Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Return to the Hundred Acre Wood by David Benedictus

Return to the Hundred Acre Wood by David Benedictus with Decorations by Mark Burgess (in the tradition of A. A. Milne and Ernest H. Shepard).  The House at Pooh Corner by Milne ends with Christopher Robin leaving for boarding school and this book picks up with his returning home for the summer.  Ten chapters written in the style of Milne follow and a new character is introduced, Lottie the Otter. 

The stories are good enough but they don’t have the inimical charm of the originals and often in trying to sound like Milne, the prose comes off as forced.  I wasn’t particularly impressed with the stories although I applaud both Benedictus and Burgess for having a vision and fulfilling it.  The inventors of VHS and Betamax also had shared visions and we all know how that turned out.  And the characters, especially the more familiar ones, came off as mere caricatures of themselves.  Nothing new is added to the characters themselves and the one note seems to be the only one any of them strike.  Lottie in particular seems a superfluous addition since she seems more like a composite of the other characters—Owl and Rabbit in particular—than she is a character in her own right that adds something to the community dynamic with the woods.

For the Pooh purist, this book will be as much an insult to the original as Disney’s off-shooting from the original text to make a variety of ridiculous movies and television programs.  For the Pooh lover, the reader who appreciates such playful looks at Pooh as The Tao of Pooh but mostly because the authors leave the original pretty much alone, this book will be unnecessary and easily avoided.  Mostly these stories are for the reader who is desperate for more Pooh or who has never fallen madly in love with the originals.  As for me, I fall somewhere between purist and lover.  I cannot read the last story of the Pooh books without crying so hard I cannot read the text on the page.  None of the stories Benedictus wrote made me cry.  Nor did they make me smile or even laugh.  An A for effort and even an A for execution because the tone of the prose and illustrations is good but somehow the overall effect is disappointing.   

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  1. I managed the first chapter and gave up. The prose was forced, the characters insipid.

  2. Forced is exactly the word I used when talking about it with Rob and obviously in this review. Funny how we both had the same response to the prose. It's certainly not a book I would buy for anyone and I typically give everyone a copy of Pooh at some point. I simply find Milne an essential.