Saturday, October 17, 2009

How it otter be

One more thought about "Return to the Hundred Acre Wood": It seems author David Benedictus has gotten more flack about creating a new character ("Lottie the Otter") than about anything else. But if you're going to write a sequel to Milne's book -- not that I'm saying you should, mind you, but if you're going to anyway -- then it's only right that a new character should appear. Both Milne's Pooh books contain arrivals of new characters. Kanga and Roo arrive more than halfway through "Winnie-the-Pooh", and Tigger arrives during that book's sequel, "The House at Pooh Corner". It's perfectly in keeping with Milne to have a new character in the new book.

Now, you might quibble with Benedictus' choice of an otter. I don't know if there are actually otters in the waters of Ashdown Forest, where the Pooh stories take place. Kanga, Roo, and Tigger are all exotic, non-indigenous animals, which is fine since they are simply Christopher Robin's playthings come to life. It seems to me an otter might be more in keeping with Owl and Rabbit, characters that don't correspond to C.R.'s toys but instead seem to be "real" animals in the forest. It would be interesting to know if this is what Benedictus intended. Perhaps this is made a bit clearer if you actually read the book. I can't possibly bring myself to buy it, but I will check it out at the library. I think I'll still be able to live with myself that way.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Two Cheers for Pooh

Like many lifetime fans of A.A. Milne's "Pooh", I'm not entirely thrilled with the publication of "Return to the Hundred Acre Wood", the officially sanctioned sequel to Milne's books. I took a quick look at it in a bookstore, and while it seems author David Benedictus and illustrator Mark Burgess may have done a reasonably good job with the book, the main question is whether it should have been done at all. Milne poignantly and definitively ended the series in the last chapter of "The House at Pooh Corner" by directly addressing Christopher Robin's growing up, and assuring us that in spite of it, "in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his bear will always be playing." True, Milne didn't wrap things up with a sequel-proof bloodbath or anything, but still: He ended his series. What more needs to be said? What more can be said?

Still, this lack of respect from the publishers towards Milne's work isn't surprising when — at least in the U.S. — they don't show a lot of respect for the two Pooh books he did write. How can it be, I ask you, that there are (at least) two notable typos in "The House at Pooh Corner", which apparently have been there since the first U.S. edition? I actually purchased a paperback set of the Pooh books from, published by Egmont, so I could compare them against my 1950 Duttons. For those interested and concerned, here are the U.S. typos I've found:

1. In chapter 4, Tigger asserts that Tiggers are "Stornry good flyers." I always wondered what the heck "stornry" meant, figuring it must be some obscure British expression. But the British pressings have the word as "strornry" (note the extra "r"). And if you say that aloud — go ahead, do so — it's very obvious "strornry" is a British child's way of saying "extraordinary" or "extraordinarily".

2. In the last chapter, Pooh goes into a dream "in which he and Sir Pomp and Sir Brazil and Factors lived together with a horse, and were faithful knights". Pooh here is muddling together various facts that Christopher Robin has just told him. But what of "Sir Pomp"? Christopher Robin talks of Brazil and factors, but never mentions "pomp" in any way. What he does mention, however, is "how you make a Suction Pump"... and sure enough, the British pressings have it as "Sir Pump", not "Sir Pomp".

That these obfuscating errors (which are still in current U.S. pressings) can have persisted for decades in these most beloved of all children's books is quite — well — strornry. I submitted these errors through the labyrinthine channels of the Penguin website (Dutton is now owned by Penguin), and we'll see if they are ever corrected. My guess is that they'll be too busy preparing the next Pooh sequel to bother.