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The Berenstain Bears and the Golden Rule Review by Donna Campos

Stan & Jan Berenstain with Mike Berenstain
Zonderkidz, Zondervan
5300 Patterson Avenue SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49530

The Berenstain Bears and the Golden Rule is one of a series of four titles to begin a new faith-based line of twelve Berenstain Bears books written by Stan and Jan Berenstain's son, Michael Berenstain. The glossy, full color soft cover opens to 32 pages that begin with a scripture verse prominently displayed at the top of the very first page: Matthew 7:12, "Do to others what you would have them do to you." The interior front cover includes the traditional Berenstain Bears nameplate, while the interior back cover includes an Activities and Questions list from Brother and Sister Bear in black print on gray background. The story title page presents a school bus ride to the public Bear Country School and the book does not include any home schooling references. The story includes a lesson for learning the Golden Rule from the Berenstain family, which includes Mama and Papa bear, Brother bear, Sister bear, and Honey bear, the baby of the family. Beginning with a special gift to teach Sister bear more about the Golden Rule that has been prominently displayed at the bear family mantle, the story continues with a memorable lesson for Sister bear in the usual Berenstain bear style.

The Berenstain Bears books have long been a favorite in our household, and have been collected extensively by one of our daughters. The stories include excellent family lessons, but until now have not held blatantly scriptural messages in a direct series of faith-based titles. The Berenstain Bears and the Golden Rule includes the excellent illustrations we have come to trust from the Berenstain series. With playground scenes of dodge ball, teeter-totters, hopscotch, and catch, and cozy scenes at home presenting family dinners of mashed potatoes and lima beans and the baby in a high chair, Berenstain fans will feel completely at home. The usual family clothes of blue with polka dots for Mama, overalls for Papa, a pink jumper for Sister, and a red shirt with blue pants for brother continue the familiarity. Vivid in color and playful in details, the illustrations will draw children into the story as parents read aloud and older readers enjoy reading the book with siblings. Sister bear is reminded of an earlier time when she struggled with the understanding of bullies, and learns how wonderful it is to treat others as she wants to be treated. This is a beautiful presentation of the value of the Golden Rule and provides an easily understood explanation of it for children. We found it amusing that Sister bear knew the Golden Rule was familiar, and was embarrassed to find she had been looking at it for years as it prominently decorated their home. The story includes honesty about feelings and the opinions of children, the social negatives about school popularity and peer judgment, and the warmth and safety of the family home. The only negative we note is the absence of direct references to God and the origination of the Golden Rule. Although the scripture is presented at the start of the book, it is not referenced within the storyline and the parents do not tell Sister bear that this treatment of others is what God tells us to do, just that it is "one of the most important rules there is." Mama bear tactfully uses her motherly gifts of influence and persuasion to help her children understand these important lessons. The activities at the back of the book include "Talk about it" and "Get out and do it" ideas and will provide a springboard for family discussion and activities.

The Berenstain Bears and The Golden Rule does a wonderful job of presenting a very basic rule of good behavior to young children in terms they are able to understand. Our family is excited to see a faith-based line of Berenstain Bear books and have high hopes that the additional titles in the series will include more biblical references. The Golden Rule is well presented in this story, as are the natural tendencies of children to judge others and follow the lead of other children. The prodding of the Holy Spirit was evident, even without directly stating it as such, and parents will enjoy discussion with their children about how and why they have inner struggles when making decisions of good character. The Berenstain authors have certainly continued the beautifully written and enjoyable books children have grown to love for many, many years. The inclusion of Stan and Jan's son to the family business also provides encouragement to families as children grow up and find their own way in life, whether or not they follow in parental footsteps. Our family fully enjoyed The Berenstain Bears and The Golden Rule and believe many other families will as well. For those previously acquainted with these wonderful stories, a faith-based series is a welcome edition. If you are finding Berenstain books for the first time, you will be pleased to begin with Godly rules of character as you get acquainted with the Bear family in their beautiful tree house in Bear Country.

Product Review by Donna Campos, Senior Product Reviewer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, December, 2008