Goofy and Lovable Bears are an Important Cornerstone in Children’s Literature
There’s just something about bears. For an animal so potentially dangerous, they have become a staple in children’s literature. A given a quick glance over their representation in children’s books and it’s easy to understand why — they’re large, fluffy, and endearingly dopey. And for the last nearly 100 years, they have maintained a permanent presence in libraries and children’s bookshelves.
We highlight some of the most well-known literary bears, and you can find a list of some of the most collectible editions, as well as some great gift copies. And as always, if you are looking to introduce any of these characters to that special kid in your life, there are tons of affordable copies of all these great titles.
Winnie The Pooh
Of course, there is perhaps no more influential bear than Winnie The Pooh. Created by author A. A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh has become among the most beloved characters in all of children’s literature. The character of Winnie the Pooh first debuted in a 1924 edition of the magazine Punch in a poem titled “Teddy Bear”. The first book to feature Winnie the Pooh was a collection of stories titled Winnie the Pooh, published in 1926. The original stories of Winnie the Pooh have never been out of print, and over 20 million copies have been sold.
Winnie the Pooh has maintained his sweet and noble disposition, and he has remained sweetly bumbling and naive. Milne created the character of Winnie the Pooh and the enchanting setting of the Hundred Acre Wood to serve as a soothing balm after the horrors of World War One, and his literary creation continues to bring peace and joy to children all over the world. The simple pleasures that Winnie the Pooh shares with his friends represent the best of children’s literature.
Introduced to the world in 1962 by the couple Stanley Melvin Berenstain and Janice Marian Grant, the Berenstain Bear family has remained a staple of children’s bookshelves ever since. The first publication featuring the Bears, The Big Honey Hunt, featured Dr. Suess (Ted Suess Geisel) as the editor and publisher. The family of characters has expanded a bit since their original conception, and the family of bears now include Papa Bear, Mama Bear, Brother Bear, Sister Bear, and Honey Bear. The books explore everyday family challenges, with Papa Bear being enthusiastic but bumbling, and with Mama Bear swooping with the solution to whatever problem is facing the family.
This goofy family of bears guides children through tough topics like bullying, sibling rivalry, and even online safety, always with friendly and relatable writing and fun illustrations. Intriguingly, the Berenstain Bears were the topic of a brief but intense bout of media scrutiny, as they became the subject of a sensationalistic conspiracy theory involving parallel dimensions. Ever eager to stay relevant, a nice bit of internet virality was very on-brand for the Bears!
And no list of notable literary bears could be complete without Paddington Bear, another English bear known for his goofy ways and sweet heart. The character’s origin story begins in Peru, but he winds up being found in the Paddington Station in London, where he was gifted his moniker. Like any good literary bear, Paddington is known to cause accidents and misunderstandings, but is always willing to lend a hand and find a solution. The character of Paddington is also known for a “hard stare” given to those he finds guilty of grievous misdeeds or injustice.
Paddington books have been in publication for 60 years, with A Bear Called Paddington being published in 1958 as a collection of stories. Like Winnie the Pooh and the Berenstain Bears, Paddington’s adventures were adapted beyond the written word, with Paddington appearing in several television and movies. Paddington’s influence has been so immense that he was immortalized in a bronze life-size statue permanently featured in the Paddington Station in London.
These are just a few of the great bears in children’s literature, but they are certainly some of the most influential. Hopefully you don’t have too many bears rummaging through your garbage, but if you do, may they be as cheerful and friendly as these bears! (Please don’t check if real bears are friendly. Even if they are, they are big and their hugs could hurt. Best to call local authorities.)