First, I let loose on Clifford, now I’m going to trash another icon of Children’s literature – the Bear Family.
Created by the dearly deceased Stan & Jan Berenstain, the Bear Family series, better known as the Berenstain Bears, occupies four sections of prime shelf space in my local library. They are the first books the kids see when they enter the library, being just inside the door and inticingly at eye level for a four-year old. They frequently leave the shelf and come home in my library bag, much to my chagrin.
The best of the books focus on a specific childhood experience. Every child preparing to move should have a copy of the Berenstain Bears’ Moving Day. I also give high marks to the easy reader series that includes The Road Race, The A Book and one of my all time favorite children’s books – The B Book. Seriously – if you haven’t seen that one, get it and read it aloud, even if you have to borrow a child. These are the few non-preachy books as well.
It’s the rest of the books that make me almost as cranky as Mama Bear. You know Mama Bear, frequently introduced as happy, friendly, cheerful Mama Bear, at least until you turn the page and she’s frowning, nagging and ready to throttle one of the cubs. Oops. I’m sorry. Mama Bear would never resort to violence. She’s far too passive aggressive for that, which is why we need Papa Bear.
Papa Bear has two distinct moods – terrifyingly angry and buffoon. When angry, he screams, pounds on furniture and throws one heck of a tantrum. That the cubs are inclined towards melodramatic fits should come as no surprise to anyone who has heard the adage “children learn by example.” The rest of the time, he’s an idiot. He needs the cubs and Mama to show him the error of his ways, whether it comes to recycling, eating healthy or treating others in a thoughtful manner. By the end of the book, he’s realized his mistake and vows to make a change for the better. inevitably, for each good habit he picks up, he develops three new ones, hence the proliferation of Berenstain Bear books.
The Berenstain Bear books seem to be as much about how parents should behave as kids. And more often than not, the parents display poor decision-making and a lack of thoughtfulness. No wonder the kids are in trouble so much.
As we approach Father’s Day, let’s put the Bear Family into retirement. Treat Pops with some respect and read Sam McBratney’s Guess How Much I Love You.”