Next year, all of us are going to get to return to the Hundred Acre Wood. Egmont announced this week that in 2016, coinciding with the 90-year anniversary of A.A. Milne's classic story, they will release an official anthology sequel to Winnie-the-Pooh . Finally we get more of our favorite stuffed best friends, Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Owl, Rabbit, Kanga, Roo and their human boy pal Christopher Robin. We know when the book is coming, and we know that Mark Burgess will illustrate it, but we don't yet know which writers will fill Milne's very large shoes.
In my dreams, however, I have some really great picks.
Egmont released a statement reassuring readers that they would only choose "outstanding writers with a real understanding for AA Milne’s characters and world." To take the Winnie-the-Pooh helm, writers should be able to seamlessly adopt the voice of our beloved characters, have some charm and childlike spirit in their writing, and even be able to go a little philosophical. It's not an easy task.
Luckily, the children's book world is amazing right now. We have so many innovative voices that are telling even more beautiful stories to children than some author are telling to adults. In particular, these seven contemporary children's book authors would be amazing.
No-brainer. Woodson's books are both intelligent and full of heart, just like A.A. Milne's stories. The Brown Girl Dreaming author would be a dream writer for the next Winnie-the-Pooh book, and we know you're busy dusting off your dozens of awards, Jackie, but please?
Bonny Becker's Bear books are ADORABLE. I read A Visitor for Bear over and over again for a 2-year-old I used to babysit, and I didn't care at all because I wanted all the Bear I could get in my life. I like to think that Bear might be a distant cousin to Eeyore, a little curmudgeonly yet distinguished, and really just wanting some company, even though he won't show it. And Mouse and Bear's unlikely friendship will warm your heart just like all the pals in the Hundred Acre Wood. Becker would own this new Winnie-the-Pooh story.
Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Though for a bit older readers, McCall's Under the Mesquite and Summer of the Mariposas tackle some of the same questions of friendship, family, and identity (with a touch of magic) that Milne did in his Pooh stories. And McCall's gorgeous, poetic verse would be right at home in telling the stories of Winnie the Pooh and his friends, which really have so much to say to adults just as much to children.
Klassen is killing it in the world of children's literature right now. He has illustrated for several award-winning picture books, but his own writing in This is Not a Hat and I Want My Hat Back make him a shoo-in for this list of the next Pooh author. His stories are the kinds that children love to have read to them, and adults are fine with it because they can laugh along, too. Plus, Klassen's subversive wit could switch things up a bit for Christopher Robin's friends.
Lai doesn't need many words to make a big impact, and that will work just wonderfully with Milne's original, simple prose. Her book Inside Out & Back Again won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature and a Newbery Honor for its incredible protagonist, based on Lai's own childhood. And it's that ability to channel young people's voices and imagination that would make her a perfect fit.
Santat knows a thing or two about imaginary friends. His imaginative 2015 Caldecott-medal winning as his imaginative 2014 picture book The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend follows imaginary friend Beekle as he searches for his human companion. And like Milne, his story was inspired by his own child, whose first word was "beekle," meaning "bicycle." Santat knows how to take a personal story and open it up wide, allowing a cast of unusual characters with big imaginations shine.
One time though Maclear's children's book Virginia Wolf and you know she can handle some complex issues in a beautiful, simple, and compassionate way. And Julia, Child also shows she knows how to write about the bonds of friendship at a young age. She has all the tools to be an incredible Milne stand-in that could bring some of her more modern flair to the classic tales.