Monday, September 16, 2013

Little Bear's Visit

One of the staples of early childhood literature in the English tongue, which perseveres into the current generation and across country borders as my experience in a Berliner bookshop proves, is the Little Bear series by the American, Else Holmelund Minarik.
"Top of Zürich on Uetliberg Uto Kulm (Switzerland)",
January 10, 2010
By Roland zh
A random yet atmospheric picture of bears which is meant to invoke topical beariness whilst not clashing with our mental recollection  of Sendakian beariness. The cover of Little Bear's Visit, with Sendak's bear, can be found at Google Books.
Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Accompanied by the illustrations of Maurice Sendak, it has a gentility, a warmth and serenity which are heartening. In the sparing use of colour in the illustrations and of verbiage in the text, it is an endorsing example of the modernist tendency to pare away fuss and feathers. In this case it achieves, in the end, a truthful-feeling simplicity.


WHETHER A Dorothy Parker would think the same, is perhaps in doubt, considering the famous quotation in which Winnie the Pooh impelled her to fwow up. Yet even if dark realism is nowhere in evidence, it captures the privileged childhood which I for instance knew, in the rosy glow which I cast on it now. "Little Bear is me in Denmark. I was cuddled and loved," the author has said.

The very good little bear is a bear and not a human boy, after all, and the incidents in this book are modest of nature (a visit with the grandparents, an encounter with a baby robin as recounted by the grandmother, and the grandfather's imagining of a goblin, which in Sendak's hands is likely the cuddliest goblin you will ever see). It raises no excessive pretensions as to the scope of our childhood adventures.

It's also quite charming that in the grandmother's tale of the baby robin, she returns the bird — whom she has been fostering indoors — to the liberty for which it strained. (Out of affection, it will return.)


Else Holmelund Minarik lived from 1920 to 2012. She grew up with Hans Christian Andersen since she immigrated from Denmark to the US as a child. She wrote the Little Bear books initially for her pupils once she became a teacher in Commack, New York State. They emerged in print in the 1950s, illustrated at once by Sendak at Harper and Bros.


"Else Holmelund Minarik obituary" [Guardian], by Julia Eccleshare (July 19, 2012)
"Else Holmelund Minarik, 91, was author of the 'Little Bear' pictures books" [Washington Post], by Emily Langer (July 18, 2012)
The quotation from Else Holmelund Minarik was taken from this article, which in turn shared it from the Star News of Wilmington, in North Carolina.
Additional information from Wikipedia and the New York Times.

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