The Berenstain Bears and the Homework Hassle by Stan and Jan Berenstain

The Berenstain Bears and the Homework HassleThe Berenstain Bears and the Homework Hassle by Stan Berenstain and Jan Berenstain

My rating: ★★☆☆☆

Oh, dear. Oh, dear. I really don’t like the Berenstain Bears. Most of the time, the morals are screwy at best and downright infuriating at worst–not to say that there aren’t a few gems, of course.

This wasn’t one of them. Quote:

“[You found that i]n my backback?” said Brother. “I thought my backpack was private.”

“When something starts to smell like garbage,” said Mama, “it isn’t private anymore.”

Well, that’s good to know! If Brother Bear doesn’t throw away his lunch refuse before Mama Bear notices that it’s still in his backpack, he has given her free reign to rifle through his things! There’s no, “Brother Bear, what is that awful smell in your backpack?” There’s just, “I think I’ll ignore our established boundaries and privacy rules and barge in myself!”

I really don’t get it. Mama Bear doesn’t even acknowledge that she’s done something wrong. She just plows on with what Brother Bear’s done wrong as if she isn’t accountable just because she’s the parent. As if she doesn’t have to follow her own rules. That infuriates me.

Now, of course, I’m not trying to say that Brother Bear didn’t do anything wrong. He did a lot wrong: he won’t do his homework, he’s falling behind in school, and he’s hiding his teacher’s notes home. (But perhaps if you bothered to maintain a trusting relationship, Mama Bear, he wouldn’t feel pressured into hiding things from you.)

Luckily, the story took a turn I appreciated. Brother Bear goes to his Grandparents house and discusses the issue with them and discovers that his father, who has revoked his afternoon entertainment privileges until the homework is all caught up (not at all a positive, encouraging approach to getting homework done, but fair enough, I suppose), had just the same problem during his childhood, and his parents treated him just the way he’s treating Brother Bear now. So Brother Bear is somewhat appeased; his father does, in fact, understand what he’s going through.

As it turns out, Papa Bear really knows–he’s behind on his taxes, and so Brother Bear and Papa Bear end up doing their homework and taxes together at a table in the living room with no entertainment distractions. Fair enough.

So the moral they were going for is great. “Parents are people, too, and you have a lot more in common with them than you think.” Too bad there’s still the whole, “Your mother doesn’t have to respect your privacy!” bit. I really wish they had managed to build the plot without that, but at least it didn’t fall into “downright infuriating” territory this time.

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