The Berenstain Bears and the Mama’s Day Surprise by Stan and Jan Berenstain

Some mama bears are so all-seeing and wise, when Mother’s Day comes they’re hard to surprise.

So says the title page of the book, and it pretty well sums up the storyline. Mama Bear can see that her loving family is cooking up something big for Mother’s Day, so she does a lot of little things to make it easier on them – things like buying the ingredients for her own breakfast-in-bed. Through it all, she’s secretly dreading the mess she’s going to have to clean up after their surprise (and isn’t that a common theme in a lot of books on the holiday?!). Still, because she loves them and wants to have the thrill of  “surprising” her, she keeps her mouth shut and plays right along…. right until the very end, when she discovers they’ve managed to pull off a surprise she NEVER saw coming!

I have to say, this is not a book I’d recommend for the youngest listeners. I don’t *want* my kids to know I’m onto their surprises, any more than I want them to know that the “bootiful fowers” they bring me on Thursday are the same weeds their Daddy tries to kill on Saturday.

For an older child, one who’s beginning to ask “Were you REALLY surprised, Mama?”, this could be a worthwhile book. I think it’s good to explicitly show kids what good, loving parenting looks like. The effort Mama Bear goes through to help her cubs pull off their surprise – even pretending to sleep through the crashes and bangs as they make a mess of her kitchen – is beautifully explained. I can see this story being especially helpful for a child with a younger sibling, who doesn’t quite get why everyone makes such a fuss over the baby’s efforts, praising scribbles as pretty pictures and such.

(There’s a wonderful demonstration of Papa’s love for Mama implicit, too, but for some reason the Berenstains skipped right over it.)

Worth reading with the right child.

Available on Amazon

The Berenstain Bears and the Mama’s Day Surprise by Stan and Jan Berenstain. Random House 2004.

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