Monday, May 26, 2008

The Big Honey Hunt

The Big Honey Hunt
Stanley and Janice Berenstain
Random House, 1962

The very first in the currently overexploited franchise (edited at Random House Beginner Books by Dr. Seuss himself), it is easy to see why kids get such a kick out of these books. Like some Homer Simpson of children's literature, the early titles in the series featured a Papa Bear who was more of a lovable dunce, always screwing things up and getting easily outsmarted by his own two kids.

The drawings here are primitive compared to the current incarnation of the family Bear, but there is something in their simplicity that makes them irresistible even today. The Big Honey Hunt quite literally makes my son squeal out loud repeatedly, then jump up and down, and finally throw his arms around my neck whilst flopping his head back, guffawing hysterically. A laugh riot guaranteed.

We ate our honey.
We ate a lot.
Now we have no honey in our honey pot.

Go get some honey.
Go get some more.
Go get some honey from the honey store.

We will go for honey.
Come on Small Bear!
We will go for honey and I know where.

The store...
She said to get it there.

Not at the store.
Oh, no, Small Bear.

If a bear is smart.
If a bear knows how.
He goes on a honey hunt.
Watch me now

Papa and Small Bear get skunked by skunks, chased by bees, attacked by an owl and scared by a porcupine before...

...they get smart and do what Mama told them to do in the first place.

The couple who would later be have their pen names shorten to Stan and Jan started out doing cartoons in the 40s and had a pretty exceptional love story. I give huge kudos to artists who are able to spend a life creating in partnership with the one they love. Such an inspiration. Stan died in 2005 at age 82, and Jan still writes and illustrates occasionally with their son Mike. While I find the current Berenstain Bear books to be overwritten, boring and pretty dorky (don't get me wrong though, my son still has a huge collection and for the most part they all stay in high rotation), these early works are a real joy. Check out Inside Outside Upside Down '68, Bears on Wheels '69, Old Hat New Hat '70 and Bears in the Night '71. Sooo good. (Plus, if anyone can find me a reasonably priced copy of The Bears’ Activity Book circa 1979, I will give you naming rights on my second born.)

Also by:
Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree
The Bears' Activity Book
The Bears' Nature Guide
The Bears' Almanac


Dave Munger said...

My parents used to read this aloud to us replacing the word "honey" with "money." My sister and I thought that was hilarious.

Unknown said...

I have this book but it is blue and Dad Bear is wearing yellow instead of blue overalls, little bears pants are yellow, the pale is yellow and the bee trail is yellow.

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