Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Else Holmelund Minarik, Mother of Little Bear

Little Bear sitting on Mother Bear's lap
The first books I remember wanting to read on my own were the Little Bear books by Else Holmelund Minarik, illustrated by Maurice Sendak. There aren't a lot of details I can dredge up from first grade, but one I can recall is finding the books in my elementary school library.

Minarik died earlier this month at the age of 91. Sendak died in May.

Sendak's "Victorian-inflected illustrations" (as the Times put it) -- inks that look like hand-tinted wood engravings -- probably pulled me into the books, but Minarik's stories seemed, to my young mind, completely synthesized with his art.

I was always fascinated by the fact that the adult bears wore clothes, while Little Bear did not. And his array friends, from bird to animal to human, compelled my interest in a way that Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin never quite did.

Little Bear and its sequels were the first books I bought after Daughter Number Three-Point-One was born. But I don't think it makes as good a read-aloud book as it does an I-can-read-it-myself book. She might disagree.

Sadly, when you search "little bear" in Google Images, only a few of the pictures shown are of Sendak's art or are even from Minarik's books. They're almost all from Disneyfied animated versions that came much later.

Read the real thing, and think of Else and Maurice.

1 comment:

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

We have one very old volume of stories (involving a fur coat, a trip to the moon, birthday soup, and a good-night story that wraps them all together). I have LOVED reading these aloud to the kids. So very sweet.