I Defy You: The Care Bears Challenge

We have been absent, far away on a family vacation that, in a surprise turn, included an interesting four-year-old gentleman and his charming seven-year-old sister, my nephew and niece.

It's always a bit astonishing to revisit ages your own children have left behind. It's vaguely familiar, though a bit different, of course, with different people. It's far more work than you can quite imagine doing anymore, if you're me.

And then there are the books.

The young gentleman was a forceful stubborn sort of person, and sometimes it was imperative to do what one could to bring him to a more restful, congenial state of mind. How I do this—for myself, as well as everyone else—is with books.

We went through Pinocchio, The Foot Book, and a host of others, while I craftily tried to make sure one book in particular always ended up on the bottom of the pile.

It couldn't last forever.

Eventually, he spotted it. And then, with large and adorable pleading eyes, he maintained "I really, really want to read this one." I'd learned (or at least I thought I'd learned) my lesson about sneering at sweet, benign children's books. How bad could it be?

This is how I ended up reading the Care Bears book.

Which Care Bears book? I have no idea. Mercifully the title has vanished from my memory. But the experience has not. It started with the fly leaf, on which each Care Bear is…defined? Described? Their tummy pictures are decoded. Their redundancies are not addressed (aren't Tenderheart Bear and Love-a-lot Bear essentially the same? Also Funshine Bear and Cheer Bear? They're the same!).

There were many questions: What's on Birthday Bear's tummy? (For those who need to know: a cupcake.) What is Grumpy Bear doing? (Uh, thinking? Maybe?) Which one is your favorite? (No comment.)

Then we began to read. And it was SO MUCH WORSE than thought it would be. The forcefully expressed Main Point: You must FEEL YOUR FEELINGS. The cloying action: Funshine Bear slid off a cloud and said….  The creepy rules of their kingdom: The Caretaker. I mean, WHAT is the Caretaker? Am I alone in thinking that sounds like the title of a Stephen King novel? Why and how does he control the bears? Branded forever on my poor old brain is this creepy page: The Caretaker took a break from polishing a rainbow and said, "Care Bears, you're needed!"

And now we have come to my sin: I read the whole book in the Voice. You know, the ironic can-you-believe-this-saccharine-crap voice. And I could. not. stop.

I really couldn't. I tried! Really. I would look at this very nice little boy, who, you know, believed in some essential way in this message, and I tried to go back to just reading aloud. But then I would get to "Sally said, 'Kevin, you have to FEEL your FEELINGS," and I would just start snarking away again. There seemed to be no other option.

So here's the challenge. YOU try it. You read a full-length, no joking around for real Care Bears book ALL THE WAY THROUGH. And YOU see if you can do it without using the nicey-nice sarcastic voice. I don't think it is humanly possible.*

There is one nice and yet disturbing thing: he didn't seem to notice. At all. Which makes me wonder: is it possible that they are written to be read in this tone? That it's all some kind of meta-scam? Maybe the ghost of Hunter S. Thompson is in there with a bottle of tequila and a shotgun turning these out?

No. Right?

* I am aware that a gratifying number of you are librarians, and no doubt you read this sort of thing snark-free every day. Which more or less means that I'm just a bad person. Alas.

12 thoughts on “I Defy You: The Care Bears Challenge

  1. I might die of laughter. No, you are not alone. No, the sweet children don’t notice, although I do recall with painful clarity, when my daughter gave me the stink eye over a Berenstain Bears book when she was about five. Yes, I was reading with the Voice. I just hope I can control it by the time grandchildren roll around. Snarky grandmothers seem wrong somehow.

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  2. I am now saying prayers of thanks that the Care Bears did not make it into our house. Berenstain Bears? Yes. As well as some others that are equally horrifying. And, for what its worth? I don’t think it is possible to read them normally either. But even a whole class of kindergartners didn’t notice. (Disclaimer: I only read them when kids chose the book.)

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  3. All this time I have been confusing Care Bears with Bearenstein Bears (the latter is not great but not worth gouging one’s eyes out in lieu of reading as Care Bears seem to be). My bad. Care Bears do sound infinitely worse. We only had one Bearenstein Bears book that made its way into our house and it was not much in the reading aloud rotation (thank goodness).

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  4. Hysterical. Well, you’re a better woman than I because I JUST WON’T get her a crap book or see a crap movie or listen to (well, you get the idea) music in the car. Selfish mom? Yes, I guess so, and I’m sure I’m going to pay the price when she rebels and joins the John Birch Society as a preteen, but right now she can recognize Bob Marley on the radio and distinguish between a John and a Paul song, so I’m up.

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  5. you are so funny, I love it.
    I don’t read those horrible books in a particular voice, but I will add my own lines to the text, making fun of the whole ridiculous “story.” (This is when I read to my daughter, by the way.)
    “Does it really say that?” says my daughter. “Read it the right way.” Oh, she doesn’t know how hard that is.

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  6. I can’t stand most books based on tv shows or movies … they come into our house, but then quietly (and when I’m lucky, quickly) disappear. Bye, bye, Dora, Strawberry, Blue, Spiderman, Woody, McQueen …

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  7. I laughed out loud reading this post. We avoided the care bears, but I remember trying to hide “Barbie & The Nutcracker” from my younger daughter.

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  8. Loved this. One clarifying point: children’s librarians have less tolerance for saccharine kids’ books than anyone else in the *world*. For example: To a bunhead, they/we despise The Giving Tree, Love You Forever, and The Rainbow Fish. I’ve never met a children’s librarian who didn’t. And don’t even get me started on the mass-market stuff.
    And unlike parents, who often feel duty-bound to read aloud whatever tripe their children press upon them (albeit with gritted teeth, thinking grimly to themselves “at least s/he loves books…”), children’s librarians get to choose what they read aloud, so they almost never have to assume this Voice of which you speak. But I assure you that if a children’s librarian were forced, professionally, to read The Care Bares or any of their ilk aloud, 95% of them would snark it up like anything. Or quit in disgust on the spot.

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