The Winnie-the-Pooh stories have been turned into an app for the iPad and iPhone, equipped for the digital age with animated versions of the much-loved original illustrations.
It’s good news that Winnie’s reach is lengthening, over 80 years after his stories first appeared (will there, I wonder, also be an app for the remarkably popular Latin translation ‘Winnie ille Pu’?).
But, like Eeyore, I find myself mulling over the downside: the app’s publishers have abridged the stories to allow for modern children’s ‘short attention spans’.
If attention spans are indeed shorter these days, and it’s an arguable point, that’s still no reason to tinker with tales that have stood the test of time and continue to be enjoyed by young discoverers of Pooh, Piglet and friends.
A further, more general concern is this: if young readers get too accustomed to ‘books’ with moving pictures and sound effects, then children’s literature in its purest, static form – words and a few pictures between board or paper covers – will seem somewhat lame. The electronic embellishment is a barrier in the way of quiet dialogue between author and reader. So, children of the future will take longer to realise just how, in the absence of distractions, the imagination is marvellously free to fill in any descriptive gaps.