For Highland resident Barbara Convery, the recent release of Disney’s film “Christopher Robin” has renewed a lifelong love of A.A. Milne’s “Winnie-the-Pooh” series of children’s books that inspired the film. It’s a love that’s rooted in her family’s history and its possession of a collection of original leather-bound editions.
Her father George Nicholls — who like Milne was an English World War I veteran — purchased the books sometime after the war but before he immigrated to New Zealand, Convery said.
The complete set includes an eighth edition of “Winnie-the-Pooh,” third edition of “The House at Pooh Corner,” 16th edition of “When We Were Very Young” and a fourth edition of “Now We Are Six,” books originally published from 1924 to 1926. This was the first printing of a leather-bound presentation edition, issued in 1927-28, and is now a valuable heirloom. The matching books feature tan calfskin covers, gilded edges and the classic illustrations of E.H. Shepard.
Convery says she and her brothers grew up reading the books and she can still recite some of the poems that make up “When We Were Young.” They grew up in a wooden house built in 1892.
As the first born and the only girl, Convery’s parents gave her the books when she was born in 1939.
“When we were young we always had to ask Dad if we could read the books. They weren’t touched a lot until we were old enough to know better, but they still got a good amount of wear,” Convery said.
“Being English we grew up on those books,” she added. “I had a Pooh Bear that by the time my younger brothers got through handling Pooh Bear there was no fur left. It was very loved.”
She said she loved all the characters but Tigger may have been her favorite.
Because her father was a quiet man who didn’t talk much, particularly about the war, Convery doesn’t know precisely when he bought the books.
“He was wounded twice then was honorably discharged by the army,” Convery said. “He went back to the island [England], healed and joined the navy.”
After the war he followed his family to New Zealand but taking his own route through the United States, passing though Ellis Island.
Years later, she brought the books with her when she and her husband Tom Convery moved to the United States in 1970. Her husband was in the U.S. Air Force and they settled in Highland when he was stationed at Norton Air Force Base.
The books remain a cherished family item that she has since shared with nieces and nephews.