Wednesday, January 16, 2008

PoohSticks and PoohLessons

I had a very thought provoking chat with a friend yesterday about the Pooh books by A. A. Milne. If you haven't read them - specifically Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner - hie thee hence to the nearest bookstore, purchase and read them posthaste! Anyway, my friend professed that she really didn't think she understood the Pooh books. My initial thought was "oh my, how could anyone say that??" which slipped quickly into "oh, my - how do I understand Pooh??!? I have very specific ideas regarding Pooh, but I don't think I ever tried to articulate them in any coherent way. I've READ essays and articles that made me say, "Yes, indeedy! That is it exactly!" but my own cohesive thoughts were still unformed. So I will give it a go here, with the full confession that these ideas are most likely not original to me. Many deeper and more thoughtful minds wrote things that struck a chord, and helped me define what it is that makes Pooh so special.

Pooh just IS. Pooh, along with other books I read as a child, made me what I am today - a book lover with a deep appreciation of good literature. It's simplicity and beauty and childlike wonder prepared me for a world of filled with works of authors like Tolkien, Dante, Chaucer, and Shakespeare. Pooh - and his bookshelf companions like the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson, Kenneth Grahame, E. B. White and Laura Ingalls Wilder - were the building blocks for my literary education. I surely didn't realize it at the time... but does any child really understand when her mind is being prepared for things to come?

It wasn't until after college (long after college) that a similar conversation about children's books made me realize how important Pooh and his friends were as part of my introduction to literature. The silliness and wonder of Pooh prepares us for an introduction to the more profound writings we encounter as we grow older. Those who read Pooh and all those bookshelf buddies become was saturated in myth, fable, and Story (a la Tolkien). These early forays into literature prepare the mind for the great books that come later, and give the reader a deeper appreciation of the stories within.

So, Pooh. Haven't read it? Do!

No comments: