________________ CM . . . . Volume VII Number 1 . . . . September 8, 2000

cover The Pooh Sketchbook.

E.H. Shepard. Edited by Brian Sibley.
New York, NY: Dutton Children's Books, (Distributed in Canada by McClelland & Stewart, Inc.), 1984/1998.
96 pp., cloth, $21.95.
ISBN 0-525-44084-4.

Subject Heading:
Winnie-the-Pooh (Fictitious character) in art.

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by Mary Thomas.

*** /4

image When I was a child, Pooh, Piglet and the rest were as in Ernest Shepard's drawings. Disney had not yet bastardized them and then disseminated his changelings on film, paper, and kids' pyjamas. Time goes on, however, and now children identify more with the Disney images then the Shepard ones. This is too bad. The Pooh Sketchbook shows yet again how Shepard captured the essence of Milne's characters, not by turning them into cutesy furry people, but by letting their personalities out through a few lines that are suggestive rather than dictatorial.
    The book contains preliminary sketches of the drawings that appear in the books - in all the books, that is, except When We Were Very Young. The publisher paid Shepard a flat fee for those with the result that Shepard sold the earlier versions. For the later books, he was awarded royalties and so was able to keep his sketches, later bequeathing them to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London from whose collection the present book is taken.
    There are several points of interest here. One is the comparison of earlier versions with the final drawing. The reader cannot but be struck by the fact the published drawings are, without exception, improvements over the earlier versions. What is more noticeable is that the sketches which were, in the end, not used are definitely less good than the ones which we all know and love.
    By and large the drawings - frequently printed with the preliminary and final versions side-by-side - are left to "speak" for themselves. This is just as well since the comments are frequently trivial ("In the sketch Pooh is shown looking around a corner of the door; whereas in the final picture he appears in the room") and occasionally wrong. ("A sketch for a later coloured illustration in The World of Pooh (1958). The original Poohsticks bridge does not have a brick arch (p.80)." Unfortunately, neither does the coloured version - the arch is quite obviously cut stone!)
    If you are a Pooh afficionado, this book is a wonderful trip down Nostalgia Lane. If you are an artist, it is interesting to see how drawings develop from ideas to finished products. If you are neither - well, Shepard was a genius, and his work and, therefore, this book are utterly charming.


Mary Thomas works for two school libraries in Winnipeg, MB, and rejoices whenever a discerning child checks out a "real" Pooh book.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364