Monday, October 15, 2007
In The Berenstain Bears and the Big Question, written and illustrated by Stan and Jan Berenstain, Mama and Papa Bear attempt to answer the “big question.” When Sister Bear asks, “What’s God?” Papa Bear launches into a long, boring lecture about the universe; Mama tries to answer the question by showing Sister that God made everything, like clouds and trees and worms. But, when Sister continues to ask, “What about earthquakes, floods, fires, and tornadoes?” Mama is at a loss on how to respond.
So, she takes her family to the chapel in the woods where they attend a Sunday morning service (although, according to the storyline, they are not accustomed to doing so). The minister, instead of delivering a sermon that particular morning, allows members of the congregation to speak. Farmer Ben says, “I feel thankful to God for giving us such a beautiful land in which to live.” Grizzly Gran then says, “I feel thankful to God for two wonderful cubs.” Mama Bear takes a turn by saying, “. . . I’m glad we came this morning. It helps me think things through.”
The story ends after the service, on the walk home, when Sister Bear asks, “Did God make questions?” Papa answers by saying, “Yes, sister, mostly questions.”
The illustrations in the book are bright, colorful, whimsical pictures of the Berenstain Bear family and friends. Most illustrations cover a single page, but there are a few double-page spreads, as well as two pages that contain several small cameo-like illustrations on each page.
What I Like: This is not the usual type of Berenstain Bear book. They tend to stick to subjects that deal with family and personal values, like being honest, taking turns, and saying you’re sorry. So, I was glad to see them write a book with a Christian perspective.
What I Dislike: But, having said that, I must also say I was disappointed with the way they tackled the subject. No one in the book really answers the question, “What’s God?” When Mama is at a loss to explain things to Sister, she takes her to church, but she doesn’t even ask the minister for help. Then, at the end of the story, where Papa says God made mostly questions, the implication is, of course, that we have plenty of questions about things but no answers. There is no mention of any Biblical reference for answers to any of Sister’s questions.
Overall Rating: Okay.
Age Appeal: 4-8.
Publisher Info: Random House Books for Young Readers, 1999; ISBN: 0679889612; Paperback: $3.99.
Special Info: Visit the Berenstain's website.