Happy Birthday A.A. Milne! You Were So Speshul

18 Jan

Is there a bear more beloved than Winnie the Pooh or a boy more disarming than Christopher Robin? Timeless children’s literature, A.A. Milne’s poems and stories about Pooh, Christopher Robin, and their friends endure today because they speak to the child in all of us. The cadence of the rhymes are melodious enough to calm a fussy child and the cheekiness keeps the most skeptical parent engaged. They have inspired popular films and popular music. And they continue to inspire children to read.

Like many fairy tales, Milne’s stories have been adapted for the screen, mostly by Disney. Disney’s versions are likeable, but they change the tone of the characters in order to popularize or commodify Pooh and friends. In turning Pooh, Eeyore, Christopher Robin, Tigger, and the rest into Disney film characters, the studio eliminated a lot of the nuance, the cheekiness, and the cultural complexity. If you haven’t read the original poetry, I’ve linked below to an online, illustrated version of Now We Are Six. Pooh isn’t in this book, except that

“he thought it was a different book; and he hopes you won’t mind, but he walked through it one day, looking for his friend Piglet, and sat down on some of the pages by mistake.”

In honor Milne’s birthday (1882-1956), I’d like to share a favorite poem from Now We Are Six. My mom read “Sneezles” and “King John’s Christmas” to me so often that we could both recite them by heart. The books, my mother’s childhood treasures, are now on Culture Sprout’s shelf and are among my most beloved belongings. She’s a particular fan of “Binker,” a poem about Christopher Robin’s imaginary friend. Binker is a lot like Purple Bubba, who lurks invisibly about our house.

For a famous story about Culture Sprout’s first experience with this poem, scroll down to the caption on the second image.

Sneezles

Sneezles

     Christopher Robin

Had wheezles

And sneezles,

They bundled him

Into

His bed.

They gave him what goes

With a cold in the nose,

And some more for a cold

In the head.

They wondered

If wheezles

Could turn

Into measles,

If sneezles

Would turn

Into mumps;

They examined his chest

For a rash,

and the rest

Of his body for swellings and lumps.

They sent for some doctors

In sneezles

And wheezles

To tell them what ought

To be done.

All sorts of conditions

sneezles 2

When Culture Sprout was about 3, she stopped me in the middle of the poem and asked, “Mommy, who are those men?” I said, “Those are the famous physicians, the doctors, that were called in to help Christopher Robin. Without skipping a beat, she said, “But, mommy, boys can’t be doctors.” You see, up until that time the only male doctors she had were her cardiac-thoracic surgeon (who she didn’t really know) and her dentist.! Learn more about Charlotte’s doctors by clicking on the image.

Of famous physicians

Came hurrying round

At a run.

They all made a note

Of the state of his throat,

They asked if he suffered from thirst;

They asked if the sneezles

Came after the wheezles,

Or if the first sneezle

Came first.

They said, “If you teazle

A sneezle

Or wheezle,

A measle

May easily grow.

But humour or pleazle

The wheezle

Or sneezle,

The measle

Will certainly go.”

They expounded the reazles

For sneezles

And wheezles,

The manner of measles

When new.

They said, “If he freezles

In draughts and in breezles,

Then PHTHEEZLES

May even ensue.”

Christopher Robin

Got up in the morning,

The sneezles had vanished away.

And the look in his eye

Seemed to say to the sky,

“Now, how to amuse them today?”

(From Now We Are Six)

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3 Responses to “Happy Birthday A.A. Milne! You Were So Speshul”

  1. Mary Gilmartin January 19, 2013 at 12:04 am #

    It’s interesting the stories and poems we remember from our childhood.

    http://marygilmartin.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/books-the-world-of-christopher-robin/

    • Culture Bean January 19, 2013 at 9:58 am #

      Isn’t it? And how the memory of those stories can turn some of us into writers. Last night I got to the end of a lovely collection of short stories (Shout Her Lovely Name) and in the acknowledgments, the author mentioned falling in love with stories because of Winnie-the-Pooh.

      • Mary Gilmartin January 19, 2013 at 11:41 am #

        I think everyone, including Natalie Serber, the author of the book you mention loved Winnie-the-Pooh stories.

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