Return to the Hundred Acre Wood
This charming piece of nostalgia consists of an interconnected set of ten chapters, each with an individual adventure featuring the familiar cast of characters from A.A. Milne’s well-loved classics.
The action is occasioned by a slightly older Christopher Robin’s return from boarding school to his beloved friends in the Hundred Acre Wood. There is one significant addition to Milne’s characters, a charming, if vain, otter named Lottie. Each story is beautifully crafted, the tension rises as the volume develops with maximum excitement as Piglet bravely descends into a well in a bucket, in search of water. This in my view is the finest story and the failure of Pooh to credit Piglet’s heroism in the hum he composes at the end adds a note of pure pathos. Piglet’s silent suffering has a messianic quality. However all is redeemed at the end of the volume when Piglet’s subsequent achievement in cricket is duly acclaimed.
The sadness of Christopher Robin’s return to school at the end of summer brings the adventures to a close. The stories are beautifully written; lovely to read aloud with children who have already enjoyed the originals. They echo very closely those originals in both style and illustration.
A question arises however. Why replicate the work of writers of a century ago? Such replication is fashionable now for both children and adults. Think of J M Barrie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jane Austen etc. When Milne wrote his stories they reflected the life of middle-class English children of his time, when little boys learned to construct Latin verbs and to play cricket, when half the countries in the Atlas were pink and when it was important to know whether to sing ‘God Save the King’ or ‘God Save the Queen’ (all referenced in the Benedictus book). If a modern writer wishes to retell Milne stories would it not make more sense to remake them in a modern idiom?
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