Who Was A. A. Milne? by Sarah Fabiny. Penguin Workshop, 2021. 9780451532428
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3
What did you like about the book? This is a straight-forward biography of the author Alan Alexander Milne, from his beginnings as a precocious and determined boy who strove to keep up with his 3 older brothers. Alan worked hard to follow in his brother Ken’s footsteps to Westminster, later attending Cambridge University where he achieved fame as editor of the literary magazine Granta. After Cambridge, Milne worked as an editor while trying to make it as a writer, and was just finding success, and love with his future wife Daphne, when he was drafted into the army at the outset of World War I. Following the war he began writing plays, which were quite well received, and Milne felt he was well on his way to becoming a serious author for adults. But the birth of his son, Christopher Robin, changed his life, and his career, forever.
While still working on novels for adults, fatherhood inspired Milne to write his famous poem “Vespers,” which led to the 1924 publication of his first children’s book, the poetry anthology When We Were Very Young (and also was the start of his collaboration with illustrator E.H. Shepard). Soon after, Milne was asked to write a children’s Christmas story for a magazine, and his wife convinced him to use the bedtime stories he told Christopher Robin about his stuffed animal friends. Thus was born Winnie-the-Pooh, the Hundred Acre Woods, and one of the most popular and well-loved sets of characters of all time. Milne only wrote four children’s books in all, and continued to try to write for adults throughout the rest of his life with varying success. He was distraught by the death of his brother Ken, and became estranged from his son for much of Christopher Robin’s adult life; these two events influenced much of his later work.
A standard Who Was biography, the book includes black and white illustrations, fact boxes on topics ranging from trench warfare in World War I to the origin of Winnie-the-Pooh’s name, and timelines of Milne’s life and world events during the same time span. Readers who only know Winnie and friends from the Disney renditions might find the silly old bear’s origins interesting. It is well written and concise and will work well for biography projects or recreational reading for those who love the series.
Anything you did not like about the book? Readers would probably like to know what ever happened to Christopher Robin after his father’s death.
To whom would you recommend this book? Kids who love Who Was books will enjoy this look at a famous author and his very famous creation.
Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries
Where would you shelve it? Biography
Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts
Date of review: September 10, 2021