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Monday, October 15, 2012

Review: The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh

I will admit that I never read Winnie-the-Pooh as a child.I was also never exposed to any of the super-disneyfied merchandising and such. As a teenager, I did read The Tao of Pooh and enjoyed it, but of course, missed all the context that the book actually referred to. So I ended up buying a copy of The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh to read to Bowen.

The physical quality of the book is impeccable, with a beautiful slipcase and large font, and of course the original illustrations. What's also great is that the book uses the original British spelling, rather than being Americanized. Of course, you should avoid any of the Disney merchandising featuring the characters, or any of the abridged or follow-on commercial works. While I might not say that the latter is child abuse, what little of it that I've seen has no literary value and is complete junk. Unfortunately, the book's not quite designed to withstand a one-year-old's pounding, and I've already had to scotch tape the spine back to the book. Fortunately, there's no danger of the book ever going out of print and if Bowen ever wants a pristine copy we can easily buy another copy.

The book is a classic for good reason. Evidently, A. A. Milne spent a lot of time telling stories to his child involving all his stuffed animals. Each of the characters that are represented by a stuffed animal has a different personality, and they all interact in ways that reflect their characters. The story also frequently breaks the fourth wall, as the characters all know that they don't change much, and frequently commit the kind of errors a child would make with say, spelling. Despite growing up without exposure to A. A. Milne's original work, I grew up also talking to my stuffed animals (my brother, by the way, also recommends the movie, Ted for those who grew up talking to stuffed animals, and I can't wait to see it on DVD/Blu-Ray), and the way the animals talk to each other (and Christopher Robin) in the book seem universal (as in, even a boy from Singapore would have his stuffed animals talk the same way).

The illustrations are beautiful and whimsical. The poems and songs are silly and not very entertaining, but nevertheless make for fun reading out loud. While by the time I got around to the end of the book (it took us about a month for me to finish reading the entire book to him), I was quite saturated with the stories, the big strength of the book is that the adult never gets bored with the repetition (there isn't much), and there's always the next fun pun to look forward to.

Ok, so Amazon claims that the book is for 3 and up, but what the heck --- for a one year old with a dad who's bored with reading the same old Boynton to his baby every day, this book was just the break needed. Recommended.

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