Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Writing about a LITTLE BEAR

Else Minarik, a former newspaper reporter and first-grade teacher on Long Island, N.Y., wrote Little Bear as a reaction against the stale “Dick and Jane” books of the 1940s.

“I had originally written the books illustrated with my own drawings for my daughter, Brooke, who wanted to learn to read at an early age,” she said.

Later, she mimeographed copies for her students (also beginning readers), with her own illustrations.

Born in Denmark on Sept. 13, 1920, Minarik immigrated with her family to the United States when she was 4 years old. “Little Bear was me in Denmark. I was cuddled and loved,” she recalled.

Hans Christian Andersen (read to her by her mother) was an early influence — and so too, according to Minarik, were childhood trips to the zoo...

When Else Minarik took her Little Bear manuscript to Random House, an editor told her that perhaps if she changed the characters to children, the publisher would consider it. 

“I thought to myself, all children of all colors would be reading the stories. All children love animals. The bear is fine. I love them because Mother took me to the Bronx Zoo every day, and I fell in love with the cubs. My bears were a family.” 

The editors at what was then Harper & Row agreed with Minarik, and used Little Bear as the debut title in their long-running “I Can Read!” series for beginning readers.

Little Bear appeared in 1957 with illustrations by Maurice Sendak (who dressed the bears in Victorian finery.) This Little Bear is a charming cub with good intentions that are sometimes marred by his lack of experience and clumsiness. 

He resembles most preschool children: his world is innocent, close and secure, with Mother Bear at its center. Father Bear appears, but only from time to time, and is clearly of less importance.

In the simply written, yet thoughtful stories - which include real and imaginary situations - Minarik conveyed key characteristics of all young children's lives: the need for both safety and independence, imagination and play, and the importance of family and of making friends.

The Little Bear books belong to some of my earliest memories of childhood reading.  We lived in a Victorian farmhouse at the time, with a parlor and an attic - and my mom had a sewing machine like Little Bear's mother!  I remember wondering, like Little Bear, what it would be like to go try to go the moon.  And my dad travelled quite a bit when I was young, so I could identify with that part of Little Bear's story too.  

I think Maurice Sendak's rich Victorian illustrations were the perfect pairing with Minarik's simple prose. It's quite ironic that we lost them both last year:  Mr. Sendak on May 8, 2012, at the age of 83, and Else Holmelund Minarik at the age of 91, on July 12, 2012.

{All quotes taken from an article by Star-News Correspondent MJ Engle - source}


  1. Codi Preston DunnFriday, March 13, 2015

    Hi there!! I am going to have to write this in several posts, because your response thing only allows 4,096 characters at one time. Just bear with me, bear as in Little Bear!! LOL. Might have to write 4 different posts.

    Hello there!!

    I love, love, love Maurice Sendak's Little Bear!! I love the cartoons much more than the book, though. I happen to be 38 years old, but I have high functioning Autism, and because of my Autism, emotionally and socially I function like a 5 year old. I have loved Little Bear since I saw the cartoon on TV back in 1998. I love a lot of other children's TV shows that were shown in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, as well. Don't really enjoy cartoons aimed at older children like 12 year olds, like some of the cartoons that currently on Cartoon Network. I'm mostly still at a preschool level as far as cartoons are concerned. I loved (and still love) Care Bears, I love Pink Panther cartoons, and I still love Teletubbies (and to some extent, Barney). I was really into Barney (the dinosaur) in 1992-95; even my mom remembers. I was already in my mid teens at that time chronologically. Teletubbies wasn't big until I went to university, around 1998. I have lots of Teletubbies memorabilia, including a couple of backpacks that I got from an Ebay seller in Australia back in 2005, they were only marketed in New Zealand apparently, because I never saw the backpack again, and he found it in Auckland, New Zealand at a toy store when he was on a trip there. I have Care Bears backpacks too, and I have some Little Bear backpacks too - I just bought a rare one on Ebay and it ended up costing me $45!! LOL. I also love Wimzie's House, and Arthur, and I actually know the voice actress who does 5 year old Wimzie's voice on Wimzie's House, and Arthur's mom Jane Read's voice on Arthur. Her name is Sonja and she lives in Montreal, Canada. We are actually pretty good friends.

    I am a volunteer assistant at one of my local libraries' Preschooler Storytime on Fridays. My librarian friend that is a children's librarian hosts Storytime. I am a co-host. She reads the children stories. I get the kids riled up singing different songs, including the Chicken Dance and "Peanut, Peanut Butter, and Jelly", the latter of which is very funny because I jump up sky high singing "Jelly!!" and I egg the children to jump up even higher, I really rile them up. We also do a lot of 1950s, 1960s, 1970s oldies music. Two weeks ago, we did "Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport" by Rolf Harris, because my friend was reading the kids books on Australia, so there was a tie-in to the theme of the week. We've done lots of 1950s and 1960s songs from "The Loco-Motion" by Little Eva to "Whole Lot Of Shakin' Going On" by Jerry Lee Lewis, to "Glad All Over" by the Dave Clark Five to "Saturday Night" by the Bay City Rollers, and tons of other songs. It does help that I am a savant in the field of oldies music, I always have ideas of songs to play. The preschoolers (3-5 year olds) also enjoy looking at the different pins that I wear. One of my hobbies is that I collect city and town lapel pins, and I call up different towns and cities asking if they can send me pins; most of them are glad to oblige. Every town and city has a different seal or logo, so every one of them is unique. A very fun hobby, to be sure. I wear my pins not only to the library, but to my community college (which I still visit, while I'm not a student anymore), to restaurants, to even family gatherings!!

    More in next post - Codi Preston D.

  2. Codi Preston DunnFriday, March 13, 2015

    Continuing on....

    You mentioned that it is ironic that Maurice Sendak and Else Minarik both passed away in 2012. I also know another ironic twist to this story that is actually very sad. The day that Maurice Sendak died also happened to be my birthday. I was born on May 8th, and I was celebrating my 36th birthday, at the library, with some friends, when I heard that Sendak had passed away. So it was a sad birthday for me. :-(...
    But at least, he was 83 years old. He lived a long, good life, and that is what is important.

    I don't have many friends in my age group because most older teens, young adults, and in general people from age 16 to 40, just try to bully me or call me stupid names. Most of my friends are either old college instructors (some of whom I have known for 20 years or so....I have a BA degree in Geography), or librarians, or they are preschoolers and young children. I have two little boys who come to the library enough that I hang around with them sometimes on a weekly basis. One of them is 9 years old but I met him when he was 5 years old. I virtually see him every Friday because his mom is in charge of Friends Of The Library, which is responsible for booksales (every 4 months there is a booksale at the library, with the donated books that are donated to the library). That raises money for children's programs at the library, as well as adult services too. My 9 year old friend Duncan used to watch Pink Panther cartoons and Little Bear cartoons and vintage Sesame Street and movies like "An American Tail" and "The Lady And The Tramp" with me when he was 6 years old, but in the last 1 year or so, he's really gotten into this computer game called Minecraft which he is great at, but I don't do too well at. Then, I also have this other friend who is 4 1/2 years old and he is a great friend and very sweet. He has a 2 year old sister, and their mom brings them to the library sometimes for Storytime. I've shared meals with their family, eaten out with them at Black Bear Diner many times, been invited to the 4 year old's birthday party last July (his name is Ira), invited to the 2 year old's birthday party last November too (her name is Ada), watched fireworks together on the 4th of July, etc. Good friends. And their mom taught autistic children in the Los Angeles area for 10 years, so she knows a lot about autism. The only thing is, when I hang around preschoolers, my emotional/social age never grows, but I can't hang around teens and 20s and 30s who want to pick on me and call me all sorts of names from "low functioning autistic mafia" to the censored word that means intellectual disability that starts with an R, and worse. If these people are more "mature" than me (and some psychiatrists might say so), if to bully people younger than you (whether that be mentally, emotionally/socially, physically, or intellectually), if that is called mature, I'd rather not have that type of maturity. If that is the case. Some people with Asperger Syndrome who are like 15 or 16 year olds emotionally/socially pick on me as well.

    I have responded pretty late to your post, but I hope it's not too late. I didn't see this post till tonight. Thanks for your post on Little Bear

    Take care and Warm regards to you,

    Codi Preston Dunn from San Jose, California

    You can email me at preston1632@yahoo.com

    1. Thank you for stopping by my blog, Codi! I hope you'll visit again.

      I loved reading all your comments - and you're right, very ironic that Maurice Sendak died on your birthday. I'm sure that was sad for you, but now you can remember him every year on your special day!

      It's sounds like you are doing a wonderful service for your local library. If you ever get to Los Angeles, you should try to visit the big Central Library there - the children's library is the best I've ever seen! Here's a link to my post about it if you're interested: http://goodbooksforyoungsouls.blogspot.com/2011/10/day-at-los-angeles-central-library.html

      I hope and pray that kids and young adults everywhere will learn to be more kind and respectful toward people with autism. But let me tell you a secret: those who are cruel to you are undoubtedly very unhappy or insecure with themselves and are probably immature in many situations and unkind to lots of people they come in contact with. Stay strong! I wish you all the best. :)