I realized, when I wrote that last post, that I've posted on this topic before, which means no doubt that I will have to add it as a category and go back and retroactively tag all the posts that it makes sense with, which should happen along about the time I create a list of all the books mentioned on this site and also buy new bras. Yep, anytime now.
But I was thinking of the long list of things I didn't understand (oh, it is so long) and within that list the books that appealed to my children for reasons I could not fathom, and I came to the origin: the book whose appeal I was so entirely helpless to explain that I eventually just recycled it in hopes of exorcising its creepy bewitching power from my house.
That's right: it's the bears.
Now, I know there's a lot of hate out there for the bears. And yes, I understand it. My husband is particularly horrified by their countrified aspect: Papa's overalls, his hayseed hat, the whole "mama and papa" thing in general (though it must be said that in our daily struggle against the mess and chaos of living with children, he will not-so-rarely cite The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room for helpful tips on how to get more organized). My mother-in-law was particularly offended by these books and their general, in her view, badness.
But the children? My children? Other people's children? Any child I have ever experienced? They LOVE them. And none more than the one above. We took this book with us on vacation once when we were vacationing with another family. The kids were not that little: maybe 5 and 9? But this book was like the ring of power. Everyone (under 10) wanted it, and whoever had it would read it reverently, surrounded by the others who peered over his or her shoulders in the hopes of a tiny life-giving peek while the holder of the book had to be forced to give it up. It was crazy; every parent had to read it for a bedtime book, and once one did the whole troop of kids would scurry to the next parent who could be suckered into reading it.
All of which makes me hesitate to deem it worthless. Surely its powerful pull means something? Though I suppose methamphetamine exerts a powerful pull. But the bears don't end up with you stealing from your relatives and losing all your teeth! Mostly, anyway.
But what is it? Here are some theories: most kids find our actions just as incomprehensible as we do theirs. And these books strive to make our actions somewhat comprehensible. Or maybe it's just so freaking reassuring: they approach all these daunting topics of daily life and worry, and invariably come up with the message that everything is fine! And will continue to be fine! I myself tried to launch a hashtag on twitter, #berenstainbearsbooksforgrownups, that never quite took off (imagine!) in the hopes that we could create a whole series of books to reassure us that everything would be fine, it's all going to be fine, we promise! The Berenstain Bears and the Bedbugs! The Berenestain Bears and the Kid Who Failed Spanish! The Berenstain Bears and the Balloon Mortgage Payment. The Berenstain Bears Sounds reassuring, right?
I don't know. I just know that wow, that's one crazy appealing thing they've got going. I wonder how it works.