And it’s lovely rice pudding for dinner again!

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I found myself reciting some of A.A. Milne’s children’s poems the other night, during dinner with my brother and sister-in-law.  I’ve loved them since reading them to my children, which is when I learned them (reading the same thing night after night tends to embed it in your mind).

aa-milne-rice-puddingIt started when my husband ordered rice pudding for dessert and I launched into the following:

What is the matter with Mary Jane?                   aa-milne-when-we-were-very-young
She’s perfectly well and she hasn’t a pain,
And it’s lovely rice pudding for dinner again!
What is the matter with Mary Jane?

       Last verse of Rice Pudding

****

A. (Alan Alexander) Milne (1882-1956) is famous for his stories about Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin, Tigger, Piglet and the rest. His father was the headmaster at Henley House School, and Milne studied there under H.G. Wells. He earned a BA in mathematics at Cambridge University before moving to London, where he worked as the assistant editor of the humor magazine Punch for eight years (1906–1914). Milne served as an officer in the British army in World War I, fighting at the Battle of the Somme. On his return, he devoted his career to writing.

A.A. Milne and Christopher Robin

A.A. Milne and Christopher Robin

aa-milne-now-we-are-sixAfter his only child, Christopher Robin, was born, Milne began to write the children’s books for which he is best known. The two poetry books which became worn thin in my household are When We Were Very Young (1924) and Now We Are Six (1927).  Of course, we also had Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) and The House at Pooh Corner (1928).  I didn’t know he had written an adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows: Toad of Toad Hall (1930). Mr. Milne also wrote plays, most notably Mr. Pim Passes By (1919) and a locked door mystery novel, The Red House Mystery (1922). I need to read it!

Deeply affected by the war, Milne also published poetry for adults (Behind the Lines and The Norman Church  and three nonfiction books on war and pacifism, Peace with Honour, War with Honour, and War Aims Unlimited (1941.

He died in January of 1956.

***

After I had enchanted my audience with Mary Jane’s rice pudding, I recited another one:

                                                    The End

aa-milne-on-the-stairsWhen I was One,
I had just begun.

When I was Two,
I was nearly new.

When I was Three,
I was hardly me.

When I was Four,
I was not much more.

When I was Five,
I was just alive.

But now I am six,
I’m as clever as clever

So I think I’ll be six now
Forever and ever.

And on the way home, my husband and I both recited the first stanza of Disobedience:

aa-milne-james-jamesJames James
Morrison Morrison
Weatherby George Dupree
Took great
Care of his Mother,
Though he was only three.
James James said to his Mother,
“Mother,” he said, said he;
“You must never go down
to the end of the town,
if you don’t go down with me.”

 If you have the time, do read Buckingham Palace and The King’s Breakfast.

I just read a post on how reading rhyming and repetitious stories to children – like nursery rhymes (The Three Little Kittens) and books such as The Poky Little Puppy – help children learn to talk and read. I found even third graders enjoyed having The Poky Little Puppy read to them because they could join in.

I recommend putting Milne’s poetry in your child’s library!

 

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28 thoughts on “And it’s lovely rice pudding for dinner again!

  1. Whether we never had When we were very young, or whether it just got lost along the way I don’t know, but I still have the family’s original copies of Pooh, Pooh Corner and Now we are six. It’s amazing how much you can recite if prompted by the first line!
    Have you seen Now We Are Sixty?

  2. Thanks for this Noelle. The spat outlined between Wodehouse and Milne (in the first comment) annoyed me a little. Your posting gives the lie to the suggestion that Milne had no sense of humour. I must admit I’ve never once laughed at Wodehouse – I find him dull, dated, and stuffy. Milne on the other hand… Isn’t it funny how a bear likes honey? And if bears were bees…

    • I was unaware of the spat, Bruce, but would never, ever consider Milne not to have a sense of humor. How can you NOT like Pooh with his head stuck in the honey pot? Wodehouse is as you describe – never a favorite of mine.

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