Gladys Hunt on “Improving” the Classics

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14 years ago, A.A. Milne’s estate sanctioned a new book of Winnie-the-Pooh adventures. Was this a good idea?

The post Gladys Hunt on “Improving” the Classics appeared first on Redeemed Reader.

Editor’s Note: Our Honey for a Child’s Heart Read-Along this month takes us to Chapters 8 (“Who Influences Your Children?”) and Chapter 21 (“Young Adult Novels”). Publishers, naturally, exert the most influence on children’s publishing, and even popular outrage–as in the uproar over the sensitivity overhaul of Roald Dahl showed–may lead some of them to moderate their plans but not change them. Gladys Hunt saw the revisionist itch coming years ago . . .

Making literature, or money?

Originally published on the Tumblon Website, January 27, 2009

I only just now read a blog by Ben Hoyle, Arts Correspondent for The London

Times containing this news:   

“We haven’t heard from Pooh Bear in 80 years but, in a move that Eeyore would doubtless expect to end in disappointment, the guardians of AA Milne’s estate have sanctioned a new book of ursine adventures. Return to the Hundred Acre Wood will be published in October and booksellers are already inking it in as a Christmas bestseller.”

The blog is followed by responses from outraged lovers of Winnie-the-Pooh. They are purists; they don’t want anyone trying to mimic what they consider the perfections of the original stories.

A.A. Milne wrote Winnie-the-Pooh in 1926 and The House at Pooh Corner in 1928, and every year since these two books delight millions of readers in some fifty different languages.

winnie the pooh

So why are the publishers doing this? They claim it is to delight Pooh lovers, but I am suspicious that more money is better than some money. They have commissioned a new writer, David Benedictus and a new illustrator Mark Burgess to copy the style of A. A. Milne and E. H. Shepard, and to revive one of the best-loved children’s stories of all time. No word from the publisher as to whether Pooh Bear will be joined by new characters.*

Disney has owned film, television and merchandising rights to the character of Pooh since 1961 and created their own spin-off stories. They added a gopher character and recently replaced Christopher Robin with a girl named Darby. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I am among those who consider the Disney corruptions a travesty!

I guess it depends on how much you love the originals. It’s nothing new. Publishers have tried doing this with Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz, Curious George, Little House on the Prairie, and many others. It waters down genius, from my point of view. Sigh….

*Note from Mark Hunt: There was a new character, Lottie the Otter. The book had lukewarm reviews with Publisher Weekly final sentence noting that “topping Shepard’s originals proves a tough act to follow.”

Also at Redeemed Reader:

See my thoughts on “Messing with the Classics

© Gladys M. Hunt 2008-10, reissued in 2022 with minor adjustments with permission of the Executor of the Literary Estate of Gladys M. Hunt (4194 Hilton SE, Lowell, MI 49331). Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The post Gladys Hunt on “Improving” the Classics appeared first on Redeemed Reader.

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