Will loves the book “Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?” by Eric Carle. It’s his favorite by far. Mine too.
It’s a simple book that names a bunch of animals & what they’re doing. Will can’t read yet, but it doesn’t matter because he knows it by heart. He reads it to me, word for word, every night before bed. “I see a red fox slipping by me” and “I see a prairie dog digging by me.” One by one he ticks them off with precision and accuracy as he rubs his eyes and tries to fight off the sleep quickly coming for him.
“I see a blue heron flying by me” and “I see a mule deer kicking by me.”
He doesn’t like some of the real text though, so he substitutes his own words. The rattlesnake doesn’t slither, it rattles. And the mountain doesn’t climb, he goes up the mountain. Apparently creative license and editorial ambiguity is genetic.
As we get towards the end I smile. My favorite part is coming up soon.
Will gets to the page with a picture of the mama bear. The line is supposed to read “Mama Bear, Mama Bear, what do you see? I see a—” and then you’re supposed to turn the page. But Will like to ad-lib. He says “I see a Mama Bear looking for her baby because she loves and misses him.” Then he curls into me and smiles. Our favorite part is next.
The next page consists of small pictures of every animal featured in the book. I point to each of them and Will rattles them off like clockwork. Red fox, blue heron, mountain goat, prairie dog, mule deer, flying squirrel, screech owls and—of course—the baby bear. After naming them all, Will pauses and smirks at me. The last line is supposed to read “That’s what I see.” But Will, in the cutest voice imaginable, ad-libs the final line.
“All wild animals are free.”
I don’t know why I get such a kick out of that, but it makes my day. And it’s proof that the best and most memorable part of having kids is the stuff that’s woven into the mundane fabric of our daily lives. While a part of me can’t wait to read the Hardy Boys & eventually the Harry Potter series with Will, I’m going to miss Baby Bear when he finally gets sick of it.
“Thanks for reading to me Dad,” he says. Can you believe that? He’s thanking me!