Those of us who grew up in the shade of the Hundred Acre Wood, or who raised our children there, owe a debt of gratitude to A. A. Milne. That name, or more accurately those initials, are as famous as the charming stories he penned. The four classic books that comprise the original Winnie-The-Pooh set are, of course Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) along with The House at Pooh Corner (1928), When We Were Very Young (1924), and Now We are Six (1927). The same voice that animated the stuffed toys in his son’s nursery room and brought them into most every nursery for generations to come also wrote other works for different audiences and spanning different genres. Here are some of the lesser known, yet wonderful books by A. A. Milne.
The Sunny Side: Short Stories and Poems for Proper Grown-Ups
Milne began his literary career as a contributor to and then assistant editor at Punch—the humorous and satirical British magazine. The Sunny Side (1921) is a collection of short stories and poems that found their initial audience through Punch. This collection, hand-picked by the author, is a forgotten classic with all the characteristic wit and wisdom one might expect from A. A. Milne.
Once On a Time
Milne, here, takes the classic children’s Fairy Tale and gives it added dimension. The plot of Once On a Time (1917) centers on war and politics, and the characters are complex rather than stereotypical. The author himself described it as “an odd book,” and in grappling with the question, “For whom then is the book intended?”, he said, “. . . no one can write a book which children will like unless he write it for himself first. That being so, I will say boldly that this is a story for grown-ups.”
Last published in 1962, this is a quirky and fairly obscure book. It is perfect for those who love Milne’s British voice and humor, appreciate a good fairytale, and would treasure a little conversation piece tucked on the shelf between Winnie-the-Pooh and House at Pooh Corner.
The Red House Mystery
Reading a plot summary of The Red House Mystery (1922) reminds one a bit of an intense game of Clue. There is an old country house, a party, a murdered guest, and a multitude of suspects. Two amateur sleuths, amid tea and billiards, take it upon themselves to investigate. This is a very English who-done-it.
Indeed, fans of Winnie-the-Pooh may be surprised by the work that preceded and followed the publication of the stories from the Hundred Acre Wood. But for the writer who authored said work, that Wood created not only the shade under which we play, but also the shadow under which many of his essays, poems, and books go unnoticed. In deference to this great writer, explore some of his early, adult, and lesser-known works. Don’t worry, you can always return to “that enchanted place on the top of the forest (where) a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.”
Once On A Time image source.