“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like ‘What about lunch?’” ~ A.A. Milne (Winnie-the-Pooh)
Why, hello . . . and brrrrrrrrrr!
Have you been hibernating? Must say your freshly brushed fur looks stunning!
Since we’re feeling quite bearish after our holiday break, today we’re serving up some tea, cookies, and huggable poems to help us get back into the swing of things.
Our friend Pooh is joining us in remembrance of his creator A.A. Milne, born 140 years ago this week.
You probably know the world first “met” Pooh in Milne’s poem, “Teddy Bear” (initially published in Punch Magazine and then republished in his first book of verse, When We Were Very Young (1924)).
Though he wasn’t yet named ‘Winnie-the-Pooh,’ there’s no doubt whom Milne was referring to. Though at first worried about his size, Edward Bear comes to embrace his adiposity after a chance meeting with the King of France, who’s not only stout but handsome!
They stood beneath the window there, The King and Mr. Edward Bear, And, handsome, if a trifle fat, Talked carelessly of this and that . . . A bear, however hard he tries, Grows tubby without exercise. Our Teddy Bear is short and fat, Which is not to be wondered at. But do you think it worries him To know that he is far from slim? No, just the other way about -- He's proud of being short and stout.
After the success of When We Were Very Young, illustrator E.H. Shepard encouraged Milne to write some stories about his son Christopher Robin’s toys. Winnie-the-Pooh, published in 1926, was a critical and commercial success, becoming one of the best loved children’s books of all time.
In 1927, Milne and Shepard followed up with another book of nursery rhymes, Now We Are Six, in which this beloved classic appears:
US TWO by A.A. Milne Wherever I am, there's always Pooh, There's always Pooh and Me. Whatever I do, he wants to do, "Where are you going today?" says Pooh: "Well, that's very odd 'cos I was too. Let's go together," says Pooh, says he. "Let's go together," says Pooh. "What's twice eleven?" I said to Pooh. ("Twice what?" said Pooh to Me.) "I think it ought to be twenty-two." "Just what I think myself," said Pooh. "It wasn't an easy sum to do, But that's what it is," said Pooh, said he. "That's what it is," said Pooh. "Let's look for dragons," I said to Pooh. "Yes, let's," said Pooh to Me. We crossed the river and found a few- "Yes, those are dragons all right," said Pooh. "As soon as I saw their beaks I knew. That's what they are," said Pooh, said he. "That's what they are," said Pooh. "Let's frighten the dragons," I said to Pooh. "That's right," said Pooh to Me. "I'm not afraid," I said to Pooh, And I held his paw and I shouted "Shoo! Silly old dragons!"- and off they flew. "I wasn't afraid," said Pooh, said he, "I'm never afraid with you." So wherever I am, there's always Pooh, There's always Pooh and Me. "What would I do?" I said to Pooh, "If it wasn't for you," and Pooh said: "True, It isn't much fun for One, but Two, Can stick together, says Pooh, says he. "That's how it is," says Pooh. ~ from Now We Are Six (E. P. Dutton, 1927)
Oddly enough, I didn’t have a teddy bear when I was little. I had lots of dolls, but no bears. I used to joke with my mom: “see what happens when you deprive children of teddies – they grow up to collect hundreds of them just to make up for it!”
I received my first teddy bear as a Christmas gift from my brother when I was in high school. It was a straw-stuffed Pooh Bear from Sears. I took Pooh with me when I moved into my college dorm, and years later, after having lived in London while teaching, my dad shipped Pooh to me when we moved to Virginia.
Today, my well loved Pooh is holding up quite well for somebear over 50 years old. Though he takes fewer “expotitions” these days, he’s always up for a little smackerel of something. 🙂
To me, “Us Two” answers the question, “why bears?” When it comes to toys, teddies are the most egalitarian. Dolls carry the stigma of being too girly; the same goes for boys and trucks.
Bears are non judgmental and do not discriminate; they’re simply for everyone regardless of age or gender. Though Pooh is a bear of “very little brain,” he pulls his weight with his loyalty and big heart. Bears are companion, comfort, and the world’s best listeners (just don’t get into a staring contest with one).
This may be why so many adults still have their childhood teddy bears, why some policemen carry bears in their car trunks in case they encounter a traumatized child, why bears are often gifted to residents of nursing homes, why boxes of bears are shipped to child refugees. Far from lazing about feasting on “hunny” all day, bears work hard to earn their keep.
With a poem like, “Us Two,” Milne tapped into the power of the imagination, the singular attachment children have with their toys, and the human longing for an always together friendship.
☕️A Little Smackerel of Something🍪
What Mr Cornelius and the Alphabet Soup kitchen helpers like best about Pooh is (of course) his love of food — anywhere, any place, any time. And it’s not just about filling his tummy; Pooh also appreciates the more subtle emotional highs of eating.
‘Well,’ said Pooh, ‘what I like best,’ and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Hunny was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.
We experienced this very thing just before biting into a warm Chocolate Crisp cookie. 🙂
Mr Cornelius found the recipe in Winnie-the-Pooh’s Cookie Book. It called for almost two whole cups of unsweetened cocoa, and when we mixed it into the batter it made a fragrant chocolate cloud that coated everything on the countertop. 🙂
These cookies are easy to make, but a little advance planning is necessary since you need to chill the dough for at least two hours (overnight is probably best). Must say the dough smelled really good when I was slicing it into 1/4″ pieces before baking.
These babies are oh-so-chocolaty and rum tum tiddley pom delish!
Perfect for whenever you’re feeling rumbly in your tummy, be sure to pack some for your next ‘expotition’ in the Hundred Acre Wood.
- 1-1/2 cups softened butter (3 sticks)
- 2-1/4 cups sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2-1/2 cups flour
- 1-3/4 cups sifted cocoa
- 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Beat butter and sugar together until fluffy.
- Add eggs and vanilla extract, and mix well.
- In another bowl, sift flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt together.
- Add to butter mixture, mixing until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.
- Divide dough in half, roll into logs, wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.
- Cut logs into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Bake on ungreased cookie sheets for 12 to 14 minutes.
One more poem while you’re enjoying your cookies and tea:
FURRY BEAR by A.A. Milne If I were a bear, And a big bear too, I shouldn't much care If it froze or snew; I shouldn't much mind If it snowed or friz-- I'd be all fur-lined With a coat like his! For I'd have fur boots and a brown fur wrap, And brown fur knickers and a big fur cap. I'd have a fur muffle-ruff to cover my jaws. And brown fur mittens on my big brown paws. With a big brown furry-down up to my head, I'd sleep all the winter in a big fur bed. ~ from Now We Are Six (E.P. Dutton, 1927)
Any fun Pooh stories to share? Did you have a teddy bear when you were little?
The lovely and talented Tabatha Yeatts is hosting the Roundup at The Opposite of Indifference. Be sure to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared around the blogosphere this week. Have a nice weekend, and don’t forget the ALA Youth Media Awards on Monday, January 24, starting at 9 a.m. EST. Live Webcast link is here.
* Copyright © 2022 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.