12 October 2011

Winnie the Pooh

The bear necessities...
Oh, that bear with very little brain, that poet-bear, that eater of honey, friend of pigs and donkeys, and companion-comforter of children for decades! Oh bear, we do love you!

My parents gave me the complete collection of Winnie the Pooh on CD for my birthday this year, and the last few days I've been listening to the stories on the way to and from school. I find myself laughing out loud.

As a child, I had a couple cassettes of the same recordings by Peter Dennis, and I all but wore them out. Dennis does such a great job with all the voices, and he has been endorsed by none other than the real Christopher Robin. Check out a sample of his readings here, and I'm pretty sure this is the only place to get the CDs - I haven't been able to find them anywhere else anyway.

Disney doesn't have anything on Peter Dennis - or the original stories for that matter! The whole set also includes When We Were Very Young, and Now We Are Six - 79 poems that are just as compelling as Pooh at their best, and cute and laughable at their "worst." Of the poems, the one that has stuck with me the most is called "The Emperor's Rhyme." The Emperor uses simple math (or not so simple math) to calm himself in sticky situations, such as when the queen misuses the starch.

In The House at Pooh Corner, Pooh finds himself in the middle of a major conundrum; whom shall he go see this morning? Not Owl, because he uses long words - maybe Rabbit, because "he says sensible things like, 'help yourself Pooh.'" A bear with very little brain? I think not!

I love the way Milne uses perfect preschool-logic. In the chapter titled "An Expotition to the North Pole," Owl, Rabbit, Piglet, and Pooh are talking about what an ambush is, or is not. Owl and Rabbit are, as always, trying to showcase their brain-power by explaining to Pooh what an ambush is and why they need to be careful. Of course, Pooh's not quite listening, and he thinks they're talking about gorse bushes.

Pooh explains that a gorse bush had sprung out at him suddenly one day, and it had taken him six days to get all the prickles out.

"We are not TALKING about GORSE bushes," says Owl crossly.
And Pooh, in his characteristically logical way, replies, "I am."

I dare you not to laugh.

As seen in the picture above, my sons are beginning to be interested in Pooh and all his fluffy friends. The other day we listened to a couple of the stories on our way to the park. Both of the boys were quite tired, and I figured their silence was only an indicator of their sleepiness. However, after running around a bit, the older of the two said:

"Dad, I'm Pooh, you're Tigger, M. is Roo, and Mom is Kanga."
"Okay," I said. I couldn't have been more happy to pretend at this game!
"Let's go down by the slide," he continued, "that's the riverbank."

Isn't it amazing how closely children are listening when you think they couldn't possibly be paying attention? Well, my son's invitation to the 100 Acre Wood was irresistible to us all, and I'm sure we'll be making many more trips!

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