Friday, December 26, 2014

Book Reviews :: The Berenstain Bears: Thanksgiving Blessings, God Made You Special, and The Biggest Brag by Mike Berenstain

The Berenstain Bears books are instant classics, as far as I am concerned. These are books that I grew up reading and the new books in the collection (even though they are written by Mike Berenstain rather than Stan and Jan Berenstain), keep in line with the Berenstain legacy. My 5 year old loves for me to read "the bear books" with him. The Berenstain Bears books are books that exemplify moral character, and I appreciate that. 

Today I will be reviewing three of the newest Berenstain Bears booksThanksgiving Blessings, God Made You Special, and The Biggest Brag.
Thanksgiving Blessings is a Berenstain Bears book about the Thanksgiving holiday. In Thanksgiving Blessings, Brother and Sister Bear learn that Thanksgiving is not just about food. The Bears learn about how "faith and freedom", "peace and plenty", "work and play", and "family and friends" are all a part of Thanksgiving. 

As a bonus, Thanksgiving Blessings includes a sheet of sixteen 1 1/2" round stickers, each showing a scene (or piece of a scene) from the book. (The stickers are stapled into the middle of the book, and the sticker sheet can easily be removed without messing up the staples/binding of the book.)
God Made You Special is a Berenstain Bears book about God's love and loving people that are different than you. In God Made You Special, the Bear family is visited by the Bruin family for a backyard cookout. The Bruin family brings along their nephew/cousin, Tommy. Tommy is the same age as Brother Bear, but acts "more like Honey Bear". The book does not speak of a condition/diagnosis that is specific to Tommy, but rather mentions characteristics and his actions to show how he is "just a little different". Sister Bear ends up in a conversation with Mama Bear about how Tommy is "special in his own way", and how Tommy can teach the other bears with his "special joy...special kind of happiness". I appreciated that Sister Bear was not afraid to ask about Tommy (and was not reprimanded for asking).

I felt like God Made You Special handled the topic in a gentle, loving way. I think it is a good thing that Tommy was not given a specific label in this book, because Tommy's characteristics and differences can be shared by many people (with and without labels/diagnoses).

What I especially appreciated about God Made You Special is how Sister Bear (and the other bears) treat Tommy with love and see that they can learn from Tommy and have fun playing the way Tommy enjoys playing. It also shows that each of us are special in certain ways, but others can learn from us and know that God loves each of us, too. 
The Biggest Brag is a Berenstain Bears book about bragging. In The Biggest Brag, Brother and Sister Bear learn that bragging is not a loving thing to do. I appreciate the moral of this book, but wish it had been handled in a different way. Throughout most of the book, Brother and Sister Bear are bragging, rather than learning their lesson. I wish they had learned their lesson sooner and maybe even learned some alternatives to bragging (like building each other up). I also didn't care for how Grizzly Gramps talks to Brother and Sister Bear about their bragging - he calls them "two of the biggest, bragging-est fools". In the end, however, Brother and Sister Bear start to get the idea and apologize for their bragging.

With a retail price around $4, I think The Berenstain Bears books in general are always a great choice for a gift or as an addition to your family bookshelf. 
FTC Declaration: The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy. This does not change the fact that I will give my honest opinion in my reviews.


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