Stan and Jan Berenstain are children books illustrators of an older time and place — Jan Berenstain is 85, Stan passed away in 2005 — but have created the Berestain Bears; a family of rural walking, talking clothes-wearing bears, and through a media empire of books, television shows and terrible video games, teach children important lessons about life and sharing. Kind of like the bible, with less God and more animal anthropomorphism.
The books have been around since I was a kid, and lessons are universal to 4 to 8 year olds: Don’t watch too much TV! Don’t eat too much junk food! Be grateful for what you have! But this link from the 10 most Awkward Berenstain Bear Books pointed out one book that missed my radar growing up, probably because it came out in 1994: Don’t be afraid of your Chinese neighbors.
Okay, technically the neighbors in The Berenstain Bears’ New Neighbors aren’t Asian; they’re pandas. You know, animals that known to be from China and dress in two-tone colors like people from the Cultural Revolution. (Let’s not kid ourselves here folks, a bunch of Latvians did not move into Bear County.) And similar to Clint Eastwood with his new Hmong neighbors in the movie Gran Turino, Papa Bear is the racist neighbor,
brandishing a shotgun when gangbangers come to town and generally resistant of his new neighbors.
But thankfully this a children’s book and not an Oscar platform and in a couple of easy to digest pages, and a glass of bamboo juice, “all learn a valuable lesson in acceptance and the dangers of bigotry.” But wait until Papa Bear finds out that pandas aren’t a part of the bear family; Papa Bear might be brandishing that shotgun after all. Feel lucky, panda? Do you?
(Hat tip: Mike)