Return to the Hundred Acre Wood by David Benedictus

A charming and delightfully entertaining book.
Return to the Hundred Acre Wood book cover

A.A. Milne’s stories about Pooh and his forest friends have been loved by generations of children and their parents ever since the publication of Winnie-the-Pooh in 1926. Now, eighty years on, David Benedictus takes up where Milne left off and Return to the Hundred Acre Wood is the much-anticipated official sequel to Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner.

One Sunday morning I popped into Waterstone’s to pick up a gift card for my little sister’s birthday (I chose the one with The Gruffalo on in case you were wondering) and in the car on the way there I thought it would also be nice to pick up a new book to read to my three-year old daughter at bedtime. The several complementary reviews that I had already read on David Benedictus’s Winnie-the-Pooh sequel played a large part in me taking it down from a shelf as soon as I had walked through the shop's door.

I must at this point say that my daughter loves Winnie-the-Pooh. Not the original creation of Milne and Shepard but Walt Disney’s affectionate, charming and respectful animation. So I thought it would be interesting to see if she grew to love the books as much as the films.

We read a chapter each evening and, over the course of ten nights became completely immersed in the world of Christopher Robin, Pooh, Owl, Eeyore and, making her debut, Lottie the Otter (after I’d finished the last page I closed the book and asked Edie to name all the characters on the front and back cover. She got them all, even Lottie which I did not think she would).

David Benedictus had brought his own style to the sequel but has, like Disney, shown great respect to the legacy that Milne established. He has instilled an old-fashioned feel to Return to the Hundred Acre Wood, keeping the setting of England in the 1920’s and, after careful consideration I realised that there really was no other way that it could have been done – both the reader and the inhabitants of the Hundred Acre Wood do not like change.

My favourite moment - although on this point I have to admit to more than a negligible amount of bias - is the game of cricket between the two-legs and the four-legs; it really is wonderful fun and it may not be too long before snout before wicket (Pooh), arguing with umpire (Kanga) and feet of the ground (Roo) become lawful dismissals in the beautiful game.

I think that David Benedictus has done a sterling job in taking on such a difficult task and has created a book that will be as much a companion of today’s generation as its predecessor was for those who are now parents and grandparents. Mark Burgess’s decorations, in the style of E.H. Shepard, are the ideal accompaniment to this charming and delightfully entertaining book. Highly recommended.

Here's an excerpt: “He’ll get it wrong,”says Eeyore, “ see if he doesn’t. What does he know about donkeys?”
Of course Eeyore is right, because I don’t know; I can only guess. But guessing can be fun too. And if occasionally I think I have guessed right, I shall reward myself with a chocolate biscuit, one of those with chocolate on one side only so you don’t get sticky fingers and leave marks on the paper, and if sometimes I am afraid that I have guessed wrong, I shall have to go without.”
David Benedictus: Exposition

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