Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Berenstain Bears Follow God's Word

If there's anything my kids like more than a Berenstain Bear book, it's a collection of Berenstain bear stories all under one cover. Jan and Mike Berenstain's The Berenstain Bears Follow God's Word, then, is a treat, containing five books in one.

The first story in the collection is The Berenstain Bears God Loves You; Sister has hopes for a lead in the school musical, and Brother is sure he'll get on the school basketball team. But after doing their best during try-outs, they learn Sister is "just" the stage manager and brother is "just" the team manager. Depressed, both go home on a rainy day. But when the sun comes out, the Bear family heads outside to see a rainbow. Mama reminds: "The rainbow is a gift from God. It's a sign that the rain is past and the sun has come to warm the earth again. God puts the rainbow in the sky as a beautiful sign of his love for all the earth and all the creatures that he has made." Including the young bears. She also explains that while God wants us to behave well, he loves us even when we do wrong things. And Mama and Papa are proud of the cubs for taking on such responsible roles as stage manager and team manager.

Next up, is The Berenstain Bears and the Golden Rule. You can read Christine's review of this story here.

The Berenstain Bears Kindness Counts is next. In this story, Brother allows a younger cub to help him fly his prized model airplane, remembering how he felt when he was younger and Papa did the same. When the model plane crashes, Brother continues his kindness; he lets the cub know it wasn't his fault. He even lets the cub help him repair the plane. When the two go to the park to fly the plane again, Brother spots some older boys launching rockets. He asks if he can help and is at first turned down. But when they hear about how Brother let a younger cub help him, they decide he can participate in the rocket launch.

The Berenstain Bears Go to Sunday School comes next. The Bear family has been absent from church for a while because the cubs have been busy with soccer and ballet. But Mama decides it's time to start going again. They rise early - to no one's delight - and go to the little chapel. The family sings hymns together, then the children head off to Sunday School. Here, they recount the story of Noah's ark, and learn some funny things about their parents' childhoods. In the end, everyone enjoys the morning, and the cubs head off to soccer and ballet as usual.

The final story in the book is The Berenstain Bears Say Their Prayers. The cubs say their prayers every night before bed, asking God to bless those around them. But one day Brother and Sister head off to a baseball game, where they see Cousin Fred pray silently before a difficult play. Things go well for Fred and so Brother decides to pray that God will help him make a hit. Brother fails. He tells Fred, "I even tried praying like you did...But it didn't work for me." Fred confesses he only asked that God would help him stay calm and not get too scared. "Prayers are always answered," he says. "Sometimes, we just don't get the answer we expect." That night, when Sister teases Brother about his ball playing, Brother prays God will "help me out with my little sister." To his surprise, he finds he's not angry with her any more.

The book ends with questions and a few activities related to the stories.

What I Like: I read Berenstain bear books to my kids because they love them and they usually have a good moral they can apply to their lives. This collection of stories was no exception.
What I Dislike: It's strange to me that God Loves Us doesn't mention the biblical meaning of the rainbow. Kindness Counts is completely secular, although it has a good message. When I read this book to my children, I have to skip Go to Sunday School completely because my children go to "big church" with us; I also didn't like that the Bear family only dedicates the morning to God, going about their usual business the rest of the day instead of actually taking a day of rest. Finally, I wish the emphasis in Say Their Prayers was a little more on how to pray throughout the day.
Overall Rating: Very Good.

Age Appeal: preschool to first grade

Publishing Info: Zonderkidz; 2011; ISBN: 978-0310725916 ; hardback, 160 pgs., $10.99.
Buy Now at Amazon for $9.99; purchase the Kindle edition for $7.99

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