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Return to the Hundred Acre Wood

Review

Return to the Hundred Acre Wood

written by David Benedictus, illustrated by Mark Burgess

I usually don’t agree with those who think that most series --- or “franchises” to use Hollywood-speak --- should continue when the original brain trust behind them goes to meet their Maker. A. A. Milne, beloved creator of Winnie-the-Pooh, is like Beatrix Potter or Louisa May Alcott --- a creator known to have done all his or her own work. Yes, the Thomas the Tank Engine series has continued on beyond its original author. And certainly the Disney world wouldn't be the same if Mickey had died with Walt. So I understand that sometimes things have a life beyond their creator. But when I heard about the new Winnie-the-Pooh book, I thought that nothing good could possibly come out of this. Fortunately for me (and all Pooh fans out there), my fears were quickly dispelled.

The gentle style of Milne is certainly not that hard to recreate. However, there was always a loving heart beating beneath those stories that captained the Hundred Acre Wood ship right into a child’s very soul. And that, my friends, is what is difficult to recreate. Yet somehow --- perhaps after drinking the hunny from the original pot --- David Benedictus has found a singular way into the life of Pooh and all those other much-loved characters. He manages to keep things simple and get to the heart of what these characters are about: “This is the hum which Pooh hummed to Piglet on the day which started like any other day and became a very special day indeed.” It’s easy to read, easy to understand, and, most importantly, easy to love.

In 10 stories centered on the anticipated return of human Christopher Robin to the Hundred Acre Wood, Benedictus captures the old beauty of the stories. And much like he was able to channel Milne, illustrator Mark Burgess has studied the pen-and-ink-and-watercolor elegance of Ernest H. Shepard's original illustrations and created a beautiful book filled with iconic images rendered in such exacting fashion that one, for a moment, questions whether or not they are lost Shepard masterpieces (a two-page spread with all the characters playing cricket towards the end is worthy of framing). It’s one thing for someone to copy the language of a simple and elegant story, but it is something else entirely to do the same for famous illustrative accompaniment.

Somehow, with great love and affection for the original material, this team has created what at first would seem impossible --- a loving continuation of stories that will live on forever. Encased in a nicely trimmed hardcover edition, RETURN TO THE HUNDRED ACRE WOOD will make a special gift for Pooh fans of all ages. A great holiday treat for children and adults alike!

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on October 5, 2009

Return to the Hundred Acre Wood
written by David Benedictus, illustrated by Mark Burgess

  • Publication Date: October 5, 2009
  • Genres: All Ages
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
  • ISBN-10: 0525421602
  • ISBN-13: 9780525421603