As with all the Berenstain Bears books, this one has beautiful, fun illustrations and is pleasing to the eye. This story centre around bad eating habits and looking after your body better. It is also educational on the working of the body and it's systems. It manages to get the important point of good health across while keeping it funny and very enjoyable for all. I find that my young son loves this and it's also easy for the very young to understand. An all round hit in our opinion, which we will continue to enjoy for a long time to come.
I bought this to read to my 2 1/2 year-old, because I was looking for a calm way to discuss with her why she can't have chocolate for dinner (and oh, how I wish we could, child!). There are so many ways that discussions about healthy eating can go wrong, and lead to unnecessary anxiety and body image troubles, but I think this book took a really balanced approach to the topic and got it mostly right.
Mama Bear notices that her cubs are constantly snacking on junk foods - crisps, buttered popcorn, candy. At first, she lets her observations slide, but one day, she notices the cubs are starting to become overweight. Papa Bear, it turns out, has been gaining weight as well. That sends her into action; she gathers up all the treats and goodies in the house, hides them away, and vows that the family will start over, and eat healthy, nourishing food.
The book discusses what types of foods are healthy and nourishing: whole grains, fruits, vegetables, milk and cheese, and fresh meats. It encourages drinking water rather than soda. Dr Grizzly chats to the cubs about how each food group benefits the body. The Bears all focus on eating healthier meals, they all take up jogging to get fit, and Mama makes an effort to prepare healthier snacks for the cubs (fresh fruit, nuts, raisins, carrot sticks), rather than relying as much on food from packets.
I have very few reservations about reading this book to my daughter. The cubs are described as "getting chubbier", which is presented as a bad thing in the book, and the Bears' weight gain is clearly tied to less than ideal food choices (which are described as "bad habits"). So, there may be a risk of projecting poor body image and anxiety about food. That said, I think the risk is very small, and nobody's food choices are presented as a failure of character, or irreversible. The book acknowledges that we eat junk food in the first place because it's tasty. The conversations that take place in the book, about healthy eating and getting active, are similar to real-life conversations my husband and I have: ones that usually come about shortly after Christmas or a vacation, when we step on a scale for the first time in months, and realize we've overindulged.
My daughter seems to appreciate this story; she asks for it a lot. I think it's deepened her understanding as to why I've been telling her "no chocolate for dinner". She's a little more willing to ask for a piece of fruit these days, if I tell her she can't snack on junk. And I guess reading the book to her has reminded me of my own role to play, in making sure she eats right.
My children loved the Berenstain Bears, as do their children, so I bought this for my grandson as a stocking filler. I was disappointed by the fact that is rather more a pamphlet then a book, having no spine or binding. It does dwell on eating healthily (complete with High School biology diagram of the intestinal system) and no doubt spreads the message, but I expected it to be rhyming, with Papa Bear as ever in the right but disproved my the younger bears.....go to your GP if you feel in need of a ticking off for bad eating habits but I don't recommend this book (particularly in view of the number of child anorexics one reads about in the newspapers nowadays). Discarded in favour of "The Bike Lesson" - much more fun.