Big brown bear, blue bull, beautiful baboon, blowing bubbles biking backwards…

(The Berenstain’s B Book)

Jan Berenstain is no more – she passed away today. I don’t know of any author who had more of an influence on my kids when wee little. We used to say all the words to the B Book when we drove in the car – it kept the kids amused as they waited for the louder sound effects.

My middle child loved the Berenstain books more than anything else. I think the somewhat heavy moralizing tone appealed to his budding guilt complex. He learned to “read” them, memorizing the entire books well before actually learning to read.  He asked for the newest ones whenever we went to a bookstore, saved them in his bookshelves in the only ordered part of his bedroom, asked for them at every bedtime story time.

I never quite got it. In the stories, the mother was always wise, the father always bumbling, the kids always learning some moral tale or another. It all seemed a little heavy to me, like the Duchess’ chin on Alice’s shoulder in “Through the Looking Glass”.

But he wanted them, and so we read. And read. And read. The covers wore off.

Eventually my son learned to read on his own, for real, and started exploring other worlds. The other kids moved on, too, and the books eventually went to goodwill for someone else to enjoy.

Except for that B Book.

That one is permanently in my brain circuitry.

“… and that’s what broke baby bird’s balloon.”

Cheers, Jan – I just know you have a circle of children sitting around you where you are, rapt and enchanted.

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