Sunday, October 04, 2009

Piglet Says Christopher Robin Is Back in the Forest

The buzz in the Forest is that Christopher Robin is back. Owl, Rabbit and Piglet have all heard the same thing and, though no one has seen Christopher yet, the possibility is all they can talk about.

Well, the rumors are true and Christopher returns to the Forest and his old friends tomorrow when Dutton Chrildren's Books (an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group) releases the first new Winnie-the-Pooh book in 80 years. The finished book was delivered to Dutton in January but its contents have been a carefully guarded secret until now - no review copies were released and the first chapter was made available for preview only last week.

From the official press release comes these details:

Written by David Benedictus and illustrated by Mark Burgess, Return to the Hundred Acre Wood continues the adventures of Christopher Robin, Winnie-the-Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore and friends. Egmont Publishing will publish the book simultaneously in the UK. Penguin Audio will publish an audio version of the book read by Grammy Award-winner Jim Dale. The book has an announced first printing of 300,000.
[...]
Dutton officially introduced Christopher Robin and his "silly old bear" to the US in 1926 with the publication of Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne and illustrated by E.H. Shepard. However Pooh had a significant walk-on role in 1924 with the publication of When We Were Very Young by A.A Milne with illustrations by E.H. Shepard. Milne and Shepard went on to collaborate on two more titles: Now We Are Six in 1927 and The House At Pooh Corner, which introduced Tigger, in 1928. Together, these four books form the basis of the original Pooh books. Newly-designed editions of all four books were published September 3rd.
Link to the book's beautifully illustrated first chapter

The new book does have the approval of the Trustees of the Pooh Properties but I have mixed emotions about the whole concept. I tend to be a bit of a purist when it comes to this kind of thing and my first reaction is to prefer that well enough be left alone. Messing around with a classic book by having someone other than the original author write a sequel to it is always a bit dangerous because the new author is extremely unlikely to be able to reach the level of the original - and, as a result, both the original and the new become somewhat tainted in the minds of readers. That said, however, this kind of thing probably does work better with children's books because so much of the story is told with easily mimicked illustrations.

For a more complete look at Return to the Hundred Acre Wood, including a video, go to the official Penguin website.

10 comments:

  1. I love the original Winne the Pooh books- grew up on them. I can't imagine another author writing a sequel and capturing the same whimsical innocence and charm. I'm often dismayed at how popular the tv cartoons and short children's books are that make up entirely new stories and have little flavor of the original. I might pick this one up out of pure curiosity, but with plenty anticipation of being disappointed or annoyed.

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  2. Oh dear...when it comes to Winnie-ther-Pooh, I am definitely a purist. I'll peek at it in the bookstore, out of sheer curiosity, but it seems like hubris to me to attempt a sequel...

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  3. I'm a purist as well. Nothing annoys me more than authors trying to write "sequels" to Enid Blyton books, for, they can never match her. For that matter, I wasn't best pleased when JD California (not his real name) thought it was alright to write a sequel to Catcher In The Rye.

    I loved Winnie The Pooh, years ago, but, the thought of new sequels really doesn't do it for me. If anything, it's almost disappointing, despite the approval of the Trustees of the Pooh Properties.

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  4. I can't imagine anyone matching the voice of A.A. But maybe the current public is so used to the Disneyfied version that they don't think of the A.A. voice when they think of Pooh.

    I'm afraid the new author might make Pooh look like a black cloud in a blue sky rather than a muddy bear holding on to a balloon. :)

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  5. I have a similar reaction to you, Sam. I don't want someone messing with that wonderful classic that I so associate with my childhood. I never quite cottoned to the animated version for that reason. But I guess I shouldn't deny others the pleasure of more Pooh!

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  6. Jeane, you've perfectly expressed my opinion about what can happen when something like this is not handled properly. It's disturbing to think that a whole new generation of children might never know the original of some of the classics, only the usually-lesser re-writes.

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  7. I'm curious, too, Robin, and will have to take a look. Unfortunately, I'm of the age where I don't have any "test readers" in the house, so I won't be able to get an opinion from the intended target audience.

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  8. I wonder how serious the board is about protecting the integrity of the original characters, myself. It can't be about money at this point, can it, cookie? ...'course not.

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  9. Disney does have a lot to anwser for, IMO, Mary. Have you read the original versions of some of those famous Disney movies? They are scary stuff...wrote a review here of a French translation of the originals last monnth, in fact.

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  10. I'm still hoping for the best, Ted. With 300,000 copies in print, it should make some kind of a splash here and in the U.K. I do think the illustrations are kinda nicely done.

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