To mark ninety years of Winnie-the-Pooh, AA Milne’s famous bear is getting a new friend: Penguin.
A snowy day is said to have brought Penguin to the Hundred Acre Wood, where he’ll line-up alongside Tiger, Piglet and co in ‘Winter’ one of four seasonal stories in brand new sequel The Best Bear in All the World.
The idea for Penguin came thanks to a little-known photograph of Milne’s son Christopher in which he is seen playing with a toy penguin alongside his cherished teddy bear. There is mystery surrounding this nursery toy, which it’s thought may have, like the bear, been a purchase from Harrods by Christopher’s mother, Daphne Milne.
Sibley is delighted, if not a little daunted, to be among four authors bringing to life more stories – and more characters – in and around Pooh Corner.
“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, AA 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! AA 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,” he explains.
“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 EH Shepard illustrations.
“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.”
As for questions about a penguin stumbling into the wood, Sibley says:
“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 book will be published in hardback by Egmont Publishing on Thursday 6 October 2016.