Wednesday 21 March 2018

New friend for Winnie-the-Pooh as Penguin joins the cast

AA Milne and Christopher Robin Milne playing with a toy teddy bear as a new Winnie-the-Pooh character, inspired by the photograph, has been unveiled (Culture Club/Egmont Publishing/PA)
AA Milne and Christopher Robin Milne playing with a toy teddy bear as a new Winnie-the-Pooh character, inspired by the photograph, has been unveiled (Culture Club/Egmont Publishing/PA)

A new Winnie-the-Pooh character has been unveiled - inspired by a photograph of AA Milne and his son with a toy penguin.

A new adventure, The Best Bear In All The World, is being published in October to mark the 90th anniversary of the publication of Winnie-the-Pooh.

Penguin will feature in the authorised Winnie-the-Pooh sequel, alongside the bear "of very little brain", Christopher Robin and friends, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo and Tigger.

Author Brian Sibley penned Winter: In Which Penguin Arrives In The Forest, one of four seasonal stories to be featured in the yet-to-be published book.

He came up with the idea for Penguin from a photograph of Milne and his son Christopher (Robin) Milne playing on the nursery floor with the teddy bear which inspired the Winnie-the-Pooh character and a penguin toy.

"For someone who has loved Winnie-the-Pooh and co from his earliest childhood, the idea of visiting Hundred Acre Wood in search of a new story was wildly exciting," he said.

"However, having studied and written about the works of AA Milne, it was also daunting. But, for me, the challenge was more than just attempting to play AA 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."

Sibley added: "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."

The bear which inspired Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh, as well as characters Eeyore, Kanga, Roo and Tigger, were all based on toys which Mrs Milne bought from Harrods.

The department store's archivist Sebastian Wormell said that the penguin featured in the photograph was also likely to be from Harrods, and called Squeak.

"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," he said.

"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."

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.

Winnie-the-Pooh was an immediate success when it was first published in 1926 but the fictional bear first appeared as Christopher Robin's Teddy Bear in a 1923 poem in Punch.

It was recently named the UK's favourite children's book character and favourite children's book of the past 150 years.

Rupert Hill, trustee at Pooh Properties, said: "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 AA Milne's deft characterisation.

"We hope that this new anthology, written and illustrated in the style of AA Milne's original books, will bring great joy to readers old and new."

Press Association

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