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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Book Review: The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh

Did you know that Winnie-the-Pooh, the classic children’s book by A.A. Milne, was inspired by a real place you can visit today?

Nature and literature often go hand-in-hand, at least in my mind. Scenery description and a sense of place is one of my favorite aspects of fiction, and I always enjoy learning about the settings of literary works. It makes them that much more real! I didn’t know it before, but the Hundred Acre Wood, the world of Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends, was inspired by Ashdown Forest (which contains a portion called the Five Hundred Acre Wood), in East Sussex, way down on the bottom of England. A.A. Milne, his wife, and his son, Christopher Robin, lived on the northern edge for years.

When Christopher Robin was little, A.A. Milne, already professional and prolific, turned his mind to writing children’s stories, and the greatest of these came out of the life of his son. Christopher Robin possessed toy stuffed animals and played and adventured in Ashdown Forest. Episodes and places in the Pooh stories, such as Poohsticks Bridge and the Heffalump Trap, can be traced to actual occurrences in the Forest and at the Milnes’ home, Cotchford Farm.


I learned all this from Kathryn Aalto, the author of The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring the Real Landscapes of the Hundred Acre Wood. This delightfully written book caters especially to nostalgic Winnie-the-Pooh fans. It includes a fascinating look into the lives of A.A. Milne and illustrator E. H. Shepard, plenty of excerpts and illustrations from Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, beautiful photographs, and a grand tour of Ashdown Forest and its connections to the books. I was a little disappointed that some of the events in the books can’t be traced to specific locations in the Forest, but I understand that’d be hard to do, since the Forest itself has changed. The last section is a nature guide to Ashdown Forest. Nature features heavily in the book, as its title would suggest. I recommend this for any serious Winnie-the-Pooh fans and people who love literary landscapes, and English topography in particular. 

5 stars for execution, 4 for my personal enjoyment. 

(I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways, so I was under no obligation to write a positive review.)

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