Allison's Book Bag

A Series About Bears

Posted on: September 15, 2014

I thought to myself, all children of all colors would be reading the stories. All children love animals. The bear is fine. I love them because Mother took me to the Bronx zoo every day, and I fell in love with the cubs. My bears were a family.

–Else Minarik, New York Times Books

Had Else Minarik heeded one publisher’s advice, she might have changed her bears into human beings, and the Little Bear series might not exist. Written by Else Minarik and illustrated by Maurice Sendak, the first book in the Little Bear series was published in 1957. Primarily involving the interactions of Little Bear and Mother Bear, and the yearning Little Bear has for his father who is a ship’s captain and absent for long periods, the series has sold more than six million copies worldwide and has been adopted for television. Tomorrow I’ll review the first book in the series, Little Bear. Save the date: September 16!


ElseMinarikBorn in Denmark, where thanks to her mother she feasted on a diet of Hans Christian Anderson, Minarik and her family immigrated to the United States when she was four. After studying psychology and art from Queens College, Minarik became a journalist for the Rome Daily Sentinel newspaper. During World War II, she responded to the shortage of teachers by working with first graders in Commack on Long Island, where she felt frustrated by the lack of books (other than Dick and Jane) which her students could independently read. She also married and had one child.


When her young daughter didn’t have enough books to read, Minarik wrote and illustrated a story with short sentences and simple words about a bear and his mother. Later, she circulated copies of Little Bear for her pupils too.

Bolstered by its popularity with her young readers, and confident about its concept and execution, Minarik took the book to a publisher in New York. The editor liked it but would consider accepting it only if the bears were replaced with children.

Minarik instead found support from Ursula Nordstrom. Little Bear became the first of Harper & Rows I Can Read Books, an entirely new type of book that a beginning reader could read alone. Illustrated by Maurice Sendak, the many books about Little Bear have become some of the most beloved in children’s literature.

After the death of her second husband, Minarik moved to North Carolina, where she continued writing stories in longhand until her death. Minarik died at home on July 12, 2012.

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