April 17 – Month of the Young Child

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About the Holiday

During the month of April, we celebrate families and their young children. The aim of the holiday is to raise awareness of all the ways people can support and advance children’s happiness and wellbeing. One way families do this is by celebrating meaningful holidays together and passing on beliefs,  history, and traditions. Easter, which falls on April 21 this year, celebrates the biblical resurrection of Jesus and the fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation. The day is also one for fun family Easter egg hunts and a visit from the Easter Bunny, who brings candy and other treats. 

Today, I’m reviewing two Berenstain Bears Easter books. The first is a bit simpler for younger readers while the second contains more details of the biblical story and how secular traditions fit into the day. I received copies of both books for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

The Berenstain Bears: The Very First Easter

Written by Jan and Mike Berenstain

 

On the night before Easter, Papa Bear gathered Sister, Brother, and Honey together to read a bedtime story. Brother wants to hear one from their storybook Bible, and Papa finds one about the very first Easter. The story begins when Jesus and his disciples come to Jerusalem and are greeted with “Hosannas” and a crowd waving palm branches. “They believed Jesus was the new king of Israel.” The officials in Jerusalem thought Jesus was stirring up trouble. “They did not understand that the kingdom of Jesus was really the kingdom of heaven.”

The day was Passover, and Jesus and his disciples gathered for a special Passover dinner. During the supper, Jesus told his followers that he loved them. They ate bread and drank wine, which Jesus said were like his body and blood. He told them that he would be leaving them soon, but they did not understand what he meant.

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Copyright Jan and Mike Berenstain, 2019, courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Later, Jesus went to a garden to pray. The followers that went along with him soon fell asleep. Another disciple, Judas, had “decided to help the angry city leaders put Jesus in prison.” He showed the soldiers where Jesus was praying. The leaders of Jerusalem brought Jesus to their Roman ruler, Pilate. He ordered that Jesus be put to death by hanging on a wooden cross.

On the day Jesus died, the sky turned black and a wind whipped across the land. People were afraid; some prayed and some hid. Jesus was buried in a tomb, and the opening was covered by a huge, heavy stone. Roman guards were placed in front of the tomb.

Three days after Jesus died, an angel appeared. The angel rolled away the stone and frightened the guards away. When three women came to visit the tomb, the angel told them that Jesus had risen. The women hurried away to tell all of Jesus’ friends. Later, Jesus visited his followers in the room where they had been fearfully staying together.

They were amazed to see him. “‘Peace be with you,’ Jesus said.” He then told them to “spread the good news about what had happened.” Forty days later, Jesus rose into heaven “to be with God, his father.” Jesus’ friends and followers “rejoiced and praised God.” As Papa closed the Bible, he saw that Brother, Sister, and Honey were asleep. “‘Good night,’ Papa whispers, ‘and God bless.’”

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Copyright Jan and Mike Berenstain, 2019, courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Jan and Mike Berenstain’s The Very First Easter is a traditional telling of the biblical Easter story for young readers. Composed of the important events in the days surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection, the story reinforces the miracle of Jesus’ rising from the dead and his directive that his followers should spread the good news. Children will enjoy learning the Easter story along with Sister, Brother, and Honey as their own parent or caregiver joins Papa Bear in sharing this highlight of the church calendar. The book makes a good companion to personal discussions about the holiday and can grow with the child as they age and learn more details of the story.

An Easter word search puzzle is included on the inside back cover.

Ages 4 – 8

Zonderkidz, 2019 | ISBN 978-0310762188

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About the Holiday

The definition of spiritual wellness is unique to each person. When you think deep down about what gives your life purpose, meaning, and happiness, what do you find? This month encourages people to discover if their beliefs, activities, work, family relationships and friendships are all in harmony. It’s also important to take care of you, by taking time to reflect each day and to plan fun and relaxing activities. Springtime and Easter are opportunities for renewal, making March a great time to consider your spiritual wellness.

The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story

Written by Jan and Mike Berenstain

 

On the way to Sunday school one spring morning, all Brother, Sister, and Honey Bear could think about was Easter candy. As they entered their classroom, Brother said his favorite Easter candy was chocolate bunnies, Sister said hers was marshmallow chicks, and Honey Bear cried “‘Jelly beans!’” Then Missus Ursula revealed that her favorite was black jelly beans, but also that Easter is about more than candy.

Brother and Sister said they knew that. Easter was about “‘stuff in the Bible,’” Brother told Missus Ursula. “‘Yeah,’ agreed Sister. ‘Bible stuff.’” And Honey Bear added, “‘Stuff!’” Missus Ursula thought the cubs’ understanding could use a little more rounding out, so she took them into the next classroom, where the older bear cubs were putting on a play.

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Copyright Jan and Mike Berenstain, 2012, courtesy of Zondervan.

The stage was set with props of the Holy Land, and cubs were dressed in costumes. One of the performers began telling the Easter story. “‘Long ago, in the Holy Land, there was a man named Jesus. He traveled the countryside teaching about God and what God wanted for his people.’” The narrator went on to tell about Jesus’s miracles and how “‘he could do these wonderful things because he was the Son of God.’”

Government officials and others were angry. They were afraid that Jesus wanted to become the king. One day Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem and crowds greeted him with shouts of “‘Hosanna!’” The leaders believed Jesus was becoming too powerful. One night while Jesus was praying in a garden, “‘soldiers were sent to arrest him.’” He was questioned by a “‘wicked judge…who wanted to show everyone that Jesus was not a king. He ordered for Jesus to be put to death by hanging on a wooden cross.’” 

After Jesus died, he was put in a tomb. A huge stone was rolled in front of the entrance. “‘On the morning of the third day after Jesus died, some women who knew Jesus came to weep at his tomb.’” They saw that the stone had been rolled away. Jesus was no longer in the tomb. “‘An angel told the women…that Jesus was alive once more.’”

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Copyright Jan and Mike Berenstain, 2012, courtesy of Zondervan.

In the days and weeks after Jesus rose, he visited his friends. “‘Jesus told them they should spread the good news about what had happened.’” After visiting with his friends, “‘Jesus rose up to heaven to be with God, his Father.’” Following the play, the cubs understood that Easter is about more than candy. But “‘does this mean we shouldn’t eat any Easter candy?’” Brother asked.

“‘Certainly not!’ Missus Ursula laughed” and confessed that she’d miss her jelly beans too. But she reminded the cubs that they should go to church after they got their Easter baskets. “‘Hooray!’ the cubs said. ‘And Hosanna!’ added Missus Ursula. ‘He is risen!’”

A page of colorful stickers depicting images from the story are included, and discussion questions and fun activities related to the book follow the text. 

Since the early 1960s, the Berenstain Bears have been delighting readers with their shenanigans, wit, and always-close family relationships. In The Berenstain Bears: The Very First Easter The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story, part of the Living Lights series, these beloved characters talk about and reveal to children the deeper meaning of Easter, with a focus on Jesus’s resurrection. The dialogue-rich structure lends a personal touch to any reading, letting the adult sound as if they are telling the story themselves.

The illustrations of Bear Country are bathed in the warm glow of spring as the sun rises over the Bear’s tidy treehouse home. Brother’s, Sister’s, and Honey Bear’s dreams of candy will enchant little ones as will the familiar scene of walking into church on Easter morning. Depictions of the play are vibrant and detailed but with a homey and childlike feeling to the props and acting.

For adults looking for a traditional, Bible-centered telling of the Easter story with engaging  characters that children will respond to, The Berenstain Bears: The Very First Easter and The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story is a superb choice for home and church libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Zonderkidz, 2012 | ISBN 978-0310720874

To learn more about Bear Country and all of The Berenstain Bears books as well as to find fun activities visit the Berenstain Bears’ website.

Month of the Young Child Activity

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Sweet Bunny Candy Jar

 

A little bit of candy makes Easter or any spring day sweeter! With this Sweet Bunny Candy Jar, you can give a child, a friend, or even yourself a special treat that will make you hoppy!

Supplies

  • Printable Hat Rim and Bunny Ears Template
  • Baby food jar (I used a Beech-Nut Naturals jar)
  • White fleece, 8 ½ inches by 11 inches
  • 1 piece of purple foam (Or any color you’d like to make the hat)
  • Small piece of pink foam or felt for nose
  • Googly eyes (I used oval)
  • Medium pom-pom
  • Multi-surface paint, purple (or whatever color you’d like to make the hat)
  • Fabric glue (I used Fabric-Tac)
  • Black ultra-fine or fine tip permanent marker
  • Large nail or ice pick
  • Hammer
  • Scissors

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Directions

  1. Remove label from baby food jar
  2. Clean and dry jar and lid
  3. Trace the hat rim template onto the purple foam
  4. Cut out the rim of the hat and remove the center
  5. Trace the ears template onto the white fleece and cut out

To Make the Body and Face

  1. Cut a 2-inch wide by 7-inch long strip of white fleece
  2. Glue the strip of fleece to the jar under the lip and leaving about ½ inch of glass showing at the bottom
  3. Glue on the googly eyes
  4. Cut a little nose from the pink foam and glue to the face
  5. Make the mouth with the permanent marker on a little piece of fleece, cut out and glue under the nose

To Make the Hat

  1. Paint the lid with the purple paint. Let dry.
  2. With the nail or ice pick and hammer, make a hole on either side of the lid to insert the ears. You can make the hole a little bigger with a phillips head screwdriver
  3. Flip the lid over and hammer the edges of the hole flat
  4. Trace the hat rim template onto the purple foam

To Insert the Ears

  1. Pinch the end of one ear together and push it through one hole in the lid.
  2. Pull it through the hole a bit to form the ear
  3. Repeat with the other ear

Finish the Bunny

  1. Add the foam rim to the lid
  2. Glue the pom-pom to the back of the jar for the tail
  3. Add M&Ms, jelly beans, or other small candy

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You can find The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-very-first-easter-cover

You can find The Berenstain Bears: The Very First Easter at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review