magazine spread, for example, that prompted the increased height of the arc of bees buzzing above Pooh’s head and arrangement of the text ‘He climbed and he climbed’ to mirror his ascent of the oak tree. Both Milne and Shepard contributed ideas to the page design; Milne in his manuscript introduced the idea of bouncing words to illustrate Piglet bouncing in Kanga’ pouch, while it was Shepard who planned the layout of the friends pulling Pooh out of Rabbit’s door.

Preliminary pencil sketches, and the pen and ink drawings developed from them, demonstrate Shepard’s vigorous draughtsmanship, keen observation, understated humour and delightful evocation of movement and character. Ultimately, however, it is Shepard’s highly inventive response to Milne’s text that singles him out.

Throughout the books, Shepard’s illustrations punctuate the text and alter the pace of Milne’s narrative; in particular, sequences of vignettes prolong the action and contribute to the humour, as when the tablecloth appears to wriggle, wrap itself in a ball and roll across the room. At times, the illustrations replace the text in the storytelling and can be read with or without the text, as when Piglet makes his perilous climb up the string to the letterbox in the ceiling of Owl’s collapsed house.

Shepard’s illustrations also expound details within the text, helping to visualise Milne’s wordplay; even the most experienced readers may initially be bemused by the reference to Eeyore, ‘sitting down on THE WOLERY’. He had a genius for interpreting text ironically – Christopher Robin’s ‘Sustaining Book’, open at the word ‘Jam’, offers nutritional rather than spiritual sustenance to the ‘Wedged Bear in Great Tightness’. Shepard also visually emphasizes Eeyore’s sarcasm; as Eeyore declares ‘it isn’t so Hot in my field about three o’clock in

the morning as some people think it is. It isn’t Close, if you see what I mean – not so as to be uncomfortable, It isn’t Stuffy’, in a three-part image, he becomes visually overladen with snow as his sentence progresses.

With a sense of humour similar to Milne’s, Shepard could not resist adding jokes of his own, such as the little mouse who, when helping to free Pooh out of Rabbit’s door, is faced with grabbing hold of a prickly hedgehog and thinks better of joining the effort. He also introduces little incongruities to add dramatic irony, the visual equivalent to the pantomime refrain, ‘It’s behind you!’, letting readers in on a secret – when Pooh and Piglet build a house for Eeyore it is the illustration that reveals the real story – the two friends are shown in fact dismantling Eeyore’s house of sticks before they go to rebuild it on the other side of the wood.

Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic is curated by Annemarie Bilclough and Emma Laws and runs until 8 April 2018. Tickets are £8 (concessions and family tickets available). V&A Members go free. Advance booking is advised – in person at the V&A; online at classic; or by calling 0800 912 6961 (booking fee applies).

A new V&A publication, Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic, written by Annemarie Bilclough and Emma Laws, accompanies the exhibition. Copies are available in the exhibition shop and online at:

Winnie-the-Pooh, The House at Pooh Corner and When We Were Very Young are published by Egmont, £14.99 each hbk.

Books for Keeps No.228 January 2018 17

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