The World of Pooh: The Complete Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne, illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard
There’s no denying that Pooh is a very famous bear. For years he’s been winning people over with his plump belly and honey slurping ways. But these days it seems that he’s better known for his appearances on Disney-licensed merchandise rather than his adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood. It’s too bad really, because Winnie-the-Pooh is utterly charming and when I used to read it aloud to first graders, they loved it completely. And because it is nearly impossible to escape knowing Pooh, even adults who’ve never picked up the books themselves will find the books familiar and nostalgic.
So why is it that our beloved friend is so well known, and so little read? There is a bit of a problem. You see, Winnie-The-Pooh is written on a fourth grade (or higher) level, with difficult vocabulary words like herbaceous, deception, hostile and spinney, as well as some complicated phrasing. However, the stories are made for children who are much younger. This division between the reading level and the interest level is what keeps these classics on the shelf rather than in kids’ hands, which is really too bad. The stories are cute and children especially enjoy moments when they find they are more clever than poor Pooh.
Age Recommendation: This is a bit tricky. The reading level is probably appropriate for an advanced third grader, but the content and interest level skew a bit younger than that. Which mean, this book is also a great choice if your little reader is very advanced. It’s rare that a first or second grader would be able to read and understand this independently, but I know it does happen. If you have a super reader on your hands, this is a great way to provide a challenge without having to worry about the content.
Great For: Reading aloud. If you have a soft spot for Pooh, skip the babyfied Disney versions and go for the real deal. Ernest Shepard’s original illustrations are charming, and frequent enough that you may be able to read with your little listeners tucked up next you. You will be able to explain confusing words and sections as you go, and ask your children questions to see if they can outsmart Pooh. Just make sure to get your best character voices ready, and don’t be afraid to sing the songs Pooh creates – kids love it!
Sex, Nudity, Dating – Unless you have a problem with anthropomorphic animals being partially or completely naked, you’re all set here.
Profanity – None
Death, Violence and Gore – In Winnie-The-Pooh Christopher Robin owns a gun. It is not referred to as a toy gun, although it may well be a toy guy. He accidentally shoots Pooh while aiming at a balloon. The book is careful to say that Pooh was not hurt.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – In The House at Pooh Corner we discover that Tigger enjoys Extract of Malt, which is a medicine of Roo’s. He eats it for every meal.
Frightening or Intense Things – Pooh and Piglet frequently face situations that they find scary, such as heffalumps, woozles and jagulars (that’s elephants, weasels and jaguars to you), being surrounded by bees, getting lost and caught in an animal trap. At one point the other animals successfully kidnap Roo (a baby kangaroo). It is treated as a big joke; the tone is light. Some small children may be scared, but as this is best used as a read aloud, you’ll be able to monitor and comfort as needed. It’s likely that by the time children are advanced enough to read this independently they will also be mature enough to handle the small scares facing Pooh and his friends.