On My Bookshelf: The Natural World of Winnie the Pooh

Friday, September 16, 2016



For the legions of readers who were entranced by the playful pursuits of Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh as they frolicked through the magical world of A. A. Milne, this book provides a delightful experience.

The Natural World of Winnie the Pooh is a charming and informative volume that connects the memorable stories with the environment of Ashdown Forest in England, which inspired the Hundred Acre Wood where Pooh lived. Written by expatriate author, landscape designer and historian Kathryn Aalto, whom I had the pleasure of meeting recently when she returned home from England and spoke at our local garden club, this volume is an extensive interdisciplinary and well-researched study of both literature and landscape.

When the book appeared on the New York Times Bestseller list, as an enthusiastic gardener and admirer of the natural world, I knew it was one I must read. During my years in graduate school, I managed the children's department of an independent bookstore. There I spent many Saturdays sharing the endearing stories of Winnie the Pooh with a sea of happy little faces at storytime. The children all loved the yellow bear and his adorable animal friends, as I did during my own childhood.

After a thorough and enlightening introduction, the book begins with a discussion of the creative collaboration between author A. A. Milne and illustrator E.H. Shepherd. Rich in biographical detail, the childhoods of both are highlighted, as is Milne's experience with fatherhood while raising his son, Christopher Robin.




Next, an exploration of Ashdown Forest leads readers on an armchair tour of the places in Milne’s world where the stories originated. A lovely mapping of landscape to literature, this section has photos of the legendary Poohsticks Bridge and the original walnut tree where Milne’s son, the real Christopher Robin, once played with his stuffed animals. There are also many "nice places for picnics" represented, reminding wanderers to stop and enjoy the beauty.



In the last section, a very helpful visitor’s guide to the flora and fauna of Ashdown Forest is provided detailing its many unique and beautiful plants, birds, insects and animals. Photographs of specific flowers, butterflies and creatures of the habitat entice those who choose to wander the public footpaths.

This captivating volume transports readers back through childhood memories into the wonderful world of Winnie the Pooh and explores the relationship between setting and story, landscape and imagination.

For more information about this book, please visit the publisher, Timber Press or Kathryn Aalto's website.

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