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Reading My Library

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Blackboard Bear

nem·e·sis (nm-ss)
n. pl. nem·e·ses (-sz) 1. A source of harm or ruin

I said at the beginning that I knew I would run into books that I utterly despised and that I WOULD mention them. Typically, I run with the "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" philosophy of book reviewing. However, this Reading My Library challenge is a bit different.

#1 - Publishers aren't asking me to read their books.
#2 - I'm not skipping titles that I think look questionable.
#3 - Therefore I reserve the right to point out titles that I think serve a great disservice to the young reading public.

The Blackboard Bear series is one such series. I think it is more harmful than helpful. Perhaps it was written to be "cute" but it doesn't come off very well and I'm honestly surprised that there is a whole series of these books. I would have thought that one book would have been enough.

I am "picking on" these books even though they are published by one of my favorite children's book publishers and even though author Martha Alexander wrote another book in the stack that I read through that I absolutely loved. If I write up a book as being a Nemesis, it is because I really think it has some significant problems that I cannot overlook. Plus, it's my site and I guess I can do that if I really want to. (I just don't want to leave you with the impression that I'm going to slam EVERY title I don't like. Not liking something does not put it even near the chart of things to write about. LOATHING something will skyrocket it to the top of my list to mention.)

The premise of all the books is about a little boy who draws a blackbear on his bedroom blackboard. The bear comes to life and they have "adventures" together. The idea of the books is intriguing. However, the little boy is such a pain-in-the-derriere with an attitude that would make him unfit to be any of your children's playmate.

Check out the individual titles and problems within the book:

Title: And My Mean Old Mother Will be Sorry, Blackboard Bear

What happens: Boy thinks mother is too mean and grumpy so he runs away from home thinking it'll serve her right. Eventually he decides it's a good idea to go back home. But only because his teddy bear will miss him.

What the book teaches: Mothers are stupid and mean and we can be disobedient just to show them "what for."

Yeah. Like I'll be reading this book to my toddler. I don't think so.


Title: Blackboard Bear

What happens: This is the first title in the series. Boy's brother won't let him play with his friends so boy goes to his room and draws an imaginary blackbear that comes to life. Boy, disgruntled with brother, draws pictures of his brother and their friends on the blackboard so that his blackbear can eat them up.

What it teaches: If you don't like someone, it's ok to hurt them.


Title: We're in Big Trouble, Blackboard Bear

What happens: Blackbear sneaks out of the house one night and gets into lots of trouble, eating flowers, and the neighbor's pet goldfish. Boy, in an effort to keep him and Blackboard bear out of trouble, draws the missing items which then "come to life" and they make restitution with the items.

What it teaches: There aren't any real consequences for bad actions.


Title: I'll Never Share You, Blackboard Bear

What happens: Boy's friends want to boy to share blackboard bear. Pretty much all of the kids have bad attitudes in this book. Eventually, blackboard bear suggests drawing a saddle so that all of the kids can take a ride on him. Boy accepts this and things move along smoothly.

What it teaches: We shouldn't share unless we really, really feel like it. And we're allowed bad attitudes in the process.

I just simply do not see the value in this series and it is definitely one that I took a pass on reading aloud to my son. There are values and virtues that I long for him to have, none of which were included in these books. Instead, just the opposite occurred and I found very little (to nothing) to like about them.

Apparently these books have been around for some 25 years. In my opinion, that's about 25 years too long.


  1. Hmmm--interesting.

    I wonder if the purpose is to let children have an imaginary outlet for their own feeling of helplessness? (don't I sound intellectual??).

    However -- I agree that we have the choice about which behaviors we want to model as acceptable, and there are other books that show more appropriate ways to deal with such feelings.

  2. Yes, you said it well, I think. =D I think it IS written to give children a way to identify with their feelings. However, I never walked away with the impression that their feelings were directed in a good and healthy way. Instead it was concluded that mommy really IS mean and nasty and that siblings ARE rotten scum.

    So yes, I agree, there are far better choices of books that would handle the topics in a more productive and (to repeat myself) healthy way.