Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Big Book of the Berenstain Bears

So I've been giving some thought to the types of books I read as an adolescent, but what about the books from even earlier? The picture books? Once again I wish I could tout some high-falutin lit cred from way back in the day, but what I come up with is almost just nonsense. Bookish poppycock, oh, but GOOD bookish poppycock. I loved Amelia Bedelia, Jillian Jiggs, Miss Rumphius (who was not nonsense). Etc. etc. But most of all I did love The Berenstain Bears.

And so I was excited about the re-issue of Big Book of the Berenstain Bears by Stan and Jan Berenstain, and by the chance to go back in time and remember why I liked these books so much. This book is actually five books in one, in which the Bears have a new baby (she appears while Brother and Papa are in the woodshed), get a sitter (nicer than she seems), are afraid of the dark (solution=nightlight), go to the doctor (won't hurt a bit), and clean their room. A little preachy (life is better when you keep your closet tidy), and not so fashionable in terms of gender roles, but still these are nice little stories. Perhaps they are more suitable for application to real life than flights of the imagination, but this big book would strike me as sensible to have around in the event of children, and five in one is good value to boot.

So where did my fierce love of this series stem from? Upon careful consideration of this compendium, I have managed to trace my attraction back to the Berenstain Bears' tree house. Marvelously pink with chimneys and windows in the boughs, I wanted to live in a house just like it. I think I also used to be fascinated by the way the Berenstain Bears kept popping up in Dr. Seuss easy-reads, thus existing in multiple literary dimensions. That Brother Bear was never identified by name in the Dr. Seuss books only added to his allure, and made him much more cool and mysterious than might be suggested by the stories in which he collects birds' nests, or peels down to his underpants for a booster shot.