Monday, 12 October 2015

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You Read?

Greetings. Brown Bear's the name. After great discussions with Matt's mater we agreed that I would be the best one to write a Bear Book Blog post. I wasn't entirely sure what a blog was but I understand that I get to have my say on my favourite books and that suits me just fine. The mater will type it up as my lack of fingers rather hinders the process.

I imagine you would like to know of my credentials before we commence? I am a rather fine specimen of bear who lives at a lovely Montessori nursery. I spend my days watching the children play and grow. On some weekends and holidays I am invited to visit one of the children in their own habitat. As a highly evolved and civilised creature I have a suitcase and I will travel. This year, in our corner of The Shire, the children were fortunate to have a seven week summer holiday. I was somewhat concerned that this would have been an awfully long time to sit on a shelf on my own but I was told that I would be going to spend the holidays with Matt.(I am not sure how I feel about shortening his name but his mater has ultimate editorial control). Matt was excited that he was the chosen one. The mater was very excited (overBEARingly so). I was determined to reserve my judgment until I had seen the bed and breakfast arrangements. 

All was in order at the homestead so I eased my frown and tried to settle in. Bears are pretty adaptable, you know. Look at Paddington. I was most happy when the first evening commenced with a bear book session. 


On my visits to the various nursery children I have been read many books- mainly about bears. I consider myself quite an expert and I feel the need to share the bear books that I enjoy and, most importantly, the books that put us bears in a good light.

Bear Necessities
I feel compelled to mention Winnie The Pooh and the aforementioned Paddington Bear immediately. However I do not intend to spend time discussing their collections of books. Firstly, there are so many books to consider. Second, they are both givens, classics, and I would like to think that you do not need me to tell you that they are a vital part of a child's reading list.  Third, the books are a little older than the books Matt and the mater are reading at the moment so they will fully embrace them in the near future: when the mention of Pooh Corner does not make the Mater grab the wipes. Finally, I have a problem with these celebrities of bear literature. There is a lot to learn about the world from Winnie the Pooh and a lot to learn about society from Paddington but their popular personae have overshadowed the stories. The Disneyfication of Winnie The Pooh and the latest Paddington film have diverged from the beauty of the original tales. Winnie the pooh is most intelligent writing; it is philosophical and wise. Yet it has been reduced to a an oversized keyring on a handbag. All the merchandise has sucked the soul out of Winnie the Pooh and gang. It saddens me. I say take back the toys, duvet set, and jumper, and READ the books. Similarly, whilst Paddington is a fitting icon for us bears far from home, trying to assimilate, it is his books that tell our plight and they tell it better that the latest movie. I am, of course, bitter because these bears are the reason that the world thinks we just eat honey or marmalade. For the record, my favourite food is cake. 
Yawn. I need a rest after all that growling...

Bear faced cheek
Another classic that you may be surprised to see omitted from my list is We're Going On A Bearhunt. As a Montessori bear I believe children need to play. So whilst I support the adventurous spirit of the children I am obviously totally opposed to bearhunting: real or pretend; actual or implied. I may need to ask Nicola at the nursery to only read the book when I am on my holidays. I do like the ending whereby the bear is left in peace but the story leaves me cold. Some of us left the cave a long time ago. For the ones that stayed this story is far from comforting. Neither is Matt a great fan. He has reached the point where his Grandad can read a sedate version at his house but under no circumstances can that book enter the sanctuary of his bedroom. The mater says it is a classic but she has never had a book inviting children to hunt her down. No persecution, no comment.

Bear Essentials

One book that children enjoy reading with me is Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Matthew's cousins read it to me at the library and very nice it was too. The illustrations are typical of Eric Carle. However, I wish he had persuaded the author to give Brown Bear more of a character and, most importantly, some of the food from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. This book is an essential introduction to colours and animals. I am, of course, biased since the book shares my name.

Postman Bear by Julia Donaldson is another great bear book. The rhymes are easy for young children to memorise and join in with. They also love the flaps but I find them difficult to open with my paws. I like this book because Postman Bear actually bakes his own cake thus proving that we are resourceful and capable creatures. We can make cakes without making a mess too- take note, Paddington. I would like to think that the lead character is a professional postman but I fear he is an amateur as he does not wear a uniform. JD missed as opportunity here as it is important to show young bears the range of career paths available. Criticism withstanding, this book is an essential lift the flap book. 

Peace at Last by Jill Murphy is one of my favourite books. Matt's book has a note inside which warns that it belongs to Emma Williams. I have no idea who she is but the book seems older than me and I am sure she won't mind my reading it. The story is about a Papa bear trying to get to sleep in his noisy home. The anxiety of not being able to find a place to sleep amuses me but Matt's mater says she really relates to it. She also says that Jill Murphy really understands parenthood. I love the story because it paints a true and lovely portrait of a civilised bear family in an ordinary life.  I also get to see this endless night play out in many a home that I visit. It is, all in all, an essential bedtime tale- as long as your child does not take on the role of the lively son at bedtime. 

Hugless Douglas by David Melling puts the bear into bear hug. This is a heartwarming and funny tale about a bear seeking his best hug. It is what semi-wild bears are about. I love Hugless Douglas' pyjamas and his big indulgent yawns but I do wonder where his manners are. I have never blown my nose on a rabbit's bottom. Nor do I intend to. The best thing about reading this book is that Matt gives out huge hugs afterwards. It is an essential cuddle book. 

Bear With
The Great Paper Caper by Oliver Jeffers is an entertaining read. It starts off with trees mysteriously being chopped down. We then meet a bear who appears to be ethically challenged. As the story unfolds you are taken through a criminal investigation and you get to hear the bear's plight. You are drawn in to the woods and wonder how it will be resolved. But all ends well. If you bear with this story it will stay with you. It has two great messages too- teamwork and tree protection. The book was HarperCollins' first picture book to be printed on The Forest Stewardship paper so my bear relations stand to benefit too. This is an essential book for championing not just literary bears but real ones too.

So, bear you have it. These are my recommendations. I urge you to read about bears but please read widely to avoid typecasting. Some of us have suitcases and pyjamas. Some of us live in woods, semi detached houses, or caves. Some like privacy, some like hugs, some have animal pals, and some have human companions. But all bears have a tail to tell. 

Hearts laid Bear
This is the rest of the tail of my summer with Matt.

Farewell Friends, BB.

Bearly Made it
After a tearful parting with Brown Bear (Matt cried a little too) we had to rebuild our lives. We decided to console ourselves with a library trip. It was here that we discovered a fantastic new bear book. Grrrrr by Rob Biddulph is the story of two bears competing to be the best bear in the wood. The story is entertaining, the illustrations are bold and colourful, and I love the inventive use of speech bubbles. Brown Bear would have loved this funny book about friendship as much as we did. Maybe the next child to have BB could read it to him. Please? And maybe, if you see him, remember me to him? Thanks.

Reading more  bear books than usual made a nice change from the horse and dragon tales that shaped the summer. But of course this is only part of the story.

The Third Law of Matt: When life hands you a bear turn him into a viking.

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