A Scathing Review of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, aka The Children’s Guide to Passive Suicide
Before we go any further, a little context:
There are plenty of children’s books about self destructive impulses. In The Cat in the Hat, the children are seduced into destroying their entire house, which they know full well will result in mother’s unbridled scorn. Franklin the Turtle is always doing stupid shit and then whining about it when he gets caught. I don’t have a big problem with those books. They make sense to me because they follow three core principles: it’s ok to depict kids doing dumb shit, because their mistakes are generally inadvertent. The mistakes characters make should teach children about human folly and the lessons we can glean from the err of our ways. Finally, rarely, if ever, are the parents depicted as condoning the child’s self-destruction.
Not so with this piece of shit. The parents lead their children gently by the hand right to the threshold of death’s door. They take them to a bear’s cave as he is, presumably, in the midst of hibernation, when bears are at their most pissed off and hungry. There are only two options that come to mind when I try to discern author intention here: this book is either a treatise for parents “tactfully” trying to get rid of their kids, or the first in a failed series of books, the overarching theme of which is “let’s do stupid shit!”
Then there’s the artwork. The artwork is impressionistic, evocative of my youth, particularly the memories I have of using the excrement in my diapers to paint on my bedroom walls. Much like the drawings in this book, I couldn’t distinguish between the characters in my own imagery either. Only two things could be said of it with absolution. It stunk, and you can’t bleach the images away once they’ve been burned into your memory.
Then of course there’s the suspension of disbelief. Our characters traipse across the four seasons and every environmental variation at every altitude possible, meet a bear, and then react in the most inappropriate manner possible. They’ve come equipped with absolutely nothing but ignorance and stupidity. They cross rivers with potentially dangerous undercurrents. They walk through snow in summer clothes. This book is a treatise on everything you should not do while hiking. And for all the reasons mentioned above, by the time I got to the end of the book, I f*cking wanted the bear to eat the characters.
Except the baby. That’d just be cruel.