My rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Apparently, one of the Berenstains really had a problem with Beanie Babies. Normally, Berenstain Bears books have a moral; in a Berenstain Bears book referencing Beanie Babies, one would expect a “don’t get caught up in fads” moral. And that’s here… if you squint really, really hard.
Perhaps that’s what they wanted readers to take away from the story, but after finishing it, I stared at the page in disbelief for a moment, then checked the publishing date. Apparently back in 1999, the Berenstains hated Beanie Babies so freakin’ much that they felt the need to write a whole book about it. If they were going for a fad moral, they missed their mark by a long short. There is not a single reference to the existence of other fads in this book. As a matter of fact, I just double-checked, and the word fad isn’t even in the book. So the moral one would expect is already out the window, and in it’s place, one is left with nothing to take away from this besides, “Wow, the Berenstains sure do hate Beanie Babies.”
The reasoning they offer as to why Beanie Babies–oh, excuse me, “Beary Bubbies”–is absolutely ridiculous. “You can’t play dolly with them,” the book says. “You can’t play choo-choo with them…You couldn’t play baseball with them…” Um, duh? They’re not dolls, they’re not trains, and they’re definitely not baseballs. They’re stuffed animals. If you can’t find a game to play with your stuffed animals (I always did), you can at least cuddle them or something. And for the record, Mr. and Mrs. Berenstain, I can’t play “dolly”, “choo-choo”, or baseball with your book, either.
“All you could do was look at them.” Or you could use your imagination. Because your target audience and your characters are young children.
“The only thing you could really do with them is brag about how many you had….And no matter how many you had, there was always somebody who had more.” Because, obviously, that’s what toys are for.
See, that’s a moral they could have squeezed out of that if they weren’t so wrapped up in their incredibly odd anti-Beanie Baby rage. See, there are two perfectly valid reasons to own Beanie Babies: you either play with them or you collect them.
Moral Option A: Buy toys (and possessions in general) that you have an interest in, not toys that other people have an interest in. And certainly not toys you think can make you a quick profit (which is Papa Bear’s interest in Beary Bubbies).
Moral Option B: Don’t make toys (and possessions in general) a contest. Get what you want, get what you need, and leave everything else the hell alone.
But neither of these ideas is explored in the story; they’re there, but you have to squint if you want to spot them, and so the target audience isn’t likely to notice any kind of lesson. So when one gets to the line, “And no matter how many you had, there was always somebody who had more.” and turn the page, one expects to have at least a brief comment about why toys need to be valued as toys and not a contest. But nope. Instead we get:
“Now what do you suppose that was all about?” (Papa Bear)
“I really don’t know.” (Brother Bear)
So, really, the book had the same reaction to its plot that I did.