recess radio program

Happy Birthday to Pooh
    by Fiona Barnes (reader)

We should be throwing some kind of party today, a big party with many jars of honey and Good Things To Eat. Because it's the 77th anniversary of the publication of Winnie-the-Pooh, and we should gorge ourselves enough to get stuck in a very tight place; we should take a balloon ride disguised as a cloud (but mind the bees); we should go rumbling down the road chanting a chorus of "Tra-la-la, tra-la, la ... Rum-tum-tiddle-um-tum." It's a day for replacing lost tails and having unexpected baths, and making friends, and testing friendships, and learning something about ourselves and asking those imponderable questions like the bear of very little brain asks himself one day:

On Monday, when the sun is hot
I wonder to myself a lot:
"Now is it true, or is it not,
"That what is which and which is what."

Maybe there's a certain Tao in that, as some have claimed, but I don't think that Alan Alexander Milne meant it to be anything quite so esoteric when he wrote this follow up to the book of poems that he written two years earlier titled When We Were Very Young. In that book he introduced characters, among them Christopher Robin, who was named after his son and who would become the human anchor of Winnie-the-Pooh.

Milne was a witty, urbane, prolific man of letters -- a playwright and novelist, an occasional poet and comic writer who just happened to write four children's books that made him a literary celebrity, while his prose fiction and plays sunk into obscurity. His own publishers claimed that Milne had "wonderful insight into a child's mind" but was "not inordinatley fond of or interested in children." Milne remained throughout his life a bit embarrassed by the source of his fame, and his son, Christopher Robin, never welcomed the notoriety that his association with the books brought him throughout his life, making him one of the most famous children in the world and never letting him really claim his own adulthood, at least in other people's minds.

Maybe the best way to remember them, Milne and Christopher Robin, father and son is as they were in a photo taken in 1934, precariously balanced together on the railing of a fence . Like the stories, there is just a frisson of danger to their acrobatics, but it's also great, giddy fun.

Copyright 2003 John Cech

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"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's Center for Children's Literature and Culture and WUFT-FM, "Classic 89."