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Winnie the Pooh: Everyone's Favorite Bear

by Miriam Downey 23. January 2014 07:18

Now We Are Six

When I was one I had just begun

When I was two I was nearly new

When I was three I was hardly me

When i was four I was not much more

When I was five I was just alive

But now I am six, I'm as clever as clever;

So I think I'll be six forever and ever.

A.A. Milne

Recently, I began thinking about Winnie the Pooh and how powerful the image and the words of that little teddy bear are in American life. My thoughts  may have been caused by a reminder of the birthday of the first Winnie the Pooh book, published in 1926 by A. A. Milne. Was there ever a more positive friend than Winnie the Pooh? Was there ever a book more comforting than Winnie the Pooh?

Winnie the Pooh was the creation of a British humorist A. A. Milne. He wrote the stories for his son Christopher Robin about Christopher's stuffed bear Winnie the Pooh or as Christopher called him, Edward Bear. The stories are set in the woodlands of Sussex, England. The first book was published in 1926 and was followed by three others. All were illustrated by a British illustrator named E.H. Shepard. The charming characters include Winnie, Eeyore the donkey, Tigger, Piglet, Owl, Rabbit, and of course, Christopher Robin.

What has made these stories so appealing and comforting to children for more than 85 years? For one thing, the characters are dependable. For example, every day when Pooh wakes up, he says, "What's for breakfast?" He particularly likes to look for "hunny to fill the rumblee in his tumblee." Piglet's first words in the morning are "I wonder what's going to happen exciting today." Pooh says, "Oh bother!" regularly. These are characters that children can relate to. Besides the simple, delightful stories, the books are filled with comforting thoughts.

So, after I started looking for information about Winnie the Pooh, I found a delightful website that is full of Winnie the Pooh history, pictures to color, games to play, and the entire text of three of the stories. You can find the website here.

Walt Disney's daughter loved the Pooh books, so Disney made the first Winnie the Pooh movie and created several generations of children who know the stories because of the movie. Lots of Pooh stories can be found on YouTube. The official Disney Winnie the Pooh website has lots of games and stories, which you can find here. (Remember this is a commercial site.)

Here are online copies of the original books. They will also be easy to find at the library or bookstore. If you want the true Winnie the Pooh experience, find the A. A. Milne stories and not the Disney versions of the stories.

When We Were Very Young

Winnie the Pooh

Now We are Six

The House at Pooh Corner

Have fun! Remember that Winnie the Pooh, Christopher Robin, and their friends cherished the important things in life and appreciated the small things. They had lots of wisdom. Share that wisdom with your children.

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Why Read Shakespeare?

by Miriam Downey 10. January 2014 08:36

It is pretty hard to escape knowing about William Shakespeare in western culture. His works are everywhere; from Shakespeare festivals, to movie adaptations of his plays, to community theater, to required reading for coursework. Why do we read Shakespeare?

First, Shakespeare's characters have a universality to them that transcend the language. When we see one of Shakespeare's characters, we recognize them despite the costume they may be wearing. We know about conniving businessmen, star-crossed lovers, people pretending to be something they are not, soldiers, politicians, and on and on and on. The plays of Shakespeare point out human characteristics that we understand.

Then, we hear phrases from Shakespeare as part of our common English language. Here are some phrases that we hear frequently that we may not know come from Shakespeare's plays.

  • vanished into thin air
  • refused to budge an inch
  • green-eyed jealousy
  • played fast and loose
  • tongue-tied
  • a tower of strength
  •  in a pickle
  • knitted your brow
  • fair play
  • slept not one wink
  • too much of a good thing

Finally, there are illusions to Shakespeare's plays over and over in the movies that we watch. I remember how thrilled I was when I first saw the musical West Side Story and  realized that it was the story of Romeo and Juliet. Did you realize that The Lion King is based on the play Hamlet? Forbidden Planet from 1956 is a science fiction retelling of The Tempest. 10 Things I Hate About You is based on The Taming of the Shrew. Watching any of these movies would be a great follow-up to reading the plays. Of course, there are movie versions of the original plays as well. When I checked YouTube, I realized that full length Shakespeare plays can be found there. Sometimes watching the movie after reading the play helps to understand the play better.

One final note, reading Shakespeare's plays is often a bit difficult for most students when they are first exposed to them. It helps to read the play out loud, especially if you have a couple of people to take the different parts. However, the very best way to understand Shakespeare is to go and see a live production. Many colleges and universities stage Shakespeare plays on a yearly basis as do community theaters. It also helps to read a synopsis of the play before you begin. A great source of the stories is Charles and Mary Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare. Although written for children, the stories are great for any age.

All the plays of Shakespeare can be found online at the website The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Here's a plan: read a synopsis of the story in Tales from Shakespeare, then read the play and follow it up with a movie version on YouTube. Look for phrases you recognize and find characters that you can identify with. The experience of reading Shakespeare will be better if you do it with purpose.

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