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A Unique Partnership

A.A. Milne and his illustrator, Ernest Shepherd, were both veterans of WWI and met through working with the magazine Punch after the war. Shepherd was hired by Methuen Books to illustrate Milne’s first book of poems, When We Were Very Young, many of which were about Christopher Robin. The collaboration was so successful that there was no question who Milne wanted to create the images for the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. Interestingly, Shepherd started sketching Pooh using Christopher’s stuffed bear, but both men agreed it was too angular and menacing. Shepherd went through his own son’s toy box and found “Growler”, who became the basis for Winnie.

The level of collaboration between Milne and Shepherd was rather unusual at the time. Milne shared early drafts with the artist, and Shepherd designed illustrations which worked intimately with the text and the typesetting, such as the famous one of the Honey Tree, where the text climbs narrowly along the right side of the page as we see Pooh trying to climb the tree.

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