There are a lot of “challenges” happening in the social media sphere these days — books, ice buckets, kindness, gratitude, etc. All great things — perhaps one of the better uses for social media even, though it doesn’t quite beat out birthday greetings and first-day-of-school pictures, in my book.
Last week, a good friend and fellow reader “challenged” me to list ten of the books that have shaped or stayed with me in some way. ‘Twasn’t much of a challenge; in fact, ten seemed like a preposterous limit. But I gamely listed ten off the top ‘o my head. Most were children’s books, but not all. The first — possibly the most influential (besides Anne of Green Gables)—was Winnie-the-Pooh.
The House at Pooh Corner is the first book I remember having read to me. I’m sure my parents read picture books to me/us first — they still have all the little Golden Books from my childhood on a shelf for the grandkids. But the experience of reading I have fully and absolutely associated with Pooh and friends. A chapter story each day after lunch and before nap — a slightly sleepy romp in the Hundred Acre Woods — is one of my coziest childhood memories. I was tired from the morning’s activities, warm and comfy next to my mother, and with such good friends — Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Rabbit and Tigger, Kanga and Roo and Owl…. Their gentle antics and adventures remain among my favorite in all of children’s literature.
In a brilliant marketing move, Disney re-released a lot of Pooh paraphernalia about the time my husband and I (and many children of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s) had our first baby. Needless to say, our baby boy had Pooh wallpaper, a darling Pooh and Piglet nightlight, gorgeous Pooh bookends, and a beautiful hand-hooked Pooh rug, sheets, towels, etc. These are all in my office now — well, not the wallpaper and sheets and towels, but most definitely the nightlight, bookends, and rug!
Somehow — as the eldest child, I guess — I am in possession of the paperback books my mother read from. They’re so tattered and well-loved I’m afraid to take a picture of them lest they fall apart from the flash. A couple of birthdays ago my mother gave me leather-bound, gilded-paged versions of all the Winnie-the-Pooh books. The two sets of differently beautiful books have a place of honor on my shelves.
When my Gran gave me money for my first baby’s first birthday present, I used some of it to purchase The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh in spiffy hardback for my little boy. Around the same time we came across audiotapes of the BBC’s production of the Pooh books. For years our boy went to sleep listening to Pooh — he wore the tapes out. Wonderful Pooh phrases seeped into his speech — he had a smackerel instead of a snack, visited friends and relations, asked for sustaining books during trying times, hummed small hums, worried about Hostile Animals, and did stoutness exercises on occasion.
I cannot think of better books to accompany a child through the early years. Pooh stories are stories about friendship and loyalty, love and grace, curiosity and silliness, quiet adventures out and about, and the comforts of home. These books embody most everything we would wish for all the world’s children. I feel privileged to have grownup with the silly old bear…and to have raised my own children by him, too.