Years back, Mrs. G. and her class of third graders were just finishing a lesson on active verbs. Mrs. G. explained that active verbs allow Superman to leap, lions to roar and fairies to flit. She had them each write out five sentences using active verbs and then let each of them read their sentences out loud. But the deal was that when they came to one of their active verbs, they had to yell it out in their loudest voice. It went a little something like this:
My dog bit my sister and then ran and hid under the bed.
I told my mom I hate beets and she made me eat them anyway.
The lesson was a big hit. Sanctioned screaming in a classroom is always well-received and kid-approved. The energy level in the classroom was through the roof. Mrs. G. sensed that the kids were moving toward nutty and reckless, so she told then to grab a carpet square, take a deep breath and settle themselves on the floor for a story.
She pulled this little 1948 classic out of her book bag. It was Mr. G's favorite book as a child and shortly after the birth of Mrs. G's daughter, Mr. G's mother gifted Mrs. G. with the original copyshe had read to wee Mr. G. and his three siblings. This book has been read, loved and slobbered on by three generations. Mrs. G. treasures it.
The story is about a little girl named Sal and her mother who go out into the country to Blueberry Hill to pick blueberries for winter.
Little Sal walks behind her mother with her small tin pail picking the sweet, plump berries and eating every single one.
Meanwhile, on the other side of Blueberry Hill, a kindly mother bear and her sweet baby cub are meandering the countryside eating berries for winter, preparing for their impending warm and cozy hibernation.
Sal keeps swiping blueberries from her mother's pail, so her mother tells her to run along and play so that she can gather enough berries to can for the winter.
Sal heeds her mother's words and scampers off to play, but she gets a little lost.
Mrs. G. could tell by the faces of her third graders that they were into the story. She had to hold the book in front of her for a while, so that everyone got a chance to see the pictures.
So, anyway, Sal tramps happily along when suddenly she hears a noise and is sure that she has finally found her mother...
but instead, Little Sal finds herself nose-to-nose with the kindly mother bear.
"What do you think happens next?" asked Mrs. G, trying to keep the childen engaged.
Five of them threw up their hands, wiggled around on their carpet squares and begged to be picked. As she often did, Mrs. G. ignored the loudest, wiggliest kids and turned her attention to one of her more wary, more reserved students. In this case, a quiet, serious boy who had a grim look on his face.
"So what do you think happens next?" Mrs. G. asked him brightly.
"What do I think? I think Sal is a goner."
"Oh, no no no no no," said Mrs. G. quickly. "I've read this book hundreds of times. Sal doesn't die. The mother bear is a nice, loving bear. I promise!"
The kid wasn't having any of it.
"I saw a show on the Discovery Channel," he said. Bears are unusually aggressive. A mother bear is called a sow, and a sow is very protective of her offspring. A sow will always attack if she thinks she or her cub is being threatened."
To bring it on home, the boy took his finger and slowly slid it across his throat.
A couple of the kids squealed for effect.
"Hold up!" Mrs. G. said emphatically. "Sal is not going to die. Let me finish the story. Sal's mother turns around, sees the sweet little baby bear cub and finally realizes Sal is missing. She sets off to find Sal..."
"That's the end of her," another kid piped up. "That mom is dead meat"
Discovery Channel boy nodded his head; it was clear he was now in charge, the new Superintendent of all things Bear:
"Approximately 70% of bear caused human fatalities are the result of mothers defending their cubs."
"NO ONE DIES!" Mrs. G. insisted. "Look at this picture. Do you see? Sal's mother finds her alive, safe and sound and in one piece...not mauled."
Mrs. G. went on to read the last page:
"...And Little Sal and her mother went down the other side of Blueberry Hill, picking berries all the way, and drove home with food to can for the next winter— a whole pail of blueberries and thee more besides. The End."
Mrs. G. closed the book and scanned the faces of the small, innocent children in front of her. They were unimpressed. They were let down. They didn't want blueberry freezer jam and happily ever after. They wanted carnage and mass murder. They wanted a full-on bear bloodbath.
Kids today. And their bullshit cable.
Originally published in 2007 when 17 people read this blog.