There once was a little, tiny girl who loved books and words. She loved her Bible story books, and memorized several of them word for word. She even memorized when to turn the pages, and recited the entire book to an unsuspecting grandparent who was then convinced that this barely three-year-old could actually read already.
She only got to hear it read on the occasions when her mom and dad had to leave her and her brother with friends while they took baby sister to the hospital for pre-surgery appointments. But she loved it and begged to hear it read over and over and over and over again. Usually, it was read over yogurt (strawberry, peach, or cherry — it didn’t matter, but she loved yogurt a whole lot, too). And no matter how many times they read it, when they got to the story of Little Bear’s Birthday Soup, she always insisted that soup couldn’t be soup without onions. “Uncle” Ron always humored her, and would always add “and onions” to the story, and she’d always smile.
But then the little girl and her family moved far, far away. All the way North to Alaska. And she didn’t have her own copy of Little Bear. She missed the stories about Little Bear’s Wish, his fur coat, and especially the story about Birthday Soup.
Just in time for her birthday, a little package arrived in the mail. It had a note attached that said “Since you can’t come over and eat yogurt and listen to Little Bear now, I hope you’ll like hearing the stories I read on tape for you.” And that is exactly what happened — she loved hearing the stories, and listened to it over, and over and over again. He even made sure to add “and onions” to the story of the Birthday soup, and that made her very happy!
The little girl grew into a big girl, and then a teen and finally into a woman. She didn’t live in Alaska anymore, and somehow over the years that old tape had worn out and disappeared. She read and loved many books as the years had gone by, different ones shaping and making her who she was as she grew. But she still thought about Little Bear sometimes as a happy childhood memory and thought about the kind friends of her parents who had shared the stories with her so many times.
One day this girl, now married, decided to see if she could find Little Bear again, just for memory’s sake. She did. She bought it immediately and read it again (and again, but we won’t say how many times exactly). She told her husband about it, and was altogether too excited about such a little book.
The story is simple. Probably not as interesting as the memories that are wrapped around it. But after all, isn’t that part of what makes books precious?
Now, with a little niece who is just about old enough to enjoy the same stories, she has many excuses to relive and to share the stories of Little Bear with her niece and nephews. Perhaps one day, she will read it to her own children, should she and her husband ever have any. And maybe they, too, will love Little Bear and yogurt, just like she still does.
P.S. She still feels the same way about onions and soup, and will always add “and onions” to the story when she reads it.
P.P.S. I don’t think she realized that there are actually at least three Little Bear books by Else Holmelund Minarik until quite recently, or perhaps she would have grown up knowing a lot more about Little Bear than her little book had room to share.