First, I've never read a Berenstain Bear book that was written entirely in rhyme; this one is. I've also never read a single Berenstain Bear book that was so long; this one is 72 pages.
I didn't find the rhyming troublesome. It wasn't always perfect, but it did the job. But while long books don't bother my preschooler, I found myself thinking, "Where is this book going? Is it ever going to end?"
The book begins by quoting the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12), then proceeds to tell the story of how Papa Bear is obsessed with finding just the right Christmas tree. Although Mama Bear suggests stopping at Grizzly Gus' tree lot, Papa insists on taking Brother and Sister out to cut down their own tree - even though it looks like snow. Papa takes them way out in the wilderness, and each time he thinks he's found the perfect tree, they discover animals living in it. Finally, when Papa peeks into one tree and sees a humble snowbird family making their Christmas tree from a bare twig, Papa sees the light. He decides Christmas is a time "to think of the other guy." So the three-some heads back into town to Grizzly Gus' tree lot.
When they get there, though, all the trees are sold. Sad because it looks like they'll spend this Christmas without a tree, Brother, Sister, and Papa head home - to discover all the animals whose homes they didn't chop down have decorated their tree house, trunk to tree top, with Christmas tree ornaments.
Delighted, the Bear family looks up and sees a very special bright star in the sky above their tree house. "It was the light of the real Christmas star!"
"The Christmas spirit shone down that night.What I Like: The illustrations in this book are delightfully full of detail. My preschooler had a great time studying the pictures of Bear Country decked out for Christmas. And the message of the book, that we should do to others as we'd have them do to us, is an excellent one.
It filled the whole sky with a lovely light.
It charged the cold, clear Bear Country air.
It filled the heart of every bear,
And their fellow creatures,
one and all,
great and small."
What I Dislike: This book rambles. The story is simple, yet it takes the authors a long time to tell it. Still, my four year old likes it. Also, while I think good things can come of Christian publishers offering books that are subtly Christian (thereby opening up the audience that might read the book), I find it disheartening a Christian company would publish a Christmas book that says Christmas is about something other than Jesus' birth.
Overall Rating: Good.
Age Appeal: 4 - 8.
Publishing Info: Zonderkidz, 2009; ISBN: 9978-0310719403; hardback, $12.99
Special Info: Some parents will object that a Bear version of Santa (complete with sleigh and reindeer) is pictured. (To be fair, a nativity is mentioned - although not shown in the illustrations.) Check out our other reviews of Berenstain Bear books.
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