“The Best Bear in All the World” (2016)

When Return to the Hundred Acre Wood was released in 2009, the Winnie-the-Pooh book series had its first official sequel in eighty-one years. Sure, there had been Disney films and plenty of books, but not since A. A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner had there been an official continuation of the book series. That book featured a slightly older Christopher Robin coming back to the Wood and playing older-kid games with his toys such as building a pretend school, a spelling bee, and even playing cricket. I have no idea whether it was a success or not, but it was perhaps inevitable that the Trustees of the Pooh stories would go back to the well one more time. In 2016, they published the second “official” sequel to the Pooh stories, The Best Bear in All the World. For fans of the series and its characters, we have four more short stories featuring Christopher Robin  and his friends. 

While the previous book has been a solo effort, a collection of short stories by David Benedictus, the Trustees of the Pooh Properties (as they are officially known) went a different route. The new book would be a collection of four stories, one for each of the seasons and each written by a different author. This made the new book significantly shorter than the previous ones both in the number of distinct stories as well as the total page count. This new series thankfully does away with the desire to tell a “sequel” story and there is no widespread attempt to age-up Christopher Robin, however like the previous collection it also takes pains to ensure the original time is left intact. There are no cell phones (or even televisions!) in the Wood. Instead, this new book is presented as just four previously untold stories. This means that none of the characters introduced in Benedictus’s previous book make an appearance, but overall that isn’t too much of a detriment except for small children that might wonder where Lottie went. Each of the authors selected for the collection have a pedigree in UK children’s literature, although neither I nor indirectly my son are familiar with any of them. I expect this has more to do with our position on the wrong side of the Atlantic than any condemnation of the authors themselves.

The four stories are pretty cute. The first, set in the autumn and written by Paul Bright, features Christopher Robin preparing to be in a St. George’s play. Naturally, he leaves his helmet in the Wood which causes no end of concern, not to mention all of the forest friends being quite afraid that a dragon was coming to the Hundred Acre Wood. This one, like the Benedictus stories, almost paints Christopher Robin as too old, but manages to more than offset that by some great character moments and a little victory by Eeyore. Who doesn’t want to see the old gray donkey be the hero now and then? The second story is almost favorite in part because of the research that Brian Sibley did for it, especially basing it in part on a picture of Christopher Robin as a child with a toy that never made it into the stories: a Penguin. Naturally, the Penguin arrives after a winter snowstorm and the group has fun helping to build his self-confidence (and sledding). Owl regretfully seems a bit… specist? In the story as he professes that he does not like birds that cannot fly, but that is the only profoundly negative reaction I had in this collection and the only reason why I don’t love this story without reservation. Jeannie Willis’s spring segment features Eeyore once again the hero of the story, although this time it’s a mystery of his own devising as he is unable to recognize his own happy reflection in the pond. So concerned by this smiling face, he becomes convinced that another donkey is on his way to eat his prized thistles. The final story by Kate Saunders features a summer tea party as Pooh searches for the “Sauce of the Nile”, a nice callback to the exploration story where they found the North Pole in both tone and misunderstood execution. It was a nice adventure yarn to close out the collection with no need for another coda featuring Christopher Robin’s departure. The book overall is well done and somewhat better than the previous volume, but my son did find the stories quite as engaging as the original and we haven’t finished them yet. This may be due to their length or some other unidentified quality that set the originals apart.

As of this writing, this is not the latest official Pooh sequel. About a month after this collection was released, a separate short story entitled “Winnie-the-Pooh Meets the Queen” was launched both in print and audiobook formats. This final story was written as part of Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday celebration and features Winnie-the-Pooh and Christopher Robin making an uncharacteristic visit to London. I’m not sure how or if to approach that book as an official sequel given that it is a singly-published short story and that it quite clearly moves the characters into the present day. I suppose I will have to pick up a copy and find out.

Previous posts in this series:

  1. “Captain  Vorpatril’s Alliance” by Lois Bujold (2012)
  2. “The Storm Before the Storm” by Mike Duncan (2017)
  3. “The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck” by Don Rosa (1994)
  4. “Crystal Phoenix” by Michael Berlyn (1980)
  5. “The Original Hitchhiker’s Guide Radio Scripts” by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd (1978, 1980)
  6. “Rose” novelization by Russell T. Davies (2018) & “The Day of the Doctor” novelization by Steven Moffat (2018)
  7. “Shada” by Douglas Adams and Gareth Roberts (2012)
  8. “Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen” by Douglas Adams and James Goss (2018)
  9. “Return to the Hundred Acre Wood” by David Benedictus (2009)

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