We’ll jump and dig and build and fly
There’s nothing that we cannot try.
We can do all these things, you see,
Whether we are he or she!
The boys have been on a “golden oldies” kick with their stories lately: “Mike Mulligan”, “Danny and the Dinosaur”, the ubiquitous Curious George, and now He Bear, She Bear, one of the Berenstein Bears books. I think this may actually have been Auntie Betsy’s book–our copy was printed in 1974 — but it’s captured their interest for some reason.
Besides the bent spine and wrinkled pages, the book shows its age a bit in its content. It’s a kind of Free to Be You and Me-lite, about how gender oughtn’t hold anyone back from pursuing whatever activities they want. And, of course, it oughtn’t, though the book probably doesn’t win a lot of feminist points for showing she-bears doing traditionally he-bear jobs — fighting fires, building skyscrapers, driving trains — but not he-bears doing she-bear jobs (nursing, teaching, etc.). Still, it’s not a bad message to give to the pre-school set.
Since the Berenstein bears are a little unisex in appearance anyway, the she-bears are denoted by head gear: they all wear scarves on their heads, Rosie the Riveter style. Which gives the book, at least to me, a Socialist Realist feel with the pictures of scarved she-bears driving tractors; bears of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your do-rags!
I haven’t figured out yet why this one is on our regular reading list; usually a book gets the nod because it has interesting pictures, or catchy rhymes, or pictures of trains. This one is pretty pedestrian in pictures, the rhymes and rhythms are OK but not memorable, and there are only a couple of trains. But the 4-year-old mind is a mystery, so I cheerfully read it whenever it’s handed to me; there are worse books on our shelf.