In honour of the 95th anniversary of Winnie-the-Pooh, highly talented author Jane Riordan has created a wonderful collection of new stories, written in the style of A.A. Milne, that take us back to when it all began, when Winnie-the-Pooh was first purchased for baby Christopher Robin
Out on September 30 from the official publisher of Winnie-the-Pooh, Farshore, is an enchanting new prequel to mark the 95th anniversary of the much-loved children’s classic.
From London and Christopher Robin’s Mallard Street playroom to the familiar surroundings of the Hundred Acre Wood, this timeless, new collection follows Pooh and friends on a new series of adventures, with outings to the Natural History Museum and London Zoo, where Pooh meets his namesake, Winnipeg. A.A Milne and his son visited the real-life Canadian bear – known as Winnie – and this inspired the name of the book’s much-loved bear.
Illustrated with beautiful decorations by Mark Burgess in the style of E.H. Shepard, and radiating the warmth and playfulness of the original stories, Once There Was a Bear is a tribute to The Best Bear in All the World – for ages 5 years to 105 years!
Q & A with Jane Riordan, author of Once There Was a Bear
What inspired you to write the prequel?
In the original stories Winnie-the-Pooh lives in a tree in the Hundred Acre Wood but history tells us that he was bought from Harrods for Christopher Robin’s first birthday. I loved the idea of seeing Pooh and Eeyore and Piglet in London, in the nursery that is written about so much in the poetry and also out and about in London as well.
How difficult was it to recreate A.A. Milne’s style?
A.A. Milne’s style is so distinctive and the characters have such strong voices that once I’ve decided where to take them, it’s as if I can hear them in my head, worrying, in the case of Piglet, or bemoaning something, in the case of Eeyore! Sometimes it’s more a question of asking them to hush so that the plot can move on! But that’s the beauty of Winnie-the-Pooh, it’s not so much about what happens in a story, it’s more about the characters’ observations and interactions – the smallest happenings can become big adventures.
Why do you think these stories continue to resonate with readers?
No matter how much the world changes, some things remain timeless. The Pooh stories have a comforting, gentle wisdom that reminds us about the importance of friendship and the joy of simple pleasures. There’s a wonderful familiarity about shy Piglet, know-it-all Owl and bumbling Pooh. And a charming reassurance that everything will be OK in the end. Sometimes even the rainiest days can lead to the biggest adventures. These are ideas that speak to readers across generations. It makes them perfect stories to escape to by yourself or read aloud together, something we know is enormously beneficial to children.