Friday, November 6, 2009

Excerpt from: "Christopher Robin Leads an Expotition to the North Pole" by A.A. Milne

Christopher Robin was sitting outside his door, putting on his Big Boots. As soon as he saw the Big Boots, Pooh knew that an Adventure was going to happen, and he brushed the honey off his nose with the back of his paw, and spruced himself up as well as he could, so as to look Ready for Anything.

"Good morning, Christopher Robin," he called out.

"Hallo, Pooh Bear. I can't get this boot on."

"That's bad," said Pooh.

"Do you think you could very kindly lean against me, 'cos I keep pulling so hard that I fall over backwards."

Pooh sat down and dug his feet into the ground, and pushed hard against Christopher Robin's back, and Christopher Robin pushed hard against his, and pulled and pulled at his boot until he got it on.

"And that's that," said Pooh. "What do we do next?"

"We are going on an Expedition," said Christopher Robin, as he stood up and brushed himself. "Thank you, Pooh."

"Going on an Expotition?" said Pooh, eagerly. "I don't think I've ever been on one of those. Where are we going on this Expotition?"

"Expedition, silly old bear. It's got an 'x' in it."

"Oh!" said Pooh. "I know." But he didn't really.

"We are going to discover the North Pole."

"Oh!" said Pooh again. "What is the North Pole?" he asked.

"It's just a thing you discover," said Christopher Robin carelessly, not being quite sure himself.

"Oh! I see," said Pooh. "Are bears any good at discovering it?"

"Of course the are. And Rabbit and Kanga and all of you. It's an expedition. That's what an Expedition means. A long line of everybody. You'd better tell the others to get ready, while I see if my gun's all right. And we must bring Provisions."

"Bring what?"

"Things to eat."

"Oh!" said Poof happily. "I thought you said Provisions. I'll go tell them." And he stumped off.

The first person he met was Rabbit.

"Hallo, Rabbit," he said, "is that you?"

"Let's pretend it isn't," said Rabbit, "and see what happens."

"I've got a message for you."

"I'll give it to him."

"We're going on an Expotition with Christopher Robin!"

"What is it when we're on it?"

"A sort of boat, I think," said Pooh.

"Oh! That sort."

"Yes. And we're going to discover a Pole or something. Or was it a mole? Anyhow we're going to discover it."

"We are, are we?"

"Yes. And we're going to bring Po--things to eat with us. In case we want to eat them. Now I'm going down to Piglet's. Tell Kanga, will you?"

1. What does Milne do to steer clear of being gratuitously cute? What grounds his writing in reality, in real human feelings, rather than sappy greeting card emotions?

2. "The first person he met was Rabbit." Comment on this line.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I feel like this has not escaped gratiutous cuteness. I think this person wrote trying to be specific to children while simultaneously forgetting that children are complex and actually very intelligent. The style of writing feels empty to me. As though there is only a simplified storyline and not any attention payed to the word choice and organization itself.

    This piece could serve to be a little bit more complex (while of course remaining for a child audience).

    And keep in mind this is coming from someone who has only ever heard of Pooh, not read or seen any of it.

    The piece has promise, but could use some fattening up. I would tell the author: Make it juicy so that it has something kids can remember/hold onto/use in their lives.

  3. I agree with joseph that the piece is gratuituously cute, however, not necesarily in a bad way. I appreciate the cuteness because of the realism associated with it which keeps the piece human, like how Pooh doesn't undertand the word 'provisions', and how christopher can't get his boot on. These situations are things that people normally encounter as children, which makes the piece great becauce it is relatable.
    -Also I have nothing really to say about #2, i guess i don't really get

  4. This is wonderful. By streamlining the flow of the piece Milne focuses the narrative and adds a certain simplicity to it.

    As to the argument that the writing is not complex enough, there are subtle undertones throughout this excerpt that are more complex than what I feel like some kids would be able to pick up on right away.

    Milne is using language in a toned down, focused way that I think works well.

  5. Gosh, I don't really think it's gratuitously cute. I can imagine us listening to a reading of it at Prairie Lights or something, if it was about people (or perhaps even still stuffed animals). Whimsical is what it is. I agree with the last poster, subtlety is key. The humor isn't given in adorable hijinks, but rather in sly, smiling glances.
    As far as the line about Rabbit goes, I really like that: Rabbit was the first person he met. Not stuffed plaything. It lends a certain seriousness to the story; yes, this is about a child and his toys, but it also functions at a deeper level. My friend recently sent me this quote of A.A. Milne's, from, I believe, Winnie the Pooh: "Never forget me, because if I thought you would, I'd never leave." The thing about Milne is he can say things which might be construed as "cute" because he's saying them in a restrained and fairly serious way. And often his observations of the Hundred Acre Wood speak to us in a deeper place than a conventional sappy kids' story.