AA Milne Appreciation

For the first time as far as I can remember, which isn't necessarily that far what with one thing and another, my children laughed at a book I was reading to them so hard they choked and gasped and wheezed. Sure, there have been chuckles, giggles, and smirks in the past (the "pig bums" spread in David Wiesner's The Three Pigs, for instance), but this was the first time there was real laughing.

It was not my intention to amuse. I was taking my 7 year old to bed, and picked, almost at random, the copy of The House At Pooh Corner that had been my mother's when she was a child-- no disneyfication, not even color-added illustrations, and much, much rattier than the one shown. The story I chose was Chapter 3-- "In Which A Search is Organdized, and Piglet Nearly Meets the Heffelump Again." The buildup is amusing but longish; it's worth it in the end when Piglet becomes Utterly Flustered (and 7 year old becomes Completely Hysterical).

The next night it was my turn to take 4 year old to bed, so I tried the same story on him. Same result. We had to go across the hall and read it again to his brother and father, and the boys were still quoting it in the car this morning and chuckling over it.

It is possible that part of the humor came from my masterful reading. We had, earlier this month, been listening to Judi Dench read Pooh, which gave me a few tips. I had been putting off reading Pooh to the boys, because I wanted so badly for them to like him. Judi broke the ice for us, and now we are off and running.

But the bulk of the credit, in all seriousness, goes to AA Milne, whose writing I adore. I especially like the Capital Letters. My grandfather read us the Pooh stories over and over again, and every time I re-read them, I find turns of phrase that have become naturalized in my own speech.

I have one book of Milne's biographicalish essays (Year in, Year out), and I'd like more. I also enjoy his fantasy story, Once on a Time, which is a good read for a nine/ten year old, or a non-cynical older person.

But Pooh, is of course, the best, and I have carefully shielded my children from the Disney version so that they would not be prejudiced against the Real Thing (they aren't going to watch The Seeker either).

So anyway--go find the House At Pooh Corner, read your child Chapter 3, and see how much they laugh. It would be good, but not entirely necessary, to have read the first Heffalump story, Chapter 5 in the first book, Winnie-the-Pooh. Here's my favorite bit from that story:

And all the time Winnie-the-Pooh had been trying to get
the honey-jar off his head. The more he shook it, the more
tightly it stuck. "Bother!" he said, inside the jar, and "Oh,
help!" and, mostly, "Ow!" And he tried bumping it against
things, but as he couldn't see what he was bumping it against,
it didn't help him; and he tried to climb out of the Trap, but
as he could see nothing but jar, and not much of that, he
couldn't find his way. So at last he lifted up his head, jar
and all, and made a loud, roaring noise of Sadness and Despair
. . . and it was at that moment that Piglet looked down.

"Help, help!" cried Piglet, "a Heffalump, a Horrible
Heffalump!" and he scampered off as hard as he could, still
crying out, "Help, help, a Herrible Hoffalump! Hoff, Hoff, a
Hellible Horralump! Holl, Holl, a Hoffable Hellerump!" And he
didn't stop crying and scampering until he got to Christopher
Robin's house.


  1. Oh, this brought back marvelous memories... my young son and I both flat on our backs, weak with laughter as we wheezed "A Heff-- a Heff--", totally unable to get through the passage until we had laughed ourselves silly. What a delight to read your entry and recall that moment years ago!

  2. Thanks so much for leaving your comment! I'm glad you enjoyed this entry.


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