Last night we were reading Little Bear, by Else Holmelund Minarik and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. This is a well-known book series and will probably not be new to many of you. But if you don’t have this in your child’s library, make an excuse to add it.

Little Bear has a very simple life. He lives with Mother Bear and Father Bear. He visits Grandfather Bear and Grandmother Bear. He has several Animal Friends, like Duck and Cat and Owl. He has small adventures. The whole thing is pretty straightforward, but there are 3 things that I think put this series in my top 10 favorites:

1) Every story and every word that is spoken to Little Bear comes from an atmosphere of total love and acceptance. As a mother, I find I study the books — using them as models of more patient parenting.
2) The black and white drawings, by Maurice Sendak, are perfect. Someone told me that beyond the books Sendak did, there are more stories in the Little Bear series by the same author, but with different illustrations. I haven’t seen them. It’s hard to imagine improving on Sendak’s drawings in any way.
3) Minarik’s writing is a work of art. The stories are engaging enough to read to kids from 2 to 6, but are actually written as books for beginning readers, so the language is simple and children can read the book themselves as they get older. I read these stories over and over and never tire of them.

From what I understand there are 5 original Little Bear books, each containing 4 stories. You can also find compilations of several books under one cover. I should note: in addition to the books, there is a well-done TV series featuring the Little Bear stories and based on Sendak’s illustrations. I love it. In the same way I study the books, I use the way Mother Bear speaks as an example of how my voice could (and should) be more gentle with my own kids.

P.S. — More great picture books!