Pay No Attention to That Bear Behind the Curtain
There was a very recent and official two-fold unveiling here in my library’s children’s room this week. You see, we happen to have in our possession the original Winnie-the-Pooh toys as owned by Christopher Robin, son of A.A. Milne. I’ve worked with Pooh for about four years now and he’s been a good bloke. In my time I’ve seen people get engaged, sing, and even pray before the Pooh toys. When we moved to our current location Pooh and friends were kept on the third floor of this main branch of NYPL. And though it took a little time, we were eventually able to reunite him with the children’s room once again, where he belongs (the English may have a quibble with that "where he belongs" part).
The problem? Well, his room. I mean, it’s a nice room if a bit odd. Located directly behind my reference desk the space used to be a staff room. When they renovated our location to turn us into a Children’s Center, they kept the little room and simply plopped Pooh and friends in it. I’m making it sound a lot simpler than it was, since this "plopping" consisted of putting protective UV glass coating all over the windows, as well as the case containing Pooh and friends. They even dimmed the light above them. The result was that no one could ever see into the room. People would walk all around our space then ask, baffled, "Is Winnie-the-Pooh here?" We got very good at finding precisely the right words to indicate that was directly behind us. "In the little glass room right THERE" [point point] was our favorite.
Another problem? It made the space look gloomy. I remember in particular one small Australian boy who said to me in the world’s saddest voice, "I just think Pooh should have a bit of fun." It was like ripping my beating heart from my chest, that kid.
Well, no longer will I have to stave off the tears of small Aussies because a good thing has happened. Penguin, as you may have heard, is publishing a sequel to the Pooh tales called Return to the Hundred Acre Wood. In doing so, they want to throw a release party, and where better than with the real Winnie-the-Pooh himself? So today we have Jim Dale reading, small children cheering, and a brand new mural unveiling. Yes, that’s right! A new mural will cover the previously white walls of the Pooh room. The library had thought for a while that they might paint the walls (and you do not want to see the color of the swatches I saw during those discussions). Then Penguin swoops in and says, "Want a mural?" The library replies, "Yup!" and off we go. Bam! Instant gorgeous mural.
I’ll post pictures of the party and the new mural when I get a chance but in the meantime, we are very happy with all of this. Mind you, the new book has been the source of some discussion. On NPR there was a piece on the new sequel with some diplomatic quotes from my favorite Kansas children’s literary professor Philip Nel. That, in turn, let to child_lit Miriam Lang Budin subscriber , "What will be next? The second coming of CHARLOTTE’S WEB???" Wow. I hadn’t really thought about it, but I suppose that’s a possibility isn’t it? Classic book sequels. Honestly, I (for one) always got kind of mad about the ending of Stuart Little. I mean, come on! He never finds the bird? What is up with that? Someone needs to correct that.
But I digress. Pooh has been getting into the news in other ways, perhaps not as cheery as this. Pooh rights belong to Disney, judge says. You can pretty much extrapolate from there. And, naturally, this is the Disney Pooh and not the literary one, so make of it what you will. Thanks to PW Children’s Bookshelf for the link.
And now, some photos of the unveiling with snarky commentary!
The pre-show festivities.
Art from the newest book skillfully applied to our walls (they took most of them back at the end of the day, alas)
There can be no media event without children. We liked these so much that they were briefly dubbed The Stepford Children. When I got home and told my husband this his jaw dropped. "I just saw that they’d made a movie called The Stepford Children today!" he insisted. Coincidences aside, these were good. They laughed at almost all the right places and were fascinated by the video cameras.
No even of this size and scope makes itself. Here are just a few of the organizers. Note Ron Hogan from Galleycat in the audience. Hi, Ron!
Our President, Paul LeClerc started us off with a rousing history of how we came to get the toys in the first place.
Man of the hour Jim Dale came in to read a portion from the newest book. He brought his own ABC News mike guy, apparently.
After beginning with a rousing song informing all adults to turn off their electronic devices (sadly the children’s rooms’ phones were still going strong) the kids were his, heart and soul. Then he began to read.
I do not know many men who would think to equate new literary characters with Lady Bracknell from The Importance of Being Ernest, but Dale managed it. If you happen to get the audiobook, you’ll see what I mean.
Don Weisberg, President of Penguin Young Readers Group, was on hand to do the actual unveiling.
Fun Fact: Kids love it when stuff is unveiled. In this case you can see a little stuffed Lottie the Otter (she’s wearing pearls, which made us all regret we’d not put on our own that day), one of the original Winnie-the-Pooh books signed by Milne and Shepard, and a copy of the new book.
Unveiling #2 . . .
A shot taken mere moments before the children ran hell-for-leather to the windows to peek in.
I did actually work up the courage to speak to Mr. Dale. I told him I’d see Brian Bedford play Lady Bracknell in a recent Stratford, Ontario production of Ernest, and would he ever do the same? Perhaps not, but he’d seen a fabulous one-man show where a fellow played Lady Bracknell and claimed that Lord Bracknell was so old, he’d never figured out that he’d married another man.
And here are the four walls of the mural itself.
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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