The Bible reference for The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving, written and illustrated by Jan and Mike Berenstain, is, “It is more blessed to give than to receive [Acts: 20:35], and aptly so, as the story is about giving.
It’s Christmastime in Bear Country. A few days before the big day, brother and Sister are each given $10 to spend on Christmas presents for others. They buy just one gift each: Brother buys for Sister and visa versa. Neither gift costs $10 so each cub has money left over for their selves. Although they bought gifts for each other, they made sure they had money left over they could keep. That’s not what Christmas is about, but Mama and Papa don’t say anything to the cubs about it.
On Christmas Eve, Brother and Sister take part in their church’s Christmas play, dressed as one of the Wise Men’s camels, Sister as the front end, Brother in the rear. During the play, when the Wise Men give their presents to the Baby Jesus, Brother and Sister realize the reason for giving Christmas presents: The presents we give to each other on Christmas are to symbolize the gifts the Wise Men gave to Baby Jesus.
From that moment on, they have a change of heart in relation to gifts. On Christmas morning, instead of rushing to open their own gifts, they take pleasure in exchanging gifts with each other first. Later that day, on the way to church, they stop to donate their leftover money to a charitable organization.
The illustrations throughout the book are bright and colorful and a bit cartoon-like as are most books in the series.
What I Like: I enjoy reading any and all books in the Berenstain Bears series. It’s fun to see what the Bear family is up to in each episode and how we can relate the lessons they learn to our own lives.
What I Dislike: However, having said that, I must add that this book fell a bit short on the story end. Although it was good that the cubs discovered the joy of giving, I think it’s unrealistic to think they would both have the exact same thought at the exact same moment. And, it seems unlikely they would come to such a life-changing conclusion simply by performing a play they had rehearsed many times. I think a more realistic storyline would have had them helping at a local homeless shelter or food panty, or organizing a toy drive for needy families to illustrate that there are those in this world that have very little and those of us who have more should be willing, and happy, to give of what we have. That’s the joy of giving.