For those looking for a nostalgic, family-oriented Christmas book, The Berenstain Bears' Old-Fashioned Christmas is the just the ticket. The Bear family drives (in their old-fashioned convertible, trunk bulging with gifts) to Grizzly Gran and Gramps's house. When the kids attempt to sit down to watch Christmas videos, Gramps informs them that it's going to be an old-fashioned Christmas. There is singing, a player piano, and a trip to the woods to cut down the tree. There are home-made ornaments, Christmas cookies, and even a trip to a barn. Keeping this old-fashioned focus from becoming cloying is a hint of friction between Papa and Gramps (who can light a better fire, etc.), and a failure by the family to ever get around to singing "The Twelve Days of Christmas".
Wikipedia says that Mike Berenstain, who is continuing to work on the series after the death of his parents, has added "a focus on promoting Christian religious practices" that his Jewish father didn't share. (See a more in-depth analysis on this at A Fuse #8 Production.) There's definitely a religious unpinning to The Berenstain Bears' Old-Fashioned Christmas (putting the star on top of the tree, visiting the animals in the barn, but I found most of the overt focus of this book to be on the more secular cultural traditions (sleigh rides, presents, holiday cards, etc.).
What can one say about the illustrations of a book that is part of a series published over 50 years? The bears are warm and cuddly, with expressive faces. My favorite is one in which Gran is scolding Paper for arguing with Gramps. Papa is smiling sheepishly, while Mama has a wry smile on her face. The backgrounds are full of colorful holiday details (though painted without much texture).
One nice touch, I thought, is that the book includes the full text of a couple of Christmas songs, as well as instructions for creating your own ornaments and for creating holiday treats for animals. All that's missing is a recipe for gingerbread cookies. These additions take the book from being just a story to also make it kind of a manual for celebrating an old-fashioned Christmas. I can see that being welcome in many households.
The cover is an accurate representation of what you get when you read The Berenstain Bears' Old-Fashioned Christmas: a happy story of a family surrounded by all the trappings of Christmas. Likely to be a family favorite, re-read every December for years to come.
Publisher: HarperCollins (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: September 25, 2012
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).