October 14, 2016 will mark the 90th anniversary of Winnie-the-Pooh, the gentle children’s stories written by A.A. Milne based on his son and his cast of stuffed animals. To celebrate this legacy, four new illustrated tales have been published, and a new character – with a real-life reference – has been introduced.

Christopher Robin Milne and his boyhood stuffed bear were fictionalised in the series penned by his father. In addition to boy and bear, further characters from the stories had real-life toy counterparts: Eeyore (a Christmas present), Piglet (a gift from an acquaintance) Kanga, Roo, and Tigger (gift purchases from Harrods).

Winnie-the-Pooh, first published in 1926, was an immediate success – 35,000 copies were sold in Britain, and over 150,000 copies sold in the US. Since then, the book’s popularity has only ascended further, resulting in translations in over 50 languages, from Catalan to Thai to Esperanto.

Egmont Publishing – also responsible for Lemony Snicket and Thomas and Friends – recently released an official sequel set of Winnie the Pooh stories, to offset the two A.A. Milne originals.

The new publication is titled The Best Bear in All the World (published on Oct 6), and Paul Bright, Kate Saunders, Jeanne Willis and Brian Sibley have created four new tales, one per season, thus introducing Winnie-the-Pooh to a new generation of readers. The new book is in fact the second contemporary release, following the publication of Return to the Hundred Acre Wood by David Benedictus (2009).

Joining the gang in the Hundred Acre Wood is a new character, Penguin, based upon a photograph of A.A. Milne and Christopher playing with a penguin toy. Author Brian Sibley commented in a statement: “The thought of Pooh encountering a penguin seemed no more outlandish than his meeting a kangaroo and a tiger in a Sussex wood…”

“In the early years of the 20th century, toy penguins soared in popularity as the exploits of Antarctic explorers… We believe that the toy pictured could be ‘Squeak’, which originated in our 1922 catalogue and came from Pip, Squeak and Wilfred, a popular cartoon-strip.”

Teatime with the woodland creatures.

The four-part collection is complemented with drawings by Mark Burgess, which hew to the style of E. H. Shepard’s original illustrations. However, Burgess noted, “I did especially enjoy drawing Penguin. With a new character I feel I’m not quite so much in Shepard’s shadow.”

Rupert Hill, a trustee at Pooh Properties, said “We are delighted to be celebrating Winnie-the-Pooh’s 90th anniversary this year, as the Queen celebrates hers.” Earlier this year, Pooh and Queen Elizabeth II met in a special story, Winnie-the-Pooh and the Royal Birthday by Jane Riordan with illustrations by Burgess available via the Disney website.

Meanwhile, moviegoers will be able to learn more about Pooh’s creator A.A. Milne in a biopic about the author starring Domnhall Gleeson and directed by Simon Curtis, currently in production and set for release next year. – AFP Relaxnews