Monday, October 05, 2009

"The Same Pooh Bear, but an Otter Has Arrived"

The responses to yesterday's post on the new Pooh book make me believe that there are a whole lot of people who feel uneasy, if not perturbed, by its release to bookstores today. The New York Times has a good article today on "Return to the Hundred Acre Wood" that hits on some of the same points we discussed:
“Some people said it shouldn’t be done, and there will still be some of that now, this feeling that this is a gleaming jewel in the world of children’s books and don’t mess around with it,” Michael Brown, chairman of the Pooh Properties Trust, said of creating the sequel. “This doesn’t damage the original stories at all, though, and allows us to continue the stories in a world of kindness, cheerfulness, laughter and fun.”

A less sanguine assessment came from Elizabeth Bluemle, a children’s book author, co-owner of the Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne, Vt., and president of the Association of Booksellers for Children. Spinoffs and sequels tend to be “thin soup,” she said in an e-mail message, and can keep children away from the original, better-written books.

“It’s just too much to hope that someone who isn’t the original writer will capture the voice, character, setting, pacing (and all the other elements of bookmaking) in the right measure,” Ms. Bluemle added, saying that she was not singling out “Return,” which she has not read.
David Benedictus, author of the new book responds:
“I didn’t want to do parody; I didn’t want to do pastiche,” Mr. Benedictus said of the danger of imitating someone else’s style. “Dorothy Parker thought Pooh was twee beyond words.”

Whether or not Pooh is twee, Mr. Benedictus said he stayed true to the original characters. “I made Eeyore a little more proactive so he wasn’t always the victim, although you can’t turn him into Gary Cooper or something,” he said. “Pooh may have put on an inch or two, but he’s the same old bear.”
And there's the problem. Mr. Benedict admits to changing the very character and personality of Eeyore and he has added "Lottie the Otter" to the beloved cast of characters created by A.A. Milne. I see red flags popping up everywhere and I'm more uneasy about the book than I was yesterday. This just doesn't feel right - but it is probably closer to the original than the Disney version, proving again that all things are relative.

1 comment:

  1. Hm. Well, an Otter might be cute. But I still have my serious doubts.