Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger, and Kanga with little Roo in her pocket—these are some of the best-loved characters in children's literature. They began as stuffed toy animals that belonged to a boy named Christopher Robin. They came to life in the imagination of the boy's father, the writer A. A. Milne.
Alan Alexander Milne was born in London on January 18, 1882. His father, who was headmaster of a small private school, often read aloud to his three sons, Barry, Ken, and Alan.
Milne was very good at mathematics when he was a boy. Later, he attended Trinity College, Cambridge, to study that subject. But he soon became more interested in writing. In 1903, he returned to London to try to make a living as a free-lance writer. He wrote humorous articles and light verse. After two years, publishers were "getting used" to him, as Milne described it. He became an assistant editor for the humor magazine Punch in 1906. In 1913 he married Dorothy (Daphne) de Sélincourt.
Milne served in the army in World War I. After the war, he began to write plays, many of which are still performed. The best known is Mr. Pim Passes By (1919). He wrote other works for adults—novels, essays, and his autobiography, It's Too Late Now (1939). The Red House Mystery (1921), a detective novel, is still popular. So is Toad of Toad Hall (1929), his play based on Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows. But it was poems and stories for children that made him famous.
Christopher Robin—or Billy Moon, as he called himself—was born in 1920. One day Milne wrote a poem about him called "Vespers" and gave it to his wife as a present. She sent the poem to a magazine, and it was published. Milne wrote more poems, which were published in two books, When We Were Very Young (1924) and Now We are Six (1927).
In 1925, the Milnes bought a farmhouse in Sussex. This "enchanted place on the top of the Forest" was the setting for Milne's stories about Christopher Robin and Pooh. Other toy animals, as well as creatures of the forest, joined in the adventures described in Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) and The House at Pooh Corner (1928).
A. A. Milne had a special talent for presenting small children as they are. He takes us into their private world of make-believe and funny words—of "wheezles and sneezles," "haycorns," "expotitions," and "biffalo-buffalo-bisons." All the pictures in the Christopher Robin books were drawn by the well-known artist Ernest H. Shepard. His tiny pen-and-ink figures exactly capture the mood of the books.
A. A. Milne died on January 31, 1956. Pooh, Piglet, and the others now live at the New York Public Library.
"Milne, A. A. (1882-1956)." Reviewed by Christopher Milne. The New Book of Knowledge. Grolier Online.