What Is It About Bears?

J Jordan
October 29, 2009

From the time we are very small, bears play an interesting and cuddly role in our lives. From Goldilocks' encounter with a friendly, furry family of bears to the Bernsteins who helped us learn those ever-so-important life lessons to a certain best friend of Christopher Robin, bears seem to be the animal of choice to help tuck us into bed. Is it any coincidence the most prominent animals in children's literature are bears? For me, it all started with Brown Bear, Brown Bear -- an, er, big brown bear who in fact sees quite a lot. From there my -- and my kids '-- love of bears grew to encompass some of these other favorites.

Corduroy by Don Freeman. In this classic tale, a little bear, somewhat worse for wear, lives in a department store waiting for someone to love him and be his friend. One day, he finds that true friend in the form of a little girl who uses her own money to bring him home (and mend his button), but not before ample adventure at the department store where he lives. Corduroy must battle the missing button, the escalator and a security guard--who turns out to be pretty friendly--before he discovers the true meaning of "home," and "friend."

Paddington by Michael Bond. If ever there was a bear looking for a home, it would be Paddington. The bear from "the Darkest Peru" is found in and rescued from a London train station by the Brown family who follow the instructions on the note attached to him: Please look after this bear. And, Mr., Mrs., Jonathan and Judy Brown do just that, along with a host of other assorted characters who help Paddington through a series of misadventures. Delicious marmalade sandwiches and floppy hat aside, Paddington's story is a favorite of both parents and children because it is ultimately one of family.Sometimes we get to choose who our family is, and sometimes they choose us, but either way Paddington's stories teach us we are loved.

Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne. We'd be hard pressed to pick a favorite teddy bear. Luckily for us, Christopher Robin was able to pick one for himself--the indispensable Winnie the Pooh. At times aka just "Pooh," this little bear represents everything that makes friendship so important: imagination, laughter, a willingness for adventure, and the ability to just be yourself. Parents love Pooh for his soft spoken manner, sense of humor and perspective on all the happenings in the world. Kids will love Pooh for making Christopher Robin feel like the most loved little boy in the world.

Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik. You may not know the author of this series of books, who happens to be a former teacher, but you'll certainly recognize their illustrator: Maurice Sendak, best known for his book about the young leader of some wild things, lends his creative brush here. Little Bear, along with his mama Mother Bear, does everything from fly to the moon to make special soup to making new friends, all with Mother Bear there to help him over any hurdles. Best of all is that Little Bear is designed for new readers, who will feel as much accomplishment after reading one of Little Bear's stories (there are generally four to each book) as Little Bear does at the end of one of his adventures.

From the Parents

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