Review of Poems from When We Were Very Young

Poems from When We Were Very Young
by A. A. Milne; illus. by Rosemary Wells
Preschool    Norton    80 pp.    g
10/21    978-1-324-01653-3    $19.95
e-book ed.  978-1-324-01654-0    $17.48

Wells says in an opening note that she chose her favorite twelve poems from Milne’s beloved classic to present in “picture-book format.” She gives each its own introductory page on which she shows that poem’s characters (usually a cat, mouse, rabbit, or other critter) as well as other important elements. For instance, for the first entry, “Happiness,” the introductory page shows the character John as a cat, along with three small, square pictures with labels for each: mackintosh, boots, hat. This sets the stage for very young children so they can make more sense of what’s to come. Wells also puts her own interpretation on some of the poems. In “Disobedience,” which begins “James James / Morrison ­Morrison / Weatherby George Dupree / Took great / Care of his Mother, / Though he was only three,” she adds extra text, placed in speech bubbles, in which James’s mother is safely returned home — a reassuring if narratively radical touch. Through her brightly colored paintings (which incorporate iconic ­British markers such as Underground signs, red phone booths, and double-decker buses) and expressive characters, Wells will bring a new generation of readers to these almost-one-hundred-year-old poems. A glossary is appended of some of Milne’s “old-fashioned” words, such as shilling and porringer.

From the January/February 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Susan Dove Lempke
Susan Dove Lempke
Susan Dove Lempke is a Horn Book reviewer and director of the Niles Public Library District in Illinois.

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