New character revealed for Winnie-the-Pooh’s 90th anniversary
Penguin toy featured in photograph with Christopher Robin inspires new story, written by author Brian Sibley, one of four to pen new tales for the 90th anniversary of Winnie-the-Pooh this October.
Egmont Publishing today, Sunday 18 September 2016, reveals a new character from the 90th anniversary sequel for Winnie-the-Pooh, The Best Bear in All the World.
Penguin, the new character joining the Hundred Acre Wood, is based on a little-known photograph featuring writer A.A. Milne and his son Christopher [Robin] Milne playing with a penguin toy alongside Teddy Bear. The picture has been issued ahead of the 90th anniversary of Winnie-the-Pooh on 14 October 2016.
Brian Sibley – one of four authors to have written a seasonal story for the new official sequel, The Best Bear in All the World, published 6 October – was inspired to write Winter: in which Penguin arrives in the Forest having seen the obscure photograph from Christopher Robin’s nursery. There is mystery about this nursery toy, which may well have been another purchase from Harrods by Christopher’s mother, Daphne Milne.
Many of the animals featured in Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, including the eponymous bear, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo and Tigger, were bought by Mrs Milne from the Harrods toy department. The first two were bought as gifts for Christopher Robin, the rest – in the words of Milne – ‘carefully chosen with the idea of not only giving pleasure to the reader, but also fresh inspiration to the chronicler of their adventures’. Owl and Rabbit are woodland animals that befriend the toys, which Milne described as his ‘own unaided work’.
Teddy Bear was renamed ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ after Winnipeg, or Winnie, the Canadian black bear at ZSL London Zoo befriended by Christopher Robin. Whilst the zoo’s Lubetkin Penguin Pool didn’t open until 1930s, penguins – including black-footed penguins – appear to have been kept onsite, most likely kept in the ‘Diving birds’ enclosure or the Pavilion Pond.
Brian Sibley comments:
“For someone who has loved Winnie-the-Pooh & Co from his earliest childhood, the idea of visiting the ‘100 Aker Wood’ in search of a new story was wildly exciting. However, having studied and written about the works of A. A. Milne, it was also daunting. But, for me, the challenge was more than just attempting to play A. A. Milne in his own literary game; I also wanted to find a way of successfully introducing a brand new character into Pooh’s world, whilst being sympathetic to the tone and style of the original books.
“While pondering what other toys Christopher Robin might have owned but which were never written about, I remembered seeing a photograph of father and son playing on the nursery floor with Winnie-the-Pooh and – a penguin! The thought of Pooh encountering a penguin seemed no more outlandish than his meeting a kangaroo and a tiger in a Sussex wood, so I started thinking about what might have happened if, on a rather snowy day, Penguin had found his way to Pooh Corner…”
Sebastian Wormell, Harrods archivist, adds: “Harrods is famous as the original home of Winnie-the-Pooh, but the Toy Department where Mrs Milne bought the iconic bear hosted a huge array of stuffed animals. In the early years of the 20th century, toy penguins soared in popularity as the exploits of Antarctic explorers such as Shackleton and Scott fascinated the public. We believe that the toy pictured could be ‘Squeak’, which originated in our 1922 catalogue and came from Pip, Squeak and Wilfred, a popular cartoon-strip. It’s exciting to think a new Harrods toy could be joining Winnie-the-Pooh’s gang after all this time.”
Winnie-the-Pooh first appeared as Christopher Robin’s ‘Teddy Bear’ in a 1923 poem in Punch. He was prominent in A.A. Milne’s set of children’s poems, When We Were Very Young (1924) and became the subject of A.A. Milne’s next book, Winnie-the-Pooh, in 1926. A.A. Milne subsequently wrote Now We Are Six (1927) and further stories in The House at Pooh Corner (1928).
When Winnie-the-Pooh was first published in 1926, it was an immediate success – 35,000 copies were sold in the UK and over 150,000 copies sold in the US. Since then, the worldwide popularity of Winnie-the-Pooh has resulted in the books being translated into over 50 languages, from Catalan to Thai and Esperanto to Latin. Winnie-the-Pooh regularly tops polls for the best-loved children’s character of all time; in a YouGov poll in 2014, Winnie-the-Pooh was named as the favourite children’s book of the past 150 years, beating Alice in Wonderland, The Gruffalo and The BFG to the number one spot. Earlier this summer, Pooh was named the UK’s favourite children’s book character in a Reading Agency poll.
The Best Bear in All the World is the second authorised sequel to Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) and The House at Pooh Corner (1928), following the publication of Return to the Hundred Acre Wood by David Benedictus in 2009. The new book has the enthusiastic support of the Trustees of Pooh Properties.
The first extract from Brian Sibley’s Winter: in which Penguin arrives in the Forest appears in Sunday Telegraph today, 18 September 2016.
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For more information, please contact Katy MacMillan-Scott or Arthur Dimsdale at Four Colman Getty:
07786567887 (Katy) / 020 3697 4200
Rupert Hill, Trustee, Pooh Properties:
“We are delighted to be celebrating Winnie-the-Pooh’s 90th anniversary this year, as the Queen celebrates hers. The character of Penguin, based on a real toy that Christopher Robin played with in the nursery, is a perfect addition, very much in keeping with the classic books and a fitting homage to A.A. Milne’s deft characterisation. We hope that this new anthology, written and illustrated in the style of A.A. Milne’s original books, will bring great joy to readers old and new.”
Nicole Pearson, Publisher, Children’s Books at Egmont Publishing:
“The humorous stories in Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner have captivated generations of children and adults alike, with their skilful characterisation, exquisite use of language, enchanted forest setting, and E.H. Shepard’s charming illustrations. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with these four talented authors who have shown such great affection for Milne’s work and drawn from their memories of the world he invented in order to create the new stories in The Best Bear in All the World, celebrating 90 years since Winnie-the-Pooh was first published.”
Mark Burgess, illustrator of The Best Bear in All the World:
“It’s always a pleasure to draw Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends. I try to go for the spirit of Shepard’s drawings rather than slavishly copying. I love all the characters but I did especially enjoy drawing Penguin. With a new character I feel I’m not quite so much in Shepard’s shadow. I hope Penguin has some more adventures!”
Sebastian Wormell, Harrods archivist:
“Harrods is famous as the original home of Winnie-the-Pooh, but the Toy Department where Mrs Milne bought the iconic bear hosted a huge array of stuffed animals. In the early years of the 20th century, toy penguins soared in popularity as the exploits of Antarctic explorers such as Shackleton and Scott fascinated the public. We believe that the toy pictured could be ‘Squeak’, which originated in our 1922 catalogue and came from Pip, Squeak and Wilfred, a popular cartoon-strip. It’s exciting to think a new Harrods toy could be joining Winnie-the-Pooh’s gang after all this time.”
Full statement from Brian Sibley:
“Christopher Robin once told Winnie-the-Pooh that he was ‘the Best Bear in All the World’. And so he is! The stories written by Christopher Robin’s father, A. A. Milne, have been loved by readers of all ages for 90 years and Pooh’s exploits with his friends, Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger and the others have been translated into over 50 languages and dialects, including Latin and Esperanto.
There is just one problem – there really aren’t enough Pooh stories! A. A. Milne wrote Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner and two books of verses (in which Christopher Robin and Pooh make occasional appearances) and then stopped.
But now, to mark Pooh’s 90th birthday, Paul Bright, Kate Saunders, Jeanne Willis and I have been invited to tell four new Winnie-the-Pooh stories. The Best Bear in All the World will be published with drawings by Mark Burgess in the style of the original E. H. Shepard illustrations.
For someone who has loved Winnie-the-Pooh & Co from his earliest childhood, the idea of visiting the ‘100 Aker Wood’ in search of a new story was wildly exciting. However, having studied and written about the works of A. A. Milne, it was also daunting.
Milne’s effortless writing, especially in the Pooh books, at first seems highly imitable – until, that is, you attempt the imitation! The stories may be light on plot: small, child-sized incidents involving mishaps and misunderstandings and experiences with that constant feature of country life – the weather.
But what makes the telling of these tales so memorable is their ability to work on two different levels: the child listener to the story always understands what is happening just before Pooh and the others do; while the adult reading to the child engages by recognising that, under their fur and feathers, the characters are just like people we know among our family, friends and colleagues.
In his day, A. A. Milne was a hugely successful playwright and he brings a dramatist’s skills to the dialogue, with character voices that demand to be acted. Then there are his stylistic quirks and tricks: occasional Liberal Use of Capital Letters, witty asides, unexpected interpolations and a highly personal form of versifying.
But, for me, the challenge was more than just attempting to play A. A. Milne in his own literary game; I also wanted to find a way of successfully introducing a brand new character into Pooh’s world, whilst being sympathetic to the tone and style of the original books.
Most people know that the Winnie-the-Pooh was the teddy bear of the real-life Christopher Robin Milne: his parents purchased the bear from Harrods’ toy department as a first birthday present.
A few months later, Eeyore came along as a Christmas present, while Piglet was a gift from someone who would stop and talk with Christopher and his nanny when they were out for walks.
When, in 1925, A. A. Milne bought Cotchford Farm near the Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, Pooh, Piglet and Eeyore were joined by two woodland creatures, Rabbit and Owl, described by Milne as ‘my own unaided work’.
Then came Kanga, Roo and Tigger, further purchases from Harrods chosen not just to please his son, but also to provide fresh inspiration for his stories.
While pondering what other toys Christopher Robin might have owned but which were never written about, I remembered seeing a photograph of father and son playing on the nursery floor with Winne-the-Pooh and – a penguin!
The thought of Pooh encountering a penguin seemed no more outlandish than his meeting a kangaroo and a tiger in a Sussex wood, so I started thinking about what might have happened if, on a rather snowy day, Penguin had found his way to Pooh Corner…”
– Brian Sibley, author of Winter: in which Penguin arrives in the Forest from The Best Bear in All the World
About The Best Bear in All the World
The delightful collection of four seasonal short stories, Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer, follows Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends on a year of adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood as they encounter mythical creatures, mysterious new friends and foes, some new hums and a peculiar type of sauce…
Capturing the timeless appeal of the Hundred Acre Wood and the wonderful characterisation, dialogue and humour A.A. Milne brought to his books, The Best Bear in All the World will remind readers why they loved the original books as well as introducing Winnie-the-Pooh to a new generation of readers.
The Best Bear in All the World is written by Paul Bright, Kate Saunders, Brian Sibley and Jeanne Willis and illustrated by Mark Burgess. The book will be published in hardback by Egmont Publishing on Thursday 6 October 2016, priced £14.99.
Review copies available in October 2016; select images available on request.
About Egmont Publishing
In the UK, Egmont Publishing is the leading specialist children’s publisher for babies to teens, inspiring children to read through more than 25 million award-winning books, magazines, ebooks and apps sold each year. We’re proud to be home to many of the world’s favourite stories and best-loved authors, illustrators and characters such as Michael Morpurgo, Andy Stanton, Enid Blyton, Julia Donaldson, Lemony Snicket, Michael Grant (Gone series and BZRK), Winnie-the-Pooh, Tintin, Mr. Men, Thomas & Friends, Disney Princess, Ben 10, Fireman Sam, Angry Birds, Minecraft and Star Wars.
Egmont Publishing is part of Egmont, a leading Danish media group, with activities in 30 countries and 6,600 employees. Our media world includes Nordisk Film, TV2 in Norway, cinemas, book publishers, educational publishers and PlayStation, as well as a number of partly owned film companies, including Zentropa.
Egmont is a commercial foundation that generates revenue amounting to EUR 1.6 billion. Every year we donate over EUR 10 million to help improve the lives of children and young people.