Faith Based Berenstain Bears
Bruce Von Stiers
Stan and Jan Berenstain enjoyed a long and endearing career writing and illustrating children’s books. Their Berenstain Bears series is still among the top sellers of children’s literature. Their son Michael joined them about 20 years ago, helping write and illustrate children’s books. Stan died in 2005 but that didn’t stop Jan and Michael from moving forward.
One of the latest things to come from the Berenstain clan is a new series. Well, that’s not exactly true. The series actually features the Berenstains Bear family and their friends. But it takes the young, and old, reader in a slightly different direction. The team of Jan and Michael Berenstain have now put forth several faith based books featuring the Berenstain Bears.
I recently had a chance to check out several books in this new series. The titles of those books were The Berenstain Bears and the Golden Rule, The Berenstain Bears Give Thanks, The Berenstain Bears Faithful Friends and The Berenstain Bears Go To Sunday School.
The first book, The Berenstain Bears and the Golden Rule, is about that golden rule from the Bible. You know the one, “do to others what you would have them do to you.” The saying is actually biblical scripture. It is from the New Testament book of Matthew, the seventh chapter, verse twelve. This version of the scripture was taken from the NIV bible.
The main character focus in the book is on Sister. This is the daughter of Mama and Papa Berenstain. She has received a heart-shaped locket from her parents. But instead of a picture inside it, the locket was inscribed with the Golden Rule. But Sister couldn’t quite grasp the significance of the saying.
That is, until a new girl comes to school. All alone and not being readily accepted, Suzy MacGrizzie is your typical nerdy new kid at school. Unstylish clothes, braces on her teeth, glasses and goofy pigtails made Suzy far less than cool. Sister feels a bit guilty about not befriending Suzy just because she was a little different. Of course, by the end of the book everything works out fine.
The inside back cover of the book has a couple of questions and three activities to do. The questions ask if you’ve ever been treated badly and if you’ve acted towards someone in a way that you wouldn’t want to have done to you. The activities include writing out the Golden Rule and putting it on your bedroom wall.
The second book that I looked at was The Berenstain Bears Give Thanks. The story once again centers around Sister Bear. This time, the family has been given a turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner. But this is in the Fall and the turkey is still alive. The farmer who has him, named the turkey Squanto, after the first Native Bear to help the Pilgrims. Sister doesn’t want to eat Squanto, she wants him as a pet. But Papa Bear points out that turkeys don’t make good pets.
Things move forward and as the holiday approaches, Sister is constantly visiting Squanto. But she soon forgets him as the cubs are preparing for a play about the first Thanksgiving. The play is a success and ultimately Sister gets what she wants out of the holiday.
The scripture that formed the basis for this story is taken from the book of Psalms in the Old Testament. The verse is Psalm 92:1.
Questions at the back of the book asks what the reader is thankful for and has an activity where you write out a Thanksgiving story.
The third book is The Berenstain Bears Faithful Friends. This book also features Sister Bear. She is now spending a lot of time with Suzy MacGrizzie. So much time in fact, that her best friend Lizzie, seems to be a bit jealous.
Sister doesn’t seem to realize that she’s hurt Lizzie’s feelings until her brother points it out. Then he helps make amends by inviting the whole gang to go fishing.
There is a very specific passage from the Bible mentioned in the book that helps Sister figure out things. And the scripture that forms the foundation for the story is Proverbs 27:10, “Do not forsake your friend.”
The food for thought questions at the end of the book include asking if you’ve invited new friends to join your social circle.
The final book that I looked at in this new series is The Berenstain Bears Go To Sunday School. The scripture is one of the Beatitudes. It is Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
The story begins with the Berenstain Bear family extremely busy on Sunday morning. Their activities are so numerous on that day of the week that they no longer go to church. But Mama Bear feels that the family needs to start going back to church.
So the family sets out the next Sunday for church. There the cubs realize the importance of church and going to and participating in Sunday School. They hear the story of Noah’s Ark and do some arts and crafts activities too.
The activity section has the reader draw or paint their favorite bible story. There is also a question about how different the Berenstain Bears church is different from the readers.
The series is well written and drawn. None of the integrity of character drawing has been lost. Mike and Jan have taken a lot of time and effort to make the characters as true to form as when the Berenstain Bears were first drawn and viewed.
And adding faith based content to the stories opens up the series to a potentially whole new audience. I know that some parents are extremely careful about what books their children read or have read to them. These new books, based on biblical scripture, will probably fit into any faith based children’s reading criteria.
The series is being published by Zondervan under their Zonderkids division. They are part of that division’s Living Lights area.
The books that I have talked about here are available at selected online and traditional book retailers.
To learn more about this wonderful new series from the Berenstain family, visit www.berenstainbears.com.
© 2009 Bruce E Von Stiers