When We Were Very Young by A. A. Milne

While we are here celebrating the 90th year of Winnie the Pooh, it has to be said that it wasn’t Milne’s first book for children. Two years prior he published a book of poems titled, When We Were Very Young. This is the book where an unnamed Pooh Bear appears and features Christopher Robin when he was a small child.

Published by E. P. Dutton the book of poems is as beloved today as it was then. While it is not as popular as Milne’s stories, the poems are still a delightful read filled with innocence and whimsy.

The little book contains 44 poems, written by Milne, and illustrated by E. H. Shepard. Milne asks the reader to imagine who the narrator is and to wonder if perhaps it is Christopher Robin.

Harold Fraser-Simson, the English composer, set a few of Milne’s poems to music. Fraser-Simson set numerous children’s poems to music but is best known for his WWl hit, The Maid of the Mountain.

Below is a complete list of the poems in the book, the most famous being Teddy Bear and Vespers. You can read them all here.

Corner of the Street
Buckingham Palace
The Christening
Puppy and I
Twinkle Toes
The Four Friends
Lines and Squares
Nursery Chairs
Market Square
Water Lilies
Spring Morning
The Island
The Three Foxes
Jonathan Jo
At the Zoo
Rice Pudding
The Wrong House
The King’s Breakfast
At Home
Summer Afternoon
The Dormouse and the Doctor
Shoes and Stockings
Sand Between the Toes
Knights and Ladies
Little Bo Peep and Little Boy Blue
The Mirror
Halfway Down
The Invaders
Before Tea
Teddy Bear
Bad Sir Brian Botany
In the Fashion
The Alchemist
Growing Up
If I Were King

Image result for when we were very young

Fun Facts About Winnie the Pooh

There are many fun facts I could share but since I have already mentioned some of them in my previous posts I will leave them out to avoid too many cross overs. These can be some lesser known facts about Pooh.

I’ve included a few links below that have the more fun facts about Pooh Bear and his little empire and legacy.

Fun Fact #1
In the original Milne books, Winnie the Pooh was written as Winnie-the-Pooh. When Disney acquired the rights to animate the character they dropped the hyphens and it soon became the more popular expression.

Fun Fact #2
It was after Milne’s death that his wife Daphe sold the rights to Disney. Walt’s own daughters were said to be fans of the Milne stories which led Disney to want to share the stories. Daphne then destroyed all of Milne’s papers to preserve family privacy.

Fun Fact #3
Real Life magazine reported that two hundred hundred Disney artists used 1.2 million pencils to sketch the 1968 animated movie Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day. This short film went on to win an Academy Award in 1969.

Fun Fact #4
Pooh was the first fictional character to have licensing rights sold overseas. Stephen Slesinger purchased the U.S and Canadian rights to the character in January 1930. Milne was paid the generous sum of $1,000 in advance, and the promise of 66% of any income Slesinger made. 18 months later, Winnie the Pooh had become a $50 million-a-year business (around $720 million today).

Image result for slesinger winnie the poohFun Facts #4.1
Slesinger created the first Pooh doll, record, board game, puzzle, radio broadcast, animation, and film. After his death in the 1950s, Slesinger’s widow Shirley took over the business and launched her own licensing campaigns. In 1961 and 1983, Stephen Slesinger, Inc. licensed certain Pooh rights to the Walt Disney Company.

Fun Fact #5
The fictional Poohsticks played in the book is now a real sport played worldwide with its own world championships.

Fun Fact #6
The skull of the real bear Winnie was displayed at the Being Human Festival in London for the first time in 2015.

Fun Fact #7
Most of the locations in the stories are based on real places you can visit in Ashdown Forest: the Hundred Acre Wood is the Five Hundred Acre Wood and Galleon’s Leap is Gill’s Lap. Roo’s sandpit
and Poohsticks Bridge are also real places to visit.

Fun Fact #8
Image result for pooh star hollywoodWinnie the Pooh has his own star on the Hollywood walk of fame, being one of only fifteen fictional characters to do so.

Fun Fact #9
The most successful translation of the books remains the Latin one from 1958. Upon release the book became a huge hit, with one critic describing it as “the greatest book a dead language has ever known”, and Time Magazine calling it “a Latinist’s delight, the very book that dozens of Americans, possibly even 50, have been waiting for.”

Image result for winnie the pooh original shepardFun Fact #10
E. H. Shepard’s original drawings are worth an incredible amount at auction. The highest price was paid in 2014 when $292 727 was paid for the image entitled “For a long time they looked at the river beneath them…” depicting Pooh, Christopher Robin, and Piglet playing Poohsticks.


More Fun Fact Fun

10 Fun Facts About Winnie the Pooh

5 Fun Facts About Winnie the Pooh

Fun Facts About Winnie the Pooh

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Winnie the Pooh

11 Things You May Not Know About Winnie the Pooh

Winnie the Pooh Fact Sheet

50 Facts about Winnie the Pooh

Who Was E. H. Shepard?

Image resultErnest Howard Shepard is as connected to the tales of Winnie the Pooh is as A. A. Milne or Christopher Robin is. The illustrator was the first to bring Pooh to life in Milne’s poems and stayed with the bear through all his publications.

Born 10 December 1879, drawing was always a passion of Shepard’s. As a child he attended St Paul’s School, but after showing artistic promise and a love for drawing he enrolled in Heatherley’s School of Fine Arts. From here he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy Schools which was where he met Florence Eleanor Chaplin, the woman who would become his first wife.

He enlisted in World War I and sent jokes back from the battle to Punch magazine. Upon his return he was offered a position on staff which is where he was introduced to Milne. Shepard contributed to Punch for more than 50 years with 33 of them as staff. Shepard continued working into his 90s even after he left Punch. He worked on the Pooh books, and in other places as an illustrator, but he also produced two books himself in his 80s titled, Ben and Brook and Betsy and Joe.

Shepard was not only the one who brought Milne’s characters to life; he also illustrated Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows and other Grahame books. I remember discovering that when I studied Wind in the Willows at uni and I was surprised I’d never notice before. It’s hard to imagine these books with any other style. Milne originally didn’t think Shepard’s drawing style was any good, describing him as “perfectly hopeless” as an artist. But eventually Milne saw the magic in the drawings, so much so he even added a special verse to Shepard’s own copy of Winnie the Pooh. The verse read:

“When I am gone
Let Shepard decorate my tomb
and put (if there is room)
Two pictures on the stone:
Piglet from page a hundred and eleven,
And Pooh and Piglet walking (157) . . .
And Peter, thinking they  are my own,
Will welcome me to heaven.”

Which in itself makes me teary because I love these characters so much they are so sweet and adorable and I am so glad Milne loved him as an illustrator. This wish didn’t end up happening because Milne was cremated and I don’t think anyone knows where his ashes are, but the sentiment remains. (I tried very hard to find exactly which images these were but only found some that are most likely.) Grahame also adored him, having gone through three other artists before finding Shepard. He said Shepard didn’t make his characters look like puppets, he made them real.

Possible pg. 111 image. My edition of course doesn’t match up.

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Possible pg. 157 image. It’s the final one of the book.

When he was 90, Shepard donated 300 of his preliminary sketches for the Pooh drawings to the Victoria and Albert Museum where they went on display in 1969. After being exhibited around the world these sketches are now published as The Pooh Sketch Book which is edited by Brian Selby, one of the authors of the new Pooh stories.

While the original drawings of Pooh were line drawings, Shepard also made new coloured versions for the 1973 editions of Winnie the Pooh and the 1974 House at Pooh Corner. These editions also contained brand new line and colour drawings by Shepard.

Shepard died in the 50th year anniversary of Winnie the Pooh in 1976 which is a little sad. So this also makes it the 40th anniversary since Shepard’s death. Like Milne, Shepard will live on through his famous work with Pooh as well as with Grahame’s books, and as we’ve seen with new Pooh stories, artists continue to try and capture the magic of those original illustrations.

Who Was A. A. Milne?

Image result for a. a. milneA. A. Milne is a name synonymous with Winnie the Pooh, it’s my first thought when I hear his name certainly. But Milne was much more than just the author of children stories.

Alan Alexander Milne was born 18 January 1882 to parents John Vine Milne and Sarah Marie Heginbotham. He grew up at Henley House School, a school which his father ran, and interestingly was taught by H. G. Wells who was a teacher there for a short time.

After finishing school and university, Milne wrote and contributed for numerous magazines, gaining the attention of the humour magazine Punch where he submitted poems and stories before joining the staff as assistant editor a few years later.

Milne married Dorothy “Daphne” de Sélincourt in 1913 and his son, Christopher Robin, was born in 1920 and Milne started writing poems and stories about him and his toys when he was around 4 years old.

The success of Winnie the Pooh has overshadowed much of Milne’s life, not only his service in both World Wars, but also the fact that he was an established author before and after Winnie the Pooh. Milne wrote novels and non-fiction as well as poems, plays and screenplays and other short story collections. He was an early screenwriter for the emerging British film industry and when he wasn’t writing, even played for the amateur English cricket team the Allahakberries alongside authors J. M. Barrie and Arthur Conan Doyle and a host of other famous figures. A full list of his published works can be found here.

Sadly, the wonderful and successful life of Milne is dampened by the fact a stroke and brain surgery in 1952 left him an invalid. Milne died a few years later in 1956 when he was 74 years old. Of course his name and his creations in Pooh Bear will live on forever, and even though he was not that impressed by being only really known for his children’s stories, I like to think he was glad in a way to have made such an impact when he said “I suppose that every one of us hopes secretly for immortality; to leave, I mean, a name behind him which will live forever in this world, whatever he may be doing, himself, in the next.” Looking at the everlasting success of Winnie the Pooh I think Milne’s immortality is set in stone.

Christopher Robin’s Toys


It is well known that Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories were inspired by his son’s stuffed toys. The small collection were played with by Christopher Robin who used to make up stories and voices for each of them, giving his father the idea to create stories from them.

An interesting fun fact is that when Shepard first illustrated Milne’s poems, he hadn’t seen the bear in which the poems were based on, so he instead based his design on his own son’s bear, Growler. This remained through all the stories, even after Shephard had seen the original toys.

Another fun fact I read was that Eeyore was made gloomy in the stories because of how the toy looked. The stuffing and support around the neck was failing and it made his head droopy. This led to Milne making Eeyore gloomy with his head hanging low. If his head was raised more we may have had an entirely different Eeyore!

The toys have become almost as famous as the stories, with the original Harrods purchases being as loved today as they were back when the books were published. The toys have had a fascinating life. After being used for inspiration in Milne’s stories they travelled to America in the 1940s at the request of the publisher who published the American edition back in 1926. Milne sent the toys over and even sent along Winnie the Pooh’s official birth certificate to authenticate him. Pooh was often treated as a VIB (Very Important Bear) when he travelled and he received a lot of attention. The toys were insured for $50 000 USD (over $1M AUD today) and they travelled around the country for an extended period of time.

The collection stayed permanently in the States in 1956, housed in the lobby of the publishers. A few trips were made back to England, once for an exhibition honouring E. H. Shephard’s 90th birthday, and once to participate in Methuen’s (the UK publisher) 50th birthday activities.

In 1987 the toys were presented to the New York Public Library. The five toys: Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga and Tigger (Roo was lost long ago), were placed on permanent display, attracting over 750 000 people per year. Interestingly, in 1998 a British MP named Gwenyth Dunwody raised the issue to have the toys returned to Britain, but after a few days of hype and drama the topic vanished and no changes were made. It’d be interesting to learn if there was a reason the toys weren’t returned, or at least borrowed for a period of time.

 The toys are still in New York on display. They were recently restored back to near original condition; holes were sewn and patches placed over worn bits. It must have been a very stressful task, I can only imagine if something went wrong the trouble you would be in. The repairs took more than a year and were done by a textile conservator. It’s rather incredible that the toys have lasted so long, though with the early and impressive fame of Pooh and the rest the toys have been cared for from the very early days.

You can see in some of the pictures from the New York Public Library the condition the toys were in before being repaired. They look almost brand new again and ready to last another 95 years. The repairs included neck alignment, clavicle repair, snout adjustments, protective mesh, and something delightful called butt steaming and fluffing which I love, all of which helped restore the dolls to their original selves. Eeyore was the hardest, he had the most work and he was the oldest, but even he looks as good as new after nearly every patch on him removed, cleaned and resewn on again.

I love seeing pictures of the original toys. One day I may be lucky enough to go to the New York library and see them for myself, but until then I’ll have to be satisfied with pictures. Below I’ve added the pictures of what the toys looked like before and after. Some definite improvements I say! You can read more about the restoration here and here.

Before and after pictures of the restoration process

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