Kathryn Aalto will take guests through the story of the real-life Hundred Acre Woods, which served as a setting for A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh stories. This photo of the Poohsticks Bridge is part of that story. Aalto will share her story through words and visuals. (Contributed Photo)
The Farmington Garden Club has partnered with the Farmington Library to host Kathryn Aalto, the author of The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk Through the Forest that Inspired the Hundred Acre Wood.
Aalto, who is from California but now lives in Exeter, England, will speak at the library on March 12 at 7 p.m. about her book, which explores the real life inspiration for A.A. Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood, the setting for his Winnie-the-Pooh stories.
Her children, she said, served as the main inspiration for writing the book. When they moved to England in 2007, they left behind a 20-acre farm in Seattle. She needed some place else for her children to roam.
"We had a salmon-spawning stream, meadows, and woods," Aalto said. "We had a tame flock of wild turkeys, a herd of horses along with chickens, cats, and dogs. The second day in living here, I stumbled across a book of walking public footpaths. If I didn’t have my farm where the kids could roam free, I thought to myself, then I would have to find another way."
To further acclimate her children to their big move to England, Aalto started reading them classic stories. Eventually, they asked if there was a real Hundred Acre Wood. Aalto wanted to find out.
And she had the background to do so. She describes herself as a "landscape designer, historian, writer, and lecturer on subjects related to people, places, and plants."
That dates back to Aalto growing up in the small farming town Escalon, California, where she and her father cared for their gardens.
"I grew up surrounded by orchards of walnuts, almonds, and peaches," Aalto said. "My father taught high school agriculture, farmed, and was a garden designer. He was clearly a big influence on me. As I girl, I gardened with him. Not surprisingly, I became a serious green thumb."
Aalto said people who attend her talk at the Farmington Library can expect to be transported back to their childhood.
"People will experience an unexpected journey into their own childhoods, into the English countryside and into literature in a way that they have never experienced before," Aalto said. "The book and talk appeal to a wide swath: gardeners, travelers, book lovers, and Anglophiles. And, of course, Winnie-the-Pooh fans."
Aalto tells the story through her words and visuals, using photographs she took and combining those with historical photos of A.A. Milne and his collaborator, E. H. Shepard.
"Being an oral storyteller is fascinating," Aalto said. "I am comfortable speaking and so as I talk, I can watch the journey taking place across the faces of my audiences. Occasionally, I make people cry, but it’s always in a good way. I take the art of storytelling seriously and am honored to have enriched peoples’ experiences of arguably the most beloved and iconic setting in children’s literature."
Kathy Lindroth, of the Farmington Garden Club, has had a part in planning Aalto’s visit.
The talk is free and open to the public, not just for members of the garden club. The garden club asks that people register ahead of time if possible, by calling 860-673-6791 or visiting http://bit.ly/2z5176V.
Aalto will also be signing copies of her books, which will also be for sale at the talk.