I dedicated Yours in a Hurry to my mother who influenced me and other children in our neighborhood to read. The books we loved to read together most were A. A. Milne's. My mother made me an an Anglophile at an early age. It may have been reading Christopher Robin's adventures with the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and all. I also have a life long love affair with bears, and Pooh is probably to blame. My house is filled with the whimsical creatures.
Books to Grow On
A. A. Milne published his first book of verses When We Were Very Young, in 1924, and followed soon after with Now We Are Six. The poem "Teddy Bear" described a short, fat, stuffed bear named Edward Bear, later to be known as Winnie the Pooh. Mom started reading to me when I was very young, and I'd memorized a lot by the time I started reading myself. I found myself going back to Pooh and Christopher Robin later.
I recall one, "Solitude", that goes, "I have a house where I go when there's too many people. . . Where nobody ever says 'No'. . . Where no one says anything—so there's no one but me." The accompanying illustration shows that the house can be a tent or any secret place. Empowering words for a little one. In "Wind on the Hill" a child starts with the premise that none of us knows where the wind comes from or where it goes. Then he discovers that he can tell where the wind blows by using his kite, even though he never figures out where the wind comes from. Cognitive skills.
Whether engaging a beloved dormouse in "The Christening", or losing it later in "Missing", or traveling the world in "Nursery Chairs", few collections of children's verses give a child so many experiences.
We Still Love Pooh
Not only are the verses still relevant after 92 years, but so are the images. Just look around in any children's store, card shop, or book store and you'll find endless products. I have a fridge magnet from a teddy bear store (yes, there are many). Piglet is looking at Pooh who is stuck trying to come out of his hole. Piglet says, "A bear no matter how hard he tries grows tubby without exercise." I've never been able to find that quote in Milne (let me know if you do) but the image still motivates!
If you haven't read Milne's verses lately as illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard, please do. They'll give you a smile. And add a copy to a child's collection soon. The Complete Poems of Winnie-the-Pooh (Dutton, 2001) is a good newer edition.
Photo: A wagon full of bears from the author's collection.