Teddy bears appeal to the imagination and the heart

August 20, 2004|by Lisa Tedrick Prejean

"My mommy says if we get enough dollars I can adopt a teddy bear."

My daughter and her 5-year-old friends were chatting just before bedtime. I was waiting patiently to read them a story and tuck them in.

Of course, the conversation is always enlightening.

When my daughter's friend started talking about the specialized, one-of-a-kind bear she hoped to own, I had two thoughts:

1. How much is this going to cost me if my daughter wants one, too?

2. In an age of high-tech, do-everything toys, why are teddy bears still so appealing?

Deborah E. Thomas, author of "The Bramble Thicket," has a few thoughts on the latter.

"Teddy bears are comfortable, simple," Thomas says. "I think teddy bears are popular because they listen."

Dolls are reality. They are made for action - tea parties and the like. They're busy.

Teddy bears just sit and wait to be snuggled. They appeal to the imagination.


That's one of the reasons Thomas made teddy bears the main characters in her book. She bills "The Bramble Thicket" as "a story for those who love adventure and small bears."

The 12 chapters are engaging and revolve around the lives of The Bramble Thicket Bears: Bramble, Whisper, Tumble, Ramble, Kandoo, Thicket, Helper and Rough.

The bears learn to work together on their quest to find a home. Along the way, they make a new friend, Candlelight, who needs their help.

As they try to find a solution for Candlelight's problem, they accomplish their quest as well.

By showing kindness and persistence, they triumph.

It's a great character lesson that is easy for parents to embrace.

Finding children's literature you can trust - books that extol the virtues of teamwork, manners and honesty - is no easy task, Thomas says.

"There's a national cry for literature that builds character," Thomas says. "In a lot of children's books, the emphasis is on the problem.

"I wanted to teach children the process of making the right choice."

If a character has a bad attitude throughout a book and is allowed to remain that way without any consequences, then a child learns that it's OK to have a bad attitude for a long time, Thomas says. But if a child sees that a character's wrong choice or behavior brings consequences, that will provide a valuable lesson.

Children need to realize that there are problems in life waiting to be solved and that they could be part of the solution. Being able to analyze problems and bring hope into situations are important skills to learn, Thomas says.

"Success comes when you keep trying," she says. "Courage comes when you keep trying."

It's not enough for a parent to say, "You can do it!"

Children need to hear that even though there are ups and downs in school, in sports and in life in general, a parent or special adult will be there coming along beside to share in the highs and the lows.

Then even if a child can't do it, he'll know he isn't alone.

In the table of contents for "The Bramble Thicket," each bear's name is shown beside an illustration of that bear. While reading the book, we referred back to that page several times. While children view this as a fun task, teachers refer to it as developing early reference skills. Thomas says she included the guide because knowing where to find information and going back to that information is an important skill for children to learn.

The Bramble Thicket bears are also continually building their vocabulary with words such as camouflaged, ponder and chauffeur.

For more information, go to on the Web.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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