Book Review: ‘The Berenstain Bears and NO GUNS ALLOWED’ [P320 Entry]

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By Jacob Newman

Those of us who grew up in the late 1970s and 1980s probably remember The Berenstain Bears fondly. Now that I have children of my own, I’ve been reading the books with them, and they enjoy them as much as I did when I was 4 years old. However, as an adult, I can’t help but notice the often prescriptivist and dogmatic tone. Subtle, these books are not . . .

Many times, the books provide a good and child friendly message, such as “The Trouble with Pets”, which has a well done account of both the benefits and responsibilities of caring for a dog. Then there is “Too Much Junk Food”, which leaves the message that the only acceptable snacks are dried fruit and carrot sticks. When I spotted “The Berenstain Bears and NO GUNS ALLOWED” on Amazon, I had to order it to see how this very complex issue was handled.

This book was issued as part of the Big Chapter Books series, which is aimed at older elementary school children rather than the preschool set that the picture books target. The book was produced as a response to the Columbine High incident. A glance at the chapter headings gives a feel for where this is heading.

Some samples:
1. The Culture of Violence
2. The Culture of Cliques
7. Guns in the Night
8. Mothers Against Violence

To summarize the plot, the teachers at the Bear Country school are troubled by the “culture of violence” (a phrase used dozens of times in a 105 page book) at the school. The teachers feel that violent TV and video games are to blame and call a community meeting with the mayor, the principal, and the chief of police to discuss the matter.

Mama Bear loudly supports Mrs. Bruin, who says “I think guns are awful! I don’t know why folks have to have them!” Farmer Ben complains he needs his shotgun to protect his chickens from varmints. Old Mose Mosby, the hermit who lives in the bog, proclaims that “they can have my thirty-seven guns when they pry my cold, dead fingers from their barrels.” He also comments that when the Martians invade, nobody should come to him for armed help.

In the mean time, the cubs are assigned a school project to discuss an invention of significance that has made an impact on bearkind. Too-Tall Grizzly, resident bully, and Nerdy Ferdy, resident geek, must work together and compromise on a list of inventions. “When Teacher Bob read the lists, his heart sank. The invention on both lists was… GUNS!”

Whilst the cubs watch violent TV, play cops and robbers, and play violent video games, Mama thinks there are prowlers in their shed. The police are summoned and chase off some raccoons. After the police leave, Mama proclaims “I have to admit that guns do have their proper place – and that place is in the hands of the police.”

Too-Tall and Ferdy build a repeating rubber band gun out of parts they take from Too-Tall’s father’s junkyard. Too-Tall’s father thinks there are rats sneaking around in his junk and shoots at them with his “rat gun”. Ferdy keeps his cool while Too-Tall panics, losing face in front of his gang of bullies. He decides to have revenge on Ferdy.

On presentation day, he pulls a gun on Ferdy. The SWAT team is summoned, while Too-Tall shoots Ferdy with his realistic water gun, and Ferdy shoots back with the rubber band gun. The SWAT team disarms everyone. Scoldings are passed out and everyone learns a lesson. Papa Bear proclaims that “Anger to a gun is like a lit match to gasoline: when they are put together, bad things can happen.”

Sister proclaims that “I think guns are bad, bad, bad, and they should be wiped from the face of the earth.” Mama reminds her that the police certainly need guns. Brother declares that he’s outgrown gun games. Mama concludes the book with the following thought: “while the culture of violence was a big and important problem, it wasn’t going to be a simple one to solve.”

The book is typical of the statist, gun prohibitionist camp. The message is simple: guns are evil unless they are in the hands of the police. People who have guns are either hicks or nuts, and violent TV and video games will turn you into a psychopath. It’s all as subtle as a ton of bricks.

It’s too bad, really. The Berenstains are capable of writing a decent and reasoned book, but here they’ve toed the standard statist party line. It’s not a balanced approach, it’s pure agenda. The authors had the opportunity to capitalize on their market and brand recognition to write a reasoned approach to real issues of violence in schools, which could have had an impact and made for an opportunity for real discussion, but instead they made this.

Parents might pick up a book like this thinking fondly of memories of Berenstain Bears from their childhood, but parents who are People of the Gun should stay far, far away.

comments

  1. avatar defensor fortisimo says:

    That whimpering choking noise in the background is my childhood dying.

    1. avatar joe says:

      same here buddy

    2. avatar Lord Wulfgen says:

      Me 3. I hadn’t thought about those books in many, many years. Now those memories are tainted…

    3. avatar Jim says:

      Mine too….Ugh.

      I was looking forward to reading Berenstain Bears books to my little girl when she’s old enough. Now I have something else to think over, and decided whether I need to look to other sources for children’s reading material.

      Man, I miss the days when people didn’t feel the need to be so blatantly political all the time. Politics have their place, but children’s books? Really??? Let them be kids for while.

      1. avatar lolinski says:

        You can probably get the old ones which weren’t that political.

        Also, I knew the bears seemed familiar, have seen them before just didn’t remember it. It really is sad that politics won’t stay out of childrens lives.

    4. avatar Taylor TX says:

      lol The sound is echoing in chorus throughout the interwebz

      My mother saved all of those from when I was a kid for her grand children, well frak.

      1. avatar William Burke says:

        It’s the Berenstains’ “coming out party”.

  2. avatar Oliver says:

    I used to love those books as a kid. But if I ever have kids of my own, I won’t be reading these books to them.

  3. avatar Former Water Walker says:

    I never thought much of anything about the B bears.Now I think I know why. I don’t have little kids in the home anymore but I’ll be sure to throw any B bears crap in file 13.

  4. avatar Charles5 says:

    I grew up reading the Berenstain Bears and I will not read them to my kids for one main reason. The father is portrayed as a bumbling idiot. Now, I am fully aware that the world is full of idiots and some, if not many of them, are fathers. However, I don’t want to teach my children or give them the impression that that is all fathers are or should be; simple-minded neanderthals. So much of what passes for comedy these days on TV relies on the metric of the dad playing the backwards, unsophisticated brute. It is no surprise to me that the Berenstain Bears would portray gun owners as backwards, unsophisticated brutes as well.

    1. avatar Jeff says:

      Funny that you would point that out. I remember reading the Bears and thinking that Father Bear seemed a lot like Homer Simpson, except not in a funny way.

      Mother Bear also seems to be modeled after the stereotypical overbearing Jewish mother. When I later found out that Stan Berenstain is Jewish, I figured out why – Father Bear and Mother Bear were probably his parents to a tee.

      It was not a family dynamic that I grew up with, so that part of the books seemed very unfamiliar to me.

      I also always thought the authors were Canadian when I was a kid. Maybe I had looked up the printing information in the front and saw “Printed in Canada,” but the books do have a very Canadian feel to them.

    2. avatar CentralIL says:

      Yep. This soured me on the books even before they began to propagandize for leftist causes.

    3. avatar Jim R says:

      That’s been the family sitcom formula since the late 80s. The “man” of the house (and I use this term loosely) is a stupid, grunting, henpecked lowlife. He may wear the pants but his wife tells him which ones. The wife is a shrew–a nagging, overbearing queen bitch who rules over all and is never wrong. The kids? Undisciplined, snot-nosed punks that run circles around their parents and typically get away with murder. Dad’s friends are almost without exception just as stupid or slovenly as he is.. Wife hates Dad’s friends. Wife’s friends OTOH are smart, witty and pretty–but not as smart, witty or pretty as she is. Wife’s friends hate husband. Husband hates wife’s friends. Any mutual friends will always side with wife in any dispute.

      Total garbage.

      1. avatar lolinski says:

        TV tropes even has a page on it:

        http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BumblingDad

        It started out as a parody of the all-knowing father that was one of the character archetypes in the 50’s. Now it has been forgotten and has become the new standard.

    4. avatar William Burke says:

      “The father is portrayed as a bumbling idiot.”

      It didn’t all start with MARRIED WITH CHILDREN. The “war on men” meme that portrays Daddy as the inevitable hapless, clueless fool has been around for a quite a while. All part of the war on the family, which is supposed to be the strongest unit in a society.

      They want to destroy and remake society, so the family has to go. The state will be your new family, kids. No homework, honest! And only Michelle-approved meals, good healthy grub, like Lunchables! :/

    5. avatar Just Say No to Progressives says:

      That is an integral part of the Progressive (Leftist) agenda.

      The “patriarchial family structure” must be attacked relentlessly by any and all means, in this case by mockery.

      A strong competent father would have no use for the busybodies of the Berenstains’ world, and wouldn’t tolerate their nonsense being force-fed to his children.

      And a strong family would have no use for the collectivist nonsense the Progressives are pushing. A strong family would tell the Progressives to “Mind your own damn business and leave us alone.”

      1. avatar William Burke says:

        Yeah, but it’s fully because of the patriarchical structure; some families are more culturally matriarchical.

        The point is to destroy the family – after all, it’s the most powerful structure opposing the New World Order, or whatever you want to characterize it as.

        They intend to wrest control of the village by stealing the child. They’d rather the state “take care” of children. Then they can make them into whatever they want to. They intend to “empower” them enough to remove the parents from his/her life.

  5. avatar James R says:

    But I thought they had the right to “BEAR” arms

    1. avatar Charles5 says:

      I mean really! Who needs more than two arms anyway?

    2. avatar danthemann5 says:

      But evidently not the right to arm bears.

      1. avatar lolinski says:

        I tought the “no right to bear arms” only applied to California, as seen on their flag:

        http://www.amazon.com/ENDO-Apparel-California-Infringed-T-Shirt/dp/B00B97REHU

      2. avatar tmm says:

        Nice turn of the phrase.

  6. avatar General Zod says:

    Really? You mean this couple advocated ceding rights to the state for anything involving self-defense?

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/0/0d/Stan_and_Jan_Berenstain.jpg

    Who could have imagined…

  7. avatar Salty Bear says:

    These books are old enough now that you can get them used, so you can enjoy the good ones without supporting statists.

  8. avatar Gregolas says:

    Don’t they know about the constitutional right to arm Bears?
    Seriously, Never gave a thought to it while reading them to my kids. Thanks for the heads up! And Charles5 is right. It never ht home that is always the big dummy in the series.

  9. avatar Hannibal says:

    What’s next, the Care Bears talk about “Rape Culture”?

    1. avatar defensor fortisimo says:

      Who cares?

    2. avatar Marcus Aurelius says:

      Yes, and they’ll learn an important lesson about unwelcome hugging.

      1. avatar ProfBathrobe says:

        That was an actual thing that happened on the old Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon. I swear I am not making this up.

        1. avatar William Burke says:

          Hugging a Hedgehog is risky bidness anyway! (Props to Dusty Rhodes.)

  10. avatar Westward Ho says:

    I had the same negative reaction to all of the politicking in Dogerella.

  11. avatar David B says:

    Another book series to avoid is Clifford–the modern one. They unashamedly flaunt homosexuality to 3-4 year olds as normal.

  12. avatar Ralph says:

    You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear,
    You’ve got to be taught from year to year,
    It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear,
    You’ve got to be carefully taught.

    Rodgers and Hammerstein

    1. avatar TheOtherDavid says:

      Indeed, Lt. Cable

  13. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    This made me sick.
    Gonna go through the granddaughters books when I get home.

  14. avatar TheOtherDavid says:

    From a 2000 article in the archives of the Hartford Courant, from courant.com
    Connecticut. Ahh, the irony…

    “Everybody looked on in horror. They froze when Too-Tall shouted, `There you are, you double-crossing little creep,’ and moved within shooting distance of Ferdy,” pulls the trigger and soaks Ferdy, “because Too-Tall’s big, black, dangerous-looking gun wasn’t a real gun at all — it was a Powersoaker!”

    Can anyone doubt this book was written as a response to Columbine? But for whom?

    Only a little kid would be interested in reading a Berenstain Bears book — they’re baby stuff. Like Barney.

    Any little kid who saw “No Guns Allowed” would be frightened.

    In the story, the adults are either ineffectual or out of control. The illustrations are also scary — Mama Bear’s dream of being chased by huge guns with legs, arms and evil expressions; Too-Tall’s dad in shadow, opening the truck-cab door, pointing the gun at the cubs in the dark.

    So this is not an attempt to write for children. It must be an attempt to make money off anxious parents who will buy without scrutiny because the books say “Berenstain Bears.” ”

    Even 14 years ago, the Hartford Courant had them figured out

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      Given the fear level, they should have been called The Underwearstain Bears.

  15. avatar Sixpack70 says:

    What a crock of crap. I hope Richard Scarry books didn’t follow the same statist garbage.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      If you don’t toe the line, you don’t get on someone’s “recommended for children” reading list, you don’t sell any books and eventually you won’t get published.

      1. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

        Any author can create his own content available for download now. The big publishing houses do still hold on to prestige, but their role as culteral gatekeeper has crumbled in the digital age like the so-called mainstream media’s role as purveyor of information.

      2. avatar ProfBathrobe says:

        I think the excellent retelling of life behind the Iron Curtain in “The Wall” by Peter Sís begs to differ.

  16. avatar Jeffrey Smith says:

    My six year old has a number of their books, movies, etc. Just like Buffalo Wild Wings they have lost my support and will no longer be part of this family or my daughter’s life. They need to keep their politically motivated crap out of their books.

  17. avatar Dev says:

    This is just propaganda and indoctrination. Yet when the Germans or the Russians did it it was bad.

  18. avatar DV says:

    Of course bears dont like guns. Even with magpul trigger guards, their fat, furry paws cant reach the triggers!

    So, in the end, guns are used against bears, not by them.

    I understand, Bearenstains, I really do.

  19. avatar esitue says:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JxzSVVvriMQ&feature=player_detailpage#t=6

    Bill Whittle: The Narrative 12 minutes

    An episode of Bill Whittle’s PJTV show ‘Afterburner’ with a discussion of the insidious political narrative of left-wing politics, mainstream media and the education system, from the mid twentieth century to today.
    A brief analysis of political correctness, it’s origins and it’s objectives

  20. avatar Adam says:

    The bear cops appear to be only armed with truncheons. Interesting tactical weaponry.

    Meh. Forget the Bare-stains, and watch My Little Pony, where characters use each other as laser Gatling guns, shoot fireballs from their heads, and more:

    1. avatar Stinkeye says:

      What would they need truncheons for, anyway? They have enormous claws, razor-sharp teeth, and are strong enough to overturn cars. They’re freakin’ bears.

      1. avatar defensor fortisimo says:

        My question is do they have a mounted division? Because if so, I’d get into the series, libprog propaganda and all just to get my dose of bear cavalry.

      2. avatar William Burke says:

        These are peaceful, law-abiding bears!

  21. avatar CA_Chris says:

    The whole “bullied and excluded” angle on the Columbine shooters was media fiction. The analysis in the years after showed that the two boys were not picked on, and were socially active to a normal level for teenage boys.

    The real problem, something that shows up often in cases where multiple people engage in murder together, is that one of the boys was charismatic but lacked a strong sense of morality, and the other was a weak-willed follower who constantly sought to build-up and impress the first boy. The one fed encouragement to dark fantasies of the other, and so convinced themselves to go on a rampage. The Santa Barbara killer also had a similar sort of feedback from his digital social circle that encouraged him to do what he did.

    It wasn’t a violent culture, or bullying, or music.

    1. avatar William Burke says:

      This says something a bit different:

      http://extras.denverpost.com/news/col1003a.htm

      I would note briefly that there is no evidence either Harris or Klebold belonged to the Trenchcoat Mafia, a very real group.

  22. avatar William Burke says:

    I never did like reading stories about those lame-ass bears!

  23. avatar Jus Bill says:

    If I had ordered that propaganda piece, I would have returned it and demanded my money back, along with a very professional note scalding them for introducing politics into childhood.

    This is exactly what the Fascists, Social Democrats (i.e., Nazis) and Socialists/Communists did in the 1930s and can be found even today in China. Not a very good example to set.

    1. avatar William Burke says:

      From their viewpoint, it’s exactly what they want to be doing. The difference is that you’re looking at it with an analytical mind, and they don’t do analytics.

  24. avatar Raul Ybarra says:

    At first I thought this had to be a prank. Then I found it on Amazon. Looking into this book… it’s not just the “guns are bad” message. They are also pushing the “everyone is your friend” meme of the progressives. There are people for whom the words “never again” mean something. In spite of their last name, that obviously does not include the Berenstain’s.

    All I can say is that I’m glad my son has long outgrown the Berenstain Bears and has graduated to Battle Bears. Go! Oliver! And don’t forget your bearzooka. (I love the rainbow blood you get on a headshot in the original game)

  25. avatar DaveL says:

    I always thought the Berenstain Bears seemed creepy and cultish, what with the way even the parents address their offspring as “brother” and “sister”.

    1. avatar William Burke says:

      Maybe they’re Quaker Bears! 😀

  26. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

    Papa Bear proclaims that “Anger to a gun is like a lit match to gasoline: when they are put together, bad things can happen.”

    Which is why I keep my anger in my left back pocket and my gun on my right hip, where they will stay separated until it’s time to fight fire with fire, in which case I’ll be glad I had the two on me.

  27. avatar Davis Thompson says:

    I’ve always hated the Berenstain bears. Almost as much as Lil Critter. Max and Ruby was our jam. That and the hilarious James Marshall. Check out “Rapscallion Jones” for some laughs.

  28. avatar Calvin says:

    Ironic then that my house has been for some time a Berenstain Bears Free Zone. A stack came home from the library and all were basically: dad’s a bigger buffoon than the kids and mom always saves his butt. I said I’m not reading these but you can look at the pictures.

  29. avatar rlc2 says:

    Yep, and wait until you read whats in Common Core… CA is rolling it out now.
    Thank god my teens are already cynics on media, and the progtard memes –
    who knows where they get those crazy ideas…

    1. avatar William Burke says:

      It’s not about education AT ALL. It’s about making little worker bees who do as they’re told.

      Except there’ll be no work for them, so the ones who can’t help fight 147 wars at once (the only work available) will be done away with. Useless Eaters.

  30. avatar Lurker_Of_Lurkiness says:

    so the are barring stains of the statist sort?

  31. avatar racer88 says:

    I thought, for sure, this was a JOKE. Wow.

  32. avatar Mister Fleas says:

    I want to leave a verified one star review on Amazon but don’t want to buy this book. How do I do that?

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