Friday, October 9, 2009

Sequels, Prequels, Additions, & Companion books: If it ain't broke, don't fix it

As you might have guessed by the title of this blog post - Sequels, Prequels, Additions, & Companion books: If it ain't broke, don't fix it - I am not always such a fan of the oft-publisher-pushed addition to an established series, author, or beloved character.

The Toot & Puddle, Holly Hobbie, syndicated television show with accompanying merchandise? Awful. The originals - delightful!
Curious George
- same.
Fire, the "prequel/companion" book to Graceling by Kristen Cashore? Co
uld have stood on its own two feet (and does - who needs the extra bits about Leck?).
Audrey Niffenegger's Her Fearful Symmetry? In my humble opinion, she's a Time Traveler's Wife one-hi

And now, wonder-of-wonders for some, horror-of-horrors for others, after 80 years of treasured reading, Winnie-the-Pooh, formerly only by A.A. Milne, has been upstaged by an OTTER! Return to the Hundred Acre Wood by David Benedictus is an authorized addition to the series that, before now, consisted of Winnie-the-Pooh, House at Pooh Corner, When We Were Very Young, and Now We Are Six.

I confess that I am ranting without having actually picked up a copy of Return to the Hundred Acre Wood sitting on my shelves, but then, the fact that customers have been more excited about new editions of the original four than the newest fifth, make me believe we have similar feelings about this imposter in our midst.
The re-release of the hardcover original classics? Great!

The new audio editions of Winnie-the-Pooh and House at Pooh Corner read by Dame Judi Dench and Stephen Fry (among others)? Incredible!
This new otter? Who the heck is he, and what right does he ha
ve to inflitrate the Hundred Acre Wood?

It's not really the otter that I object to. I'm sure he's a very nice otter, and probably makes great friends with everyone in that "I've moved to a new high school in my junior year where everyone else has known each other since they played together in the bath as babies" sort-of-way. It's the principle of the thing - what was wrong with the original four? NOTHING! So, to repeat myself: if it ain't broke, why are we trying to fix it?

Now, to be fair, not all sequels, prequels, additions, and companions are terrible ideas, or even bad reads. My number one, desert island, top favorite, if I could only read one book for the rest of my life book is a *gasp* sequel, AND furthermore, it's *drumroll please* written by a different author than the original! I know! HUGE HYPOCRITE, you're probably thinking to yourself, and yes, I may be. Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley, sequel to Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind, is my absolute favoritest book.

There are others that fit this category that aren't so bad either. Peter Pan in Scarlet, for one, by Geraldine McCaughrean, is a great rompy Peter Pan addition. Happy Birthday, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle was written in part by the original author, Betty MacDonald's, daughter Anne MacDonald Canham, who took half-written stories of her mother's and finished them after her mother's death; maybe that's what it holds up so well. Kenny and the Dragon, Tony DiTerlizzi's brilliant tribute to Wind in the Willows is one of my 2008 favorites. I'm also eagerly anticipating the release of Eoin Colfer's (author of the series Artemis Fowl) attempt at a sixth book, And Another Thing..., in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxey series by Douglas Adams.

So, hypocrite though I may be, I'm still just not thrilled over this otter situation. What do you think? Sequels, prequels, additions, and companion books, whether written by the original author or not, do you have favorites, or are there times you want to point out "when bad books happen to good authors/characters/series"?


(For more reading on this topic, check out the
NYTimes post on Winnie-the-Pooh's addition, and the AOL Living section.)

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