The Hundred Acre Wood is famously home to at least one bear, tiger, pig, donkey, kangaroo, rabbit and owl. Come Oct. 6, it will also count a penguin among its residents.
Just in time for the 90th anniversary of the late A.A. Milne’s classic children’s book Winnie-the-Pooh, the arbiters of Pooh’s estate have announced a new character. Penguin, as he’s known, will make his first appearance in the second authorized sequel to Milne’s series of books, The Best Bear In All The World, set for publish this October.
The Best Bear In All The World will consist of four seasonal short stories (”Autumn,” “Winter,” “Spring” and “Summer”) written by four contemporary authors. As you’d expect, Penguin meets Pooh in “Winter,” having made his way to Sussex on “a rather snowy day,” according to story writer Brian Sibley.
“While pondering what other toys Christopher Robin might have owned but which were never written about, I remembered seeing a photograph of father and son playing on the nursery floor with Winnie-the-Pooh and ― a penguin!” Sibley explained 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,” he added, “so I started thinking about what might have happened if, on a rather snowy day, Penguin had found his way to Pooh Corner…”
The characters in Milne’s original books (Winnie-the-Pooh was published in 1926 and The House at Pooh Corner in 1928) were based on the toys his son Christopher Robin ― the namesake of another Hundred Acre Wood regular ― owned. Winnie-the-Pooh, a teddy bear from Harrods, was named for Winnipeg, the Canadian black bear at ZSL London Zoo.
Sebastian Wormell, Harrods archivist, speculated on whether or not the penguin in the photograph above originated at Harrods, as well.
“Harrods is famous as the original home of Winnie-the-Pooh, but the Toy Department where Mrs. Milne bought the iconic bear hosted a huge array of stuffed animals,” he said. “In the early years of the 20th century, toy penguins soared in popularity as the exploits of Antarctic explorers such as Shackleton and Scott fascinated the public. 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.”
Egmont Publishing pointed out in a press release that ZSL London Zoo didn’t open its Lubetkin Penguin Pool until the 1930s, but noted that penguins ― including black-footed penguins like the one that appears in “Winter: in which Penguin arrives in the Forest,” may have been kept on-site in an enclosure for diving birds.
The first official sequel to Milne’s series ― Return to the Hundred Acre Wood ― was published by David Benedictus in 2009, illustrated by Mark Burgess.
Beyond Sibley, Paul Bright, Kate Saunders and Jeanne Willis have also been tasked with bringing Pooh back to life in The Best Bear in All the World, which will be published with more drawings by Burgess in the style of the original E. H. Shepard illustrations.
The Best Bear in All the World will be released on October 6, 2016, by Egmont Publishing. The 90th anniversary of Winnie-the-Pooh will take place on October 14, 2016.