Greed, selfishness and big government get lambasted in this amusing, opinionated children’s book.
Solomon Von Bruinmeister III, aka Stingy Bear, is a pure distillation of childish avarice. Like many young cubs, he is acquisitive, self-centered and heedless of consequences, but he’s unusual in his drive to con, wheedle and arbitrage the world out of as much money, candy and Christmas loot as possible. His schemes are varied and ingenious. He asks Santa to bring toys for nonexistent siblings, makes two Halloween trick-or-treat runs dressed in different costumes, sells a dead raccoon to the village idiot as a hiccup remedy and sends himself fake Valentines to score a dream date with Sweet Cindy Sugar Bear. Long-suffering Father Bear retaliates with lectures and spankings, but sometimes he’s so wearied by his offspring’s relentless advantage-seeking that he just shakes his head in dismay. The author intends the book for readers from â€œ10 to 110,” and kids and adults alike will chortle at Stingy Bear’s often hilarious misadventures and find that Whisenant’s ornate vocabulary–â€œOh, what unbridled ecstasy it was to antagonize that electro-mechanical creature”–lends his prose a piquant charm. Unfortunately, some of Stingy’s enterprises, like selling his classmates peeks at a Playbear magazine, raise issues that parents might not want to discuss with ten-year-olds. Likewise for the conservative politics imparted through the plot–Stingy makes $900 from food-stamp fraud–and the characters’ soapboxing. Readers who like guns, are suspicious of paper money and think bureaucrats in the â€œDepartment of Bearland Security” are comic-opera totalitarians will have their beliefs validated. Others will have slurs–â€œCatch-and-release is a practice of limp-wristed, lettuce-eating liberals”–cast their way. When Father Bear’s resentment at paying property taxes to support school construction takes an almost anarchist tone–â€œVoting is a mere distraction for the gullible masses”–some readers may feel he’s sending Stingy mixed messages about responsibility and public-spiritedness.
An entertaining set of fables that packs some ideological baggage.