As you might expect, The Berenstain Bears Play a Good Game, written and illustrated by Jan and Mike Berenstain, is a story about playing a game. In this case, the game is soccer, as both Brother and Sister Bear are avid soccer players. They are both on the same team, the Rockets, which is coached by Papa Bear. He doesn’t know much about soccer but he knows how to cheer his team on. And, their motto is the old familiar one: “It’s not whether you win or lose that counts, but how you play the game.” But one team in the league, the Steamrollers, has the opposite motto. Their coach tells them, “It isn’t how you play the game that counts, but whether you win or lose!”
When the two teams meet up, of course there is trouble. The Steamrollers “roll” right over the Rockets. For the most part, the Steamrollers play fair, but the Rockets are just no match for them. When the score is 5-0 in favor of the Steamrollers, things start to heat up. Brother and Sister Bear set up a sneaky play that scores them their first goal of the game. Then the biggest player on the opposing team, Too-Tall, fouls Sister Bear, knocking her flat on her back. She’s okay, but Papa Bear is concerned about his daughter so Papa starts yelling at the coach of the opposing team. The ref tries to keep them apart, but he’s helpless to control the situation when everyone starts spilling out of the stands and onto the field.
The excitement is quelled when an old bear, Missus Ursula, a former Sunday school teacher, comes onto the field. She shames both the coaches who are former students in her Sunday school class. “I’m very disappointed with both of you,” she says. “Is this the way I taught you to behave in my Sunday school? Is this any sort of example to set for the cubs?” When she quotes the Bible, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God,” she has the two coaches shake hands. The game then continues with both sides playing fair.
As with all the “Living Lights” series of books, there is a section at the back of the book called “Activities and Questions from Brother and Sister Bear.” There are two questions about what the reader thinks of the story and three different sports-related activities for kids.
The illustrations are the typical, bright, cartoon-like pictures used in all Berenstain Bear picture books.
What I Like: I like the fact that Missus Ursula quoted a Bible verse in her dialogue. A different Bible verse, Matthew 5:16, is given on the title page as the basis for the story.
What I Dislike: I like reading new Berenstain Bear books as I like to see what new topics the series covers. Sportsmanship is always a good topic for a children’s book. But I was a bit disappointed with this story ending; I think it was a bit too predictable. I’m not sure how I would have changed it to make it better, but I think the issue should have been resolved by someone other than Missus Ursula.
Overall Rating: However, the overall rating is still very good.
Age Appeal: 4-8.
Publisher Info: Zonderkidz, 2009; ISBN: 0310712521; Paperback, $3.99.
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Special Info: Read our other reviews of Berenstain Bears books.