The Bear That Wasn't
By Frank Tashlin
(NYR Children's Collection, Hardcover, 9781590173442, 64pp.)
Publication Date: March 9, 2010
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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“Once upon a time, in fact it was Tuesday,” the Bear went into the woods to settle in for his long winter nap. But when he awoke what had happened? The trees were gone, the grass was gone, the flowers were gone, and in their place were buildings, cars, a fenced-off courtyard. The Bear had no idea that he was in the middle of a factory. “Get back to work!” a man yelled out of the blue.
“I don’t work here,” said the Bear, “I’m a bear.” The man laughed and laughed. “Fine excuse for a man to keep from doing any work—saying he’s a bear.” And so it began and so it went, with the Bear protesting his bearness all the way from the Third Vice President to the First, and no one willing to believe that he wasn’t just a silly man in a fur coat who needed a shave.
How the bear endured and how he finally prevailed are the subject of this
delightful modern fairy tale—beautifully illustrated with the author’s inventive line drawings—about sticking up for yourself, no matter how many Foremen, General Managers, Vice Presidents, or even Company Presidents stand in your way.
Frank Tashlin (1913–1972) was born in New Jersey and raised in Queens, New York. As a teenager he worked as an errand boy, inker, and animator at several pioneering animation
studios in New York. By 1933 he had moved to Hollywood, where he wrote and directed cartoon shorts for MGM and Warner Bros., and briefly served as head of production at Screen Gems. Tashlin also worked for a while at Disney Studios, helping to organize its embattled animators’ union. During his early years in California, Tashlin drew a syndicated
pantomime-style cartoon strip called Van Boring, and during the Second World War, he worked on the military’s Private Snafu series (created by Frank Capra and Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel). Though he retired from animation in the mid-1940s, Tashlin is recognized as an influential stylist who brought cinematographic techniques and inventive “camera” angles to the medium. Moving from cartoons to live action, Tashlin worked for a time as a comedy writer before fulfilling his ambition to write and direct feature films. He is best known for his collaborations with Jerry Lewis and Bob Hope, and for screwball comedies like The Girl Can’t Help It and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? Tashlin has described The Bear That Wasn’t (1946) as “precious and special to me.” It was followed by two more picture books, The ‘Possum That Didn’t (1950) and The World That Wasn’t (1951).
Weekend Edition's ambassador to the world of kiddie literature, Daniel Pinkwater, reviews a classic book for children, The Bear That Wasn't by Frank Tashlin. Pinkwater and Host Scott Simon read from the book together and get a couple of good laughs. The Bear That Wasn't will be re-issued next month (MARCH 9th) by the New York Review of Books Children's Collection. More at NPR.org
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“Like a good many modern satirical fables about animals, this falls heavily between the stools of adult and juvenile interest.” – The New York Times
“It is a fable for grownups that will be fun for children. Sit down with the book and get your own bearings.” –New York Herald Tribune
“If you do not laugh at The Bear That Wasn’t you are not only a member of the human group, you are an agelast and you deserve it. An agelast (see Rabelais) is a silly man in a fur coat who needs a shave and doesn’t think it’s funny.” –Saturday Review of Literature
“Go ahead and enjoythe book, which is thoroughly funny throughout…Mr. Tashlin’s bear is very ingratiating and provides a good deal of fun for all members of the family.” –Springfield Republican
“Mr. Tashlin’s earlier masterpiece, The Bear That Wasn’t is a genially savage lampoon on the The Civilized People Who Aren’t.” –Los Angeles Times
"...a good story with wonderful pictures and even some political satire to appeal to adults who read it, as well." –Scott Simon, Weekend Edition Saturday, NPR
"...it's a classic. And the proof of that is that it is now coming out...from the wonderful and magnificent New York Review of Books Children's Collection. [The Bear That Wasn't] has been hanging around since 1946, with wonderful pen and ink drawings." –Daniel Pinkwater, Weekend Edition Saturday, NPR