Hunting for a Great Children’s Book?

If you’re looking for a gift to give to a young boy or girl who will likely grow up loving the outdoors, here’s a children’s book idea that will score record book points.

Hunting for a Great Children’s Book?

While fishing recently with a female friend, the topic of children’s books came up. (I know, fishing must have sloooooow, right?!)

We were talking about parenting, education and the like, and she asked me if I read much to my two sons when they were young (now they’re 16 and 18). “Sure,” I said. “I can’t remember the name of the story they liked best, but it featured a male bear that dressed like a mountain man and lived in a log cabin, where he trapped, fished and hunted for survival.”

I recently checked my sons’ bookshelf to see if I could find the story, and I’m happy to say I was successful. Written by Patricia Scarry, “Pierre Bear” was first published in 1954 and was available as a standalone book in the Little Golden Book hardcover series. Later, it could be found as one of many stories collected for “Richard Scarry’s Best Story Book Ever.” Richard was Patricia’s husband, and he illustrated all of the 82 stories and poems in the best-story compilation. By my count, Richard wrote 72 of the 82 stories, Patricia wrote eight, and two other authors wrote one each.

The story of “Pierre Bear” is the opposite of politically correct, so please keep that in mind when giving it as a gift. In other words, be sure you know the family well enough to ensure the parents will be okay with a pro-hunting and pro-trapping message.

The first two sentences set up the story:

“In a windswept cabin, away up North, lived brave Pierre Bear. He lived all by himself.”

As you can see below, the first illustration shows Pierre reading a book on a stool in front of his fireplace. He’s smoking a pipe, and a flintlock rifle with blackpowder charging horn hangs on the wall in the background.

The first page from Patricia Scarry’s “Pierre Bear.” The illustrations were drawn by Patricia’s husband, Richard.
The first page from Patricia Scarry’s “Pierre Bear.” The illustrations were drawn by Patricia’s husband, Richard.

The story continues explaining how Pierre catches fish for supper. The theme is companionship: “I wish there were someone here to share my supper,” thought lonely Pierre Bear. He even dreams about being with other bears. 

The story really gets good when Pierre realizes his cupboard is empty. “So he took his big rifle and headed for the wild woods to hunt the Terrible Moose, the biggest wildest animal of the North.”

Pierre calls in the moose — my kids loved it when I made the cow calls with my voice — and author Patricia Scarry doesn’t sugarcoat the scene: “His antlers were enormous. His hoofs beat like thunder as he charged for Pierre. But the brave little bear was not afraid. He shot him. BANG! And the Moose fell dead.”

Pierre Bear needs to hunt to survive. Here, he calls and shoots the Terrible Moose.
Pierre Bear needs to hunt to survive. Here, he calls and shoots the Terrible Moose.

Pierre’s cupboard is then full, but again he wishes “he had someone to help him eat all of that good food.”

Soon afterward, Pierre hikes in snowshoes to town, pulling a sled full of furs to trade for supplies. There, he meets a pleasant lady bear working at the Trading Post, and you can guess the rest. They eventually marry and have a little baby bear — Little Pierre — who then joins Pierre on his many outdoor adventures.

Together they hunt the massive Fur Seal (the family needed new fur coats!), and Pierre takes the sealskin back to the cabin where he dries it. “Then, with her bone needle, Mrs. Pierre sewed them all coats. They were the finest coats in the North. ‘They should be, said Mrs. Pierre proudly, ‘for you are the Two Greatest Hunters of all the North!’”

Because the family needs new fur coats for winter, Pierre and Little Pierre hunt for the massive Fur Seal.
Because the family needs new fur coats for winter, Pierre and Little Pierre hunt for the massive Fur Seal.

Important note regarding finding this story today: “Pierre Bear” can be found in “Richard Scarry’s Best Story Book Ever” the third printing, copyright 1968. Unfortunately, newer versions of the compilation leave out this classic story. Online research shows that you can purchase the 1968 copyright version (used, of course) on several websites for a reasonable price ($10 to $20). “Pierre Bear” should be listed on the Contents page; the story begins on page 39.

“Richard Scarry’s Best Story Book Ever” measures 7 1/4 x 10 1/8 inches, and is available in both hardcover and softcover. Check before buying to ensure it contains the “Pierre Bear” story.
“Richard Scarry’s Best Story Book Ever” measures 7 1/4 x 10 1/8 inches, and is available in both hardcover and softcover. Check before buying to ensure it contains the “Pierre Bear” story.

Note: I was shocked to see that copies of “Pierre Bear” from the Little Golden Book hardcover series (below) are very expensive; evidently it’s a collector’s item. I found it on Amazon (again, used) for $420, and on eBay for $175 to $325.

First published in 1954, the book “Pierre Bear” was part of the Little Golden Book series.
First published in 1954, the book “Pierre Bear” was part of the Little Golden Book series.
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