remember. Now shall I go off and look for it or shall i make dinner fo the family?

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  6. I've definitely read one of the three, but I can't recall which - think it might have been 'A Path Through the Trees'. I remember him writing about his bookshop and his daughter Clare.
    Must read the other two!

    Button

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  7. I don't know the third Christopher Milne book but it sounds very "me", I must try to find it.

    We've all been watching Vinny Pukh on YouTube, but I can't love it the way I do the originals. Infinitely preferable to Disney though.

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