Pooh in Paperback
Winnie-the-Pooh. The House at Pooh Corner. When We Were Very Young. Now We Are Six. By A. A. Milne. With decorations by E. H. Shepard. (Methuen Paperbacks, 2s. 6d. each.) The Sam Pig Story , Book. By Alison Uttley. Illustrated by Cecil Leslie. (Faber, 25s.) Damian and the Dragon. By Ruth Manning- Sanders. Illustrated by William Papas. (O.U.P., 21s.) Chou San and the Very Wise Hermit. By Doris Norman. Illustrated by Daphne Ryan. (Angus and Robertson, 12s. 6d.) Little-O. By Edith Unnerstad. Translated by Lilian Seaton. Illustrated by Ilon Wikland. (Michael Joseph, 18s.) Chrishnas Stories Round the World. Edited by Lois S. Johnson. Illustrated by Beth Krush. (Warne, 12s. 6d.) INCL' the 'twenties, the quirks of fashion (which have, incidentally, brought Christopher Robin's hair and gaiters back in) have never diminished the popularity with the under-sevens of the Pooh stories, and even of A. A. Milne's often gibed at but amazingly catchy poems, which are, in fact, less arch and sentimental than some space- age work. Not all children's classics have this instant appeal to children themselves, or such a subjective sense of those vagrant childhood moods of idleness, defiance, loneliness and in- consequence. Though hard covers and better paper are more durable for such favourites, these four paperbacks, still with E. H. Shepard's original inspired drawings, do combine to make a gift of excellent value for any still too young yet to have met Pooh, Piglet and company, or to know about the lines and squares.
Was it reading these that made some newer animal fantasies seem a shade deficient in magic and derivative, even if not of 'Pooh? The Land of Forgotten Beasts, about a boy scientist beguiled into the dream world of unicorns and cockatrices, has haunting pictures, some beauty, but also obstinate overtones of Alice, while The Cat's Tale, also well illustrated and with an air of originality, is a not quite inspired piece of allegorical nonsense, miles short of Lear.
Admittedly, there is a Kenneth Grahame-ish Badger in The Sam Pig Story Book and Sam has a Pooh-like innocence, but Miss Uttley's own sense of poetry makes these stories a fairly original and charming blend of animal fable, fairy story and family tale. The Cathedral Cat, only slightly tinged with fantasy, is more original still and owes much to the author's witty obser- vation of real cats. Canto, the verger's cat, falls out of favour, heroically and entertainingly re- instating himself.
Fairy tales proper come in a separate category and suit most ages, especially when impeccably told by Ruth Manning-Sanders, as in the next two, which are delightful gift books. Damian and the Dragon is a splendid collection of folk tales from modern Greece, interestingly un- familiar, but rooted in the old traditions. The illustrations are full of character, and this applies also to A Book of Witches, containing some favourites, like `Rapunzer and 'Hansel and Gretel,' alongside such remoter tales as 'The Donkey Lettuce' and Trunella; featuring witches' sons and daughters. For younger children, Chou San and the Very Wise Hermit is a charming collection of little-known Chinese fairy tales. and Ionothon and Large, an original tale of a small West Indian boy's friendship with an affable sea- serpent.
Little-0 is a real-life tale in the popular Swedish sequence about the Pip-Larsen family, and a far cry from either fairy tales or Chris- topher Robin, who was essentially an only child. But 'Little-O,' a robust five-year-old, does share some of the latter's childish inconsequence, as she tangles hilariously with the grown-up world. This is expensive at eighteen shillings, but very entertaining. Four and Twenty Blackbirds, first published in 1915, contains beautifully written short tales woven round familiar proverbs, but unrelated to the real origins, and is an oddity which is really more a collector's piece for adults. Christmas Stories Round the World, for any age, is concerned with foreign Christmas customs. The stories, by different hands, are uneven, but some, such as the Polish `Bellringers of Pinsk,' are very moving.
S FELLA RODWAY