Tuesday, August 7, 2007

C'mon Stan and Jan - Ever Heard of METER?!?!?

Claire adores Berenstain Bears books. Every time we go to the library, they're the only thing she wants to check out. I suggest many other books and they all get absent-mindedly shot down by Claire. The amazing thing is that we still haven't checked out a repeat. We've been at this for something close to a year and a half now, checking out a new batch about every month. We check out anywhere from 2 to 6 books every time. I keep thinking we'll get to the library and won't fing any new ones since we checked out everything we hadn't seen before the last umpteen times. But no, there's always at least a couple we haven't checked out before. (Knock on wood...) I don't know which impresses me more, the fact that our local library has so many holdings, or the fact that there are SO many Berenstain Bears books in existence!

I must reluctantly admit that Stan and Jan Berenstain have cranked out a few TOO many books. They have been writing the books since 1962 and although Stan has passed away, Jan and her son Mike are still going strong. After over 40 years, they've pretty much inundated the market and some of the books do seem a bit like they're stretching for plots. Sometimes I envision watching Berenstain Bears books being created as something akin to looking in the window at the Krispy Kreme store, with conveyor belts of books being cut to size, fried, and drizzled with a cloyingly sweet glaze. However, whatever their shortcomings, I still have a special place in my heart for the book producing machine that is Stan and Jan. I grew up LOVING the books. I think I'm living vicariously through Claire. I always wanted to have read ALL the ones pictured on the back cover of the old classic square ones. It was like "collecting them all." But growing up, my library hardly had any of them. So far I... I mean we are making excellent progress. We only have 5 more to go: Trouble with Money, Too Much Junk Food, The Bad Dream, Forget Their Manners, and Get Stage Fright!

The classic ones are great, but there are also the other ones. Board books about babies, bizarre mysteries, and worst of all, the ones entirely in verse. I keep naively checking out this last type. I get suckered in by the appealing topics usually related to various holidays and in my rush to keep Scott from getting out of my sight, we dump it in the basket without me cracking it open and seeing that it's in verse. You'd think I'd learn. They're usually bigger and more rectangular than the others. Apparently they're bigger so they can fit in all the cut-rate rhyming narrative. Look, I know they're just kids' books, but I could do better, WAY better. And I haven't been writing books for four decades. I suppose technically the verse in these books does rhyme, but that's about all you can say for it. It's like Stan and Jan were absent the day their English teacher explained rhyming schemes. And I think they may have waved the text somewhere near meter, but not much stuck. I'll be reading along out loud to Claire and starting to think maybe I've been too hard on these books. Maybe they're not so bad. Then I hit a line than just falls flat on it's face. The meter feels like it tripped on it's own shoelaces and did a face-plant in the dirt (sometimes knocking out a couple front teeth in the process). Sometimes I wonder if they wrote these rhyming ones in their old age as their memory started to go. Maybe they would forget what the line before it had sounded like and so they had to do the best they could. Yah, that's probably it. I'll tell myself that so that I... I mean we can continue our tireless pursuit of having read the exhaustive works of the Berenstain Bears.

1 comment:

Janssen said...

I LOVED the Berenstein Bears. . .I can't wait to read them with my kids, even if they are a bit lame.