Wednesday, January 04, 2012

My Berenstain Bears Rant

I've been meaning to blog this for a long time.  But now I have a free minute at lunch and finally remembered to do it.

So as a kid I LOVED the Berenstain Bear books. Loved them.  My mom did too and I think she still has like 30 of them.  Naturally, I bought them for my kids too and my sister contributed to our collection with a bunch of used ones from the 80's.  We read them frequently and I've always loved the little lesson you learn at the end of the books, usually courtesy of Mama since Papa can be a bit of a dolt.  The year that I was pregnant with Piper, I bought Caroline and Bryce The Birds, the Bees and the Berenstain Bears along with And Baby Makes Five - both really great books to prepare for a new baby and all the usual questions.  Although I did think it was odd (Spoiler Alert if you didn't know the Bear family had another baby) that the Bear Family named their baby "Honey" considering their names are Mama, Papa, Sister and Brother.  And for that matter, why did Mama and Papa bear name their first kid "Brother" when he didn't even have any siblings yet?  Why did Mike and Jan Berenstain not give this family real names?  Have Mama and Papa really been named Mama and Papa since they were born?  My kids get a real laugh out of this argument every time it comes up.   Sometimes we'll pretend we're the bears and name each other our titles - talk about a hoot!

My personal BB favorite is The Trouble with Grownups.  If you haven't read it, it's great for both kids and parents.  I love when Mama and Papa dress up and act like the kids.  I'd love to do that to my kids one day!

Anyhow, as time has gone on we've continued our collection of the Bear family books some old, and some new.  A few years back, my mom gave the kids The Berenstain Bears and the Bedtime Battle.  I admit, I was looking forward to reading it hoping for some ideas from the wise Bears to help with out nightly bedtime battle. WRONG!  This book is the pits.  There is no lesson, it's just a lame story about how rambunctious the cubs are and how it wears the parents out.  In the end, the parents end up falling asleep and the kids read to themselves.  I remember finishing reading it and thinking, WTH?  Where's my lesson?  Where's my Mama Bear wisdom?

That book was written in 2004 and while it says Stan and Jan Berenstain on the cover, based on the artwork it's pretty clear that the couple's son, Mike, had already taken over since Stan Berenstain died shortly after in 2005.  And I must say, old Stan must have been been the brains behind all the wise adages from Mama Bear because since he's been out of the picture, the books have really lost their way.

I will say though, The Berenstain Bears: Sick Days is a decent book even if it doesn't really have a lesson.  It's a really good depiction of what it's like to be home all day with kids, especially somewhat sick ones.  Every time I read it to one of the kids I think how well it shows how a parents' time is spent just keeping the house together when kids are afoot.  Maybe good old Jan had some input in this one.

And then finally, my last rant about the Bear books is that their son Mike has now taken the series into a religious direction as well with the Living Lights series.  Not a problem if you're religious and ascribe to a particular faith, but if you're not religious and not expecting to be going in a completely different direction than usual with the Bear Family, you'll kind of be caught off guard.  (We received one as a gift and even the kids were like, "What's up with that book? It's weird.")  I didn't think about it again until my cousin's husband asked me if we'd seen the new Bear family books - I guess they ended up with one for their daughter too and were not impressed either.  But for the record we really DO like the Berenstain Bears Count their Blessings from 1995 - thanks, Stan!  A great book reminding us of how important it is to be grateful for the good things in our lives without being innately religious.

Thankfully the Berenstain Bear series on PBS is based solely on the original Bear books with great lessons and stories and the kids really enjoy that.  I'm glad that the series is fairly timeless and the kids can relate to them.  So we'll stick to the old Stan-era books and keep reaping from Mama Bear's wisdom.

1 comment:

Lauren said...

Too funny- I love your rants! I used to love those books as a kid... but haven't picked one up in about 20 years!
It's funny looking back at books or movies as an adult- I always find it fascinating to watch the old Christmas cartoons now (like Rudolph and Frosty!) So weird.