Return to the Hundred Acre Wood (a book review, sort of)

Worn down by all this talk about the Census? Tired of strangers poking around in your business as they stand there, sweating, on your front porch?

On the end cap of a shelf at the library Friday was this:

Eighty years after A.A. Milne last visited the Hundred Acre Wood, Christopher Robin is back in the forest, thanks to David Benedictus. (Dutton Children's Books, 2009)

So, I checked it out and read the 200+/- pages mostly aloud, whether anyone was listening or not. Like the animals in the Hundred Acre Wood would do, probably. The whole thing is so darn cute, of course, but it’s also downright funny. To the point of snorting. Seriously. I snorted.

But Amy, what does this have to do with the U.S. Census? I will tell you, through an excerpt from “Chapter 3, in which Rabbit organizes almost everything”:

“What we need most around here,” (Rabbit) announced, “apart from gardens and sensible diets and some overdue hedging and ditching, is a Census.”

Pooh licked the honey from his nose and asked Rabbit what he meant.

“A Census is when you write down the names of everyone who is living in a place, and how many of them, and so on.”

“But why, Rabbit?”

“So that if anyone wants to know you can tell them straightaway. The Ancient Britons did it in the Domesday Book, and once they knew who there was and where they were . . . ” Rabbit paused to catch up with himself, “they could tax them.”

“Why did they want to?” Christopher Robin asked, reasonably enough.

“To pay for the Census, of course,” answered Rabbit. “I thought everybody knew that.” (Note: This would explain the logic behind the high-end marketing strategies, slick commercials, piles of papers and billboards devoted to the 2010 Census, don’t you think?)

As word got about, the other animals expressed their doubts.

“It seems to me,” Kanga remarked, “that you can’t count everything.”

Piglet said: “It’s not a Census. It’s a Nonsensus” and then blushed at his cleverness.

Rabbit goes about the door-to-door Census-taking, whereby he visits Owl, who answers “Mind your own business” when Rabbit inquires about his age.

Somebody, quick, get David Benedictus on the phone and tell him to write a whole new series. This should be required reading.

In “Chapter 2, in which Owl does a crossword and a Spelling Bee is held,” Piglet rushes to Owl’s door, demanding to know where Christopher Robin has been.

“We want to know, Owl, whether you know where Christopher Robin has been and whether he will be going there again, and when.” The words came out in such a rush that Piglet blinked several times and steadied himself on the low table.

Something is really wrong with you if that didn’t make you laugh — or, at least, smile.

The only noticeable departure from the original stories is the introduction of an otter named Lottie, who demands eels and frogs for dinner, but settles for Portugese sardines covered in olive oil, and then plays her harmonica. But Lottie is cool and makes for a welcome addition, particularly when she sets out to teach the animals to dance. “I am here to teach you good manners and grace…And we shall begin with the polka, a lively yet refined dance…Are you all partnered?”

Partnered. Welcome to the ‘hood, Lottie.