Lessons In Love: A Review of ‘Little Bear’

“You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them.”–St. Therese of Lisieux

Suggested Grade Level:  
Grades K-1

Review and Thoughts:

Little Bear by Elsa Holmelund Minarik is one of those chapter books that beginning readers are drawn to and excited to read.  This story is told through simple vocabulary and captivating pictures.  I have always enjoyed reading stories about fictional bears (Corduroy, Winnie-the-Pooh, Paddington) because of their innocence, and they are just so adorable.  Then again, it might be that these stories bring back memories of my own little brown Teddy who was a constant companion for a time in my youth.

The four chapters in this book tell a story of a mother’s love for her Little Bear – simple, giving, and sacrificial – through actions and special endearing words.  It also tells the story of Little Bear responding to and reflecting on the love from his mother.

In Chapter One, Mother Bear patiently allows Little Bear to go through the process of trying on different articles of clothing in an effort to stay warm on a chilly day. Little Bear is not satisfied until his mother helps him realize his fur coat is just right, he doesn’t need anything more, and the way he was created is perfect.

The chapter entitled “Birthday Soup” continues the story of the relationship between Mother Bear and Little Bear.  First, Little Bear hosts a birthday party for his friends.  Then, when he sees no birthday cake he makes birthday soup for them.  The love he has learned from his mother is expressed by his concern for his friends. Even on his special day he puts others before himself. Such a wonderful example of hospitality and sharing! Then Mother Bear surprises him with a birthday cake she has made especially for him and says, “I never did forget your birthday, and I never will.”  Hug.

Chapter Three again shows Mother Bear nurturing Little Bear by allowing him to use his imagination, but as a wise mother she also sets limits. This adventure eventually leads Little Bear back home to his mother.  The scene ends with Mother Bear saying, “For you are my Little Bear, and I know it.”  Hug.

The final story in the book is a favorite of my four-year-old granddaughter. She always asks to hear stories about when she was little. She smiles every time Little Bear says, “Tell me something more about me.”    Bedtime tucking in is that special time between parents and children when prayers are said, stories are told, songs are sung, and dreams are revealed.  Mother Bear listens to Little Bear’s wishes and then tells him stories about his adventures, which is also a review of the stories in the book. The love expressed by Mother Bear is again reflected in Little Bear when he says, “You always make me happy.”

An important reading skill for children at this level is distinguishing reality from fantasy. It is a stepping stone for more advanced and critical reading where fact VS fiction colors many stories and articles.  This story can help children see that Little Bear is fantasy, but the love between a mother and child is reality.

Further Discussion:

  • Design a birthday card for Little Bear. On the inside of the card, write one sentence that is a kind and uplifting message.  (Example:  You are a thoughtful friend.)
  • Write little love notes to your children. These notes could be to encourage, to affirm loving actions, or to express parental love.  (Example:  You are my special boy/girl and I’ll always love you. I love the way you helped your sister/brother/friend today.  You shared God’s love in such a special way.)
  • Use bedtime to teach prayers, both traditional and spontaneous. I still remember the personal prayers I said as a child and saying the rosary with my family before bed.

Catholic Resources:

Catechism of the Catholic Church 306

Catechism of the Catholic Church 357

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