minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Tue Nov 11 07:03:37 EST 2003

The Knowledge Pika asked:

>> >But I'm sure it's also surely true that Crews' choice of Pooh was a
>> >considered one, and it's hard to believe that its being a book for
>> >children wasn't a factor in that choice.
>> As a child I always felt it was a book not *for*, but *at* children.
>Hm... did you read it to yourself, or have it read to you?
>I think having it read to may have made a difference, as I felt adoring of
>A.A. Milne simply becuase of the writing.

I think it was both something-I-read-myself and the only book my father
habitually read aloud to us all (apart from bits of *Three Men In A Boat*),
so it ought to have been special (he reads aloud very well, and it was a
family-thing too).  Somehow it just missed, because with Milne's writing
"for children" I felt talked-at or even talked-down-to.  Later on I loved
his collected stories from Punch, so it wasn't all his writing by any

Maybe I was too conscious of writing for children as writing for some
strange sub-species the author was trying to understand, rather than
writing that was for people the author knew or for him/herself as a child.
Most of the books I loved best were of the "it's for myself really" sort.
And obDWJ, all her work seems to be for real people -- maybe her own
childhood self or her own children or people she knows -- and that is
probably why I find it so good.  I felt that Milne hadn't the same
approach.  It's very hard indeed to specify examples, though.

I think there's something that may be relevant in Christopher Milne's
autobiography.  I didn't know when I was a child that Milne had used his
son's real name for young-child books -- if I had I would have felt it was
a cruel thing to do if one's son was going to be at a boys' school! -- and
I didn't know that CM himself felt that the things printed didn't really
give a fair picture of him.  There's something about the poem with the
train that doesn't work properly, and CM was still unhappy about it when he
was an adult; that if it had really been him, and really his train, it
*would* have worked, because he was the sort of person whose
Heath-Roibinsons *do* work or he'll know the reason why, and he resented
his father foisting his father's own lack of mechanical ability onto him
because it made a good joke for the readers.

Maybe what was going on when I was little was that I felt very slightly
that I was being made privy to the sort of family-mockery that is fine
within the family but shouldn't be given to all and sundry as it is when it
is in a book.  I knew about making mistakes through ignorance (why not the
east pole and the west pole?) and being ribbed for it gently, but I would
have minded very much if my father or brothers had told someone else "Guess
what she said the other day?  She wanted to know why there wasn't an east

Something like that, anyhow.  It just jarred slightly.


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