When We Were Very Young

A. A. Milne, E. H. Shepard

When We Were Very Young
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When We Were Very Young

A. A. Milne, E. H. Shepard

Curl up with a A A Milne’s classic book of poetry for children, When We Were Very Young.

This is the first volume of rhymes written especially for children by A A Milne - as popular now as when they were first written. Featuring E H Shepard’s original illustrations, When We Were Very Young is a heart-warming and funny introduction to children’s poetry, offering the same sense of humour, imagination and whimsy that we’ve come to expect from his favourite books about Winnie-the-Pooh, that Bear of Very Little Brain.


Call me old-fashioned but few things make me happier at work than when a customer buys When We Were Very Young, the collection of poems by A.A. Milne. Why? These poems provide a perfect picture of childhood: the child is at the centre of the world, their senses are sharply alert, and the small dramas are the stuff upon which days are built.

Each poem is a miniature dramatic monologue, a little speech or thought or wish, made by someone, usually a child, and that child often resembles Christopher Robin. It simply impossible for adults not to enjoy reading these poems aloud.

Once heard, no one can forget poems like ‘Happiness’, ‘The King’s Breakfast’, ‘Buckingham Palace’ and ‘Rice Pudding’. Lines such as, ‘I do like a little bit of butter with my bread’ and, ‘What is the matter with Mary Jane’ become part of everyday speech in many families. The lines are perfectly phrased for the meter to do the work: emphasis seems to spring so naturally that before long the reader will confidently be calling: ‘Bears, / Just look how I’m walking in all of the squares!’ Or: ‘John had / Great Big Waterproof  / Boots on … ’

The collection also includes the first appearance in print of Winnie the Pooh, (in a poem called ‘Teddy Bear’), and has just been issued in a stylish hardback by publishers Egmont. Coloured illustrations by E.H. Shepard flavour the scenes throughout. Prior to the runaway success of When We Were Very Young in 1924, A.A. Milne was a successful playwright and magazine editor. His plays are all but forgotten. But this book and these poems are timeless. No need to wait for a special occasion: they are their own celebration.

Mike Shuttleworth works as a bookseller at Readings Hawthorn.

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