After the SCBWI winter conference wrapped up, I still had a wee bit of time before I had to leave for the airport. How could I fill my last hour in the Big Apple? I know! I’ll go on a treasure hunt. Why not?
I headed out the door of the Grand Hyatt on 42nd Street, strolled by Grand Central Station (more about her later–she’s a beauty) and a few New York minutes later I hung a left on 5th Avenue. And there it was. The Treasure Keeper, also known as the New York Public Library. Guarded by two regal, yet amiable lions, I made my way up the stairs, through the revolving door and across the tiled floor. I was a tourist on a mission. I made a honey bee line to the nearest security guard: “Where is the Children’s Section?” I was directed downstairs. A right turn, then a left, and I was in. And there, in its own special glass enclosure were the objects of my desire–the real Winnie the Pooh and his dear little friends Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga and Tigger. How serene and content they seemed, just the way you’d want beloved toys to be. And at nearly 92 years old, they looked as if they still had a little play left in them. Piglet surprised me most. He was so tiny. A true charmer.
I learned that these “real” residents of the Hundred Acre Wood were given as a first-birthday present to Christopher Robin Milne in 1921. Purchased at Harrods in London, Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga and Tigger soon joined Pooh as Christopher’s playmates. The dear friends served as the inspiration for the children’s classics written by his father, A.A. Milne, and illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard. The faithful five journeyed to the United States in 1947, and remained with the American publisher E.P. Dutton until 1987 when they were donated to The New York Public Library.
After spending a weekend immersed in the world of children’s publishing, visiting Pooh was a sweet and fitting way to end my New York visit.