November 4, 2009

A New Pooh??? New Sequels to Old Classics

Posted by at 6:59 am in Reads | Permalink

Classic_sequels"If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

"You'll never know if you don't try."

These two dueling opinions have existed since the beginning of time (ok, maybe for just a very long time!) and I thought about them again and again as I wrote this week's blog post.
You see, there has been some controversy about new sequels to old classic books recently. Are they as good as the original? Is it a good thing to find out what happens to the characters, or would it be better to leave them alone? I went into this assignment with an open mind to try to get to the bottom of it. . .

Take for example the beloved classic Winnie-the-Pooh series by A.A. Milne written in 1926. I hadn't read it in years but once I picked it up a few days ago, I couldn't put it down. It had me chuckling to myself. I was also slightly shocked at how un-politically correct it was! Example: Pooh gets stuck in Rabbit's hole while coming for a visit. Rabbit tells Pooh it's because he eats too much (and is fat!) so it's his own fault. Pooh maintains Rabbit should have a proper front door, and not a hole in the ground. Christopher Robin comes up with a solution: they will have to wait for Pooh to get thin again! So the friends all wait one week for Pooh to lose weight and be able to slip out of Rabbit's hole. Hilarious. It's story upon story like this that makes this book a classic. A.A. Milne's writing in the original Pooh is simple and to the point. Every sentence drives the story or is funny.

Last month, David Benedictus' authorized sequel Return to the Hundred Acre Wood was published. Now Pooh and Piglet live together, and Piglet is no longer jealous of Pooh. There are more characters, and a few more female characters, which is great. Will it live up to the great stories and drama of the original? Or will it be a gentler, well mannered version? Read it and decide.

Ok, let's move on to the old classic A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett published in 1904 (yep you heard me right – 1904!). In this book, Sara Crewe is an intelligent, polite young girl born to a wealthy soldier in India, then sent to boarding school in Victorian-era England. At boarding school, she encounters a haughty, jealous, headmistress, Miss Minchin. When Sara's father dies, Sara is left impoverished. Miss Minchin forces her to become a servant, starve, and sleep in the attic. A man moves in next door, and Sara talks to him. He turns out to be her father's friend and business partner, and he has been searching for her. He becomes her guardian and they live happily ever after.

The sequel to A Little Princess is Wishing for Tomorrow by Hilary McKay to be released in January 2010. I'm actually psyched about this sequel for a few reasons. Hilary McKay is a very clever British children's author, and I like her writing tone. Also – Wishing for Tomorrow revisits Miss Minchin's boarding school AFTER Sara Crew has left. It follows her friends (and foes) left at the school like her best friend Ermengarde, who laments that "nothing is the same as it was before." There are supposed to be new friendships, rivalries, lessons. . . and of course fairy tale endings. We will have to wait and see!

Other classic/sequel combos include Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzgerald and its sequel Harriet Spies Again by Helen Ericson published in 2002. I personally LOVED the classic and felt like it was shocking. Has anyone read the sequel? What did you think? Let me know in the Comments. 

Next there's the classic Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, and its sequel Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean published in 2006. The classic was originally a play in 1904 (what is it with 1904?!) then became a novel in 1911. And of course who doesn't remember the famous Disney movie? Peter Pan appeared in different works not authorized by the holders of the character's copyright, then in 2006 the author's copyright holder had a competition for novelists to submit story outlines for a sequel. Geraldine McCaughrean won the contest, and her book became the official “authorized sequel novel.” The sequel looks pretty cool, with Peter almost growing up thanks to the evil Captain Hook. He steals Peter's shadow so he can't fly, and combs the imagination out of his hair, and tries to trick him into growing up. (I might actually check this sequel out!)
And let's not leave out the amazing (unauthorized) prequel, Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. This adventure series describes how Peter first learns to fly (and almost gets eaten by cannibals and captured by pirates in the process).

Also noteworthy are the classic The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, and its sequel The Willows in Winter by William Horwood (1996). STACKS Staffer Sonja is a huge Wind in the Willows fan and she loved both of these books.

So what is my verdict on the classics vs. sequels debate? My opinion is that the original classics set the tone.
However, what if you are so in love with your favorite classic and you just don't want it to end? What if you NEED to know what happens 100 years down the line? Then you might enjoy the sequels. Either way, it can't hurt to check them out. You might just find something great. But you'll never know unless you try!

My advice: check out the classics first, then if you really LOVE it, check out the sequel and see how it measures up.
Let me know YOUR take on classics vs. sequels in the Comments. And if you've read any good sequels!

 — Ratha, STACKS Writer

  1. soccer42

    i just read howow i survived middle school special addition how the pops stole christmas it was a really good book. i am asking for the rest of the books for the holidays and my birthday. i think she rote like twelve books. i hope she makes more of those books. i just finished my favorite series the caped 6th grader and the judy blume series the fudge ones.

  2. japamrocks44409

    i cant wait 2 c new moon. i hav seen it on tha previews. my mom and i r dieng to c it. my mom thinks jacob is cute. but i dont tink so. am i allowed 2 change my username if i am rite me back and tell me how. PLZ ANYONE!!!!!!!! WELL EXPEPT FOR WIERD PEOPLE. vampiregirl12 plz rite me back until 11:16 cause i hav 2 swith 2 lunch.

  3. styb124

    I seen the movies peter pan and winnie the pooh. I can`t belive those movies and books were so old.

  4. kaybubblesz_10

    These two dueling opinions have existed since the beginning of time (ok, maybe for just a very long time!) and I thought about them again and again as I wrote this week’s blog comment. You see, there has been some controversy about new sequels to old classic books recently.

  5. kaybubblesz_10

    h3y i.d.k i just lik3 to typ3 4lot of stuff u digg now but i lik3 p3t3r p4n th3 flying boy(n3v3r c33n b3for3)lolsz.

  6. Dollar

    I know, I know, I’m posting again, but I just want to say something to ‘the blue review’. I am sure that people who write sequels to books are very clever, BUT the book they are writing a sequel to isn’t theirs. I’m sorry if this offends you, but I honestly truly think that if the book is written and over, and the author has died, their books should be left alone, for his sake. Would you want someone 100 years from now to change your writing, and possibly totally warp your story? I can tell you I wouldn’t. What if that writer completely missed your point and took your story in a different direction then you first intended? I’m sorry, but would you REALLY want your work changed for the “better”?

  7. Abi

    totally agree with dollar. take books turned into movies for example. they are absolutely horrible! i wish they could have done a better job on the harry potters. they deserve better movies than that for such good books. please just leave them alone. i might read the sequels just to see. you never know.

  8. the blue review

    To Paraphrase dollar I think that these authors who are writing the sequels are very clever they are taking books that they love and adding to them. Im not sure if you know this but authors need rights to books before they can do this. So if an author did not want a sequel to be made, they would have written it in their will. If not in the will, the sequel writer would have had to ask the person who had the rights. (I know all this because I am a writer trying to do the same thing). So if the author did not want a sequel to be made it would not be wether the sequels are any good.Well, that depends on the sequel author and I agree that some of these sequels are not true to the original but but my advice is to give them a chance and they may live up to your expectations.

  9. kelsie

    im sry but i have to agree with dollar and i totally love that name.lol:).anyways i think they should start there own story if they wont to change the classics .ummm……….no offense but i think its kinda mean to just change a whole story to please youe self and plus its kinda like throughing that persons work away!!!!!

  10. Never Fairy

    I think it depends on what’s being done in each case.
    For instance, Peter Pan in Scarlet may be “official,” but that doesn’t make it good. The fact is it has a lot of mistakes in it as compared to Barrie’s original tales. One is the very part you mentioned. Peter certainly CAN fly without his shadow, or else he’d never have been able to fly to the window to reclaim it from the Darling nursery. With all the contradictions, it’s not the best way to be “official.”
    The Barry/Pearson series also has a lot of errors. Even thematically. And they don’t even count as simply prequels to the Disney version, as they contradict that as well.
    But what if the author left something behind? What if s/he had notes for more and a sincere effort had been made to continue from those ideas? That would have merit over simply writing because one can…
    And that’s precisely the case with Peter Pan. Check out the faithful novel Peter Pan’s Neverworld based on Barrie’s own idea for more adventure.
    BELIEVE!

  11. Charmfairy/Miranda

    Besides Return to the Hundred Acre Wood, I’ve never really heard of any of these sequels. Although, I just realized how much Frances Hodgson Burnett has had at least two of her young female characters grow up in India because their father is a general and then leave. It’s the same way in The Secret Garden, which has a movie sequel, Return to the Secret Garden, BTW.

  12. Lauren

    THEY SOUND SO GOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!I MUST READ THEM ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!But i also agree with Dollar.

  13. Candysplash

    It’s exactly true what Dollar said.Classics just CAN’T be changed.It would ruin memories!

  14. horsedogwolf

    Just want to say, that I have read almost all those books. They are sooo good. I might check out the sequels, but I doubt they will be as good as the first.

  15. oneorangeshoelace

    Hilary McKay rocks–she wrote Indigo’s Star, Saffy’s Angel, Permanent Rose, and Caddy Ever After, all of which rocked. Also, the Peter and the Starcatchers books are dynamic.

  16. Dollar

    I’m sorry it this offends anyone, but I personally feel that modern authors should just LEAVE THE CLASSICS ALONE! They are classics for a good reason, they do not need a ‘better’ ending, or an epilog, they are just fine the way they are. If you want to be a good author, or already are, leave other people’s works alone and start your own.
    I’m sorry if anyone found this offensive or harsh.

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