Return to the Hundred Acre Wood by David Benedictus

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Return to the Hundred Acre Wood by David Benedictus

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood, Christopher Robin and Pooh and all their friends are still playing in a very authentic follow up to AA Milne's classics.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 172 Date: September 2011
Publisher: Egmont
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1405251600

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Christopher Robin is back! At least that's what the Rumour spreading like wild fire through the Hundred Acre Wood says. He's returning for more adventures with Pooh and Piglet and Rabbit and Owl and Kanga and Roo and Tigger and Eeyore and, as I'm sure you'll agree, that is a Very Good Thing. From exciting new friends (Lottie the Otter giving Kanga some welcome female company) to adventures and competitions, with water slides to locate, bees to relocate, books to write and schools to found, this book picks up where the previous one left off, and really does read like an organic 3rd part of a trilogy (poetry books excepted) rather than a tag on that comes some 80-plus years after the original and from the pen of another.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then AA Milne should have felt very flattered by this 'authorised sequel' because there's little to distinguish it from the original titles, while EH Shepherd should have been quite pleased indeed with the illustrations that are in keeping with his own. I've not read the Pooh books for a good decade or two, but they were once a firm favourite, of the sort that was read and reread and memorised and quoted, so I set the bar high when diving into this one. The new title is everything you would expect: same style, same setting, same characters with their well known traits (Pooh is still the bear of very little brain but good with his Hums; Piglet is still a scaredey cat; Owl is still the dyslexic genius and Tigger is still jumping around). As a child I doubt I would have noticed the minor differences in characterisation some reviewers are muttering about, and after all, these are technically children's books that us adults just sneakily enjoy. Some of the phrasing may have been lifted straight from the originals, though it has an interesting touch of Milly Molly Mandy to it too, but generally speaking it is a good fit for, and conclusion to, the first two titles.

With characters so familiar, and a virtually identical style, it would be hard to find fault with this book, but when I finished it I was left with a few niggles. The chapters are all pretty much self contained stories, but some of them end in a random way without really resolving the issue which seemed a bit of an oversight for something that has clearly been written and rewritten and reviewed by many Important People prior to it even being considered for publication. I was also thrown by the Wood's Spelling Bell, a concept I didn't know existed on this side of the Atlantic, but it was an oddity more than an irritation.

This aside, I very much enjoyed my Return To The Hundred Acre Wood. I was immediately transported back to my childhood, and the new tales did not disappoint in either style or substance. This has not been written as either an adult version or a modern version of the classics – rather, as the preface says, though 80 years have passed, to many it seems more like 80 seconds. The most modern thing we gain is a bicycle, and Christopher Robin is only a few months older, though with a term of school under his belt he may be a little wiser.

The book has been designed in the same format as the existing Milne and Shepard titles "Winnie-the-Pooh", "The House At Pooh Corner", "Now We Are Six" and "When We Were Very Young" so fans can collect the range to create their very own complete "Winnie-the-Pooh" library. Of course it doesn't match any of the (several) versions of these titles we have on the shelves, but then ours did only cost in the region of 17 ½ pence each. And although I could rush out and buy the matching box set, I'd rather have the ones with more (family) history, so this new one will just have to join that set, looking nice if not exactly fitting in.

The Pooh books have universal appeal and have maintained their fun for generations of children. I never liked fantasy books as a child because the likes of Watership Down or Colin Dann's works could never happen...and yet I had no problem believing in the Hundred Acre Wood. With a new Pooh film coming out this autumn, let's hope this book gets there first and shows that a non-Disney Pooh was the original and best.

Many thanks go to the publishers for supplying a copy whose lending has already been requested by various friends and relations (though happily I have fewer than Rabbit does).

For a list of other titles which have stood the test of time, why not have a nosy at Bookbag's Top Ten Classics of Children's Literature.

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