Friday, December 30, 2016

Little Old Bear and Patsy and the Pup, both written and illustrated by Hilda van Stockum

The first book I read that was written by Hilda van Stockum was called The Winged Watchman. I found a copy in a second hand bookstore in Berkeley, California and immediately bought it for $5.00. Published in 1962, it is a WWII story about the Dutch Resistance and the important part played by the windmills Holland is so famous for and I found it both well written and fascinating.

Hilda van Stockum began writing in 1934, when she published A Day on Skates: The Story of a Dutch Picnic, which was a 1935 Newbery Honor Book. Her last book, The Borrowed House was published in 1975. She hard a long career and was a very prolific writer and, now, Boissevain Books is reissuing some of her books for today's readers to enjoy.

Little Old Bear was also published in 1962. It is the story of a well-worn teddy bear who had lost his eyes and most of his fur and is living in an attic now that his owners have grown up. After the attic is given a good cleaning, the little old bear finds himself in the trash, much to his unhappiness. Thinking he is no longer good for anything, the bear finds himself pulled out of the trash and tossed around by a couple of boys. When they tire of the game they are playing with him, the bear is flung over a wall, and found by a little girl. But she decides he is not fun at her tea party, and once again, bear is tossed over a wall, hitting an old lady walking by on the head.

The lady takes bear home and sits him on the windowsill where he can look out the window and see all the kids playing with their new, fluffy teddy bears. Well, the bear, thinks, at least he has a home now. But then the old lady starts measuring him for a new suit of clothes so he can be donated to the church bazaar. Poor bear is feeling really alone, dejected and unwanted. And to make matters worse, along comes the lady's grandson with a brand new bear.  And much to bear's surprise, little Benjamin takes one look at the old bear and decides that is the bear he really wants.  Once again, the little bear has a home, a name, Jeremy, and a person who loves him.

This is a very sweet story, and is a perfect read-aloud for kids age 5 and older. I liked how the author shows that the old bear is still capable of bringing happiness to someone, after all its mistreatment and rejection. I did notice that when I read this to a young reader, she pulled her own toy a little closer. Readers who have read and loved The Velveteen Rabbit will certainly take Jeremy into their hearts and love his story just as much.

The black and white line illustrations were all done by the author, and though they are more than 50 years old, they are so classic and will still work for today's young readers.

Patsy and the Pup was originally published in 1950 and has a slightly more dated feel to it than does Little Old Bear, though I don't think that will be a problem for kids because the story is do charming and stand the test of time. Five-year-old Patsy has always wanted a puppy, so when one starts to follow her home, she is sure she will be able to keep it.  Well, Mother had a different idea. She thinks the puppy probably belongs to someone else and the mailman recognizes it and says it belongs to Mrs. Murphy. So Patsy is told to return it to her.

But Patsy isn't in much of a hurry to get to Mrs. Murphy's house and neither is the puppy. And so they have some adventures on their way. First, they meet some school children, then the puppy runs across the street, and goes through a drain pipe. Then it chases a kitten into the school, where they cause all kinds of havoc, and the puppy eats the teacher's lunch.

As they finally approach Mrs. Murphy's house, the puppy starts pulling Patsy away from it, and right into the woods, where they get lost until they meet a hunter who helps them find their way out. Puppy still didn't want to go to Mrs. Murphy's, but they finally make it to the front door. Imagine Patsy's joy when she discovers that Mrs. Murphy doesn't want the puppy back. Now, to convince Mother that she is really able to take care of a dog. But, Mother thinks that Patsy has already proven herself and she is allowed to keep the puppy, which she promptly names Honey.

This is also a nice read-aloud for kids age 5 and over, but today's kids may be a little surprised that Patsy is allowed to wander around the neighborhood by herself. I could do that when I was young, but by the time my Kiddo came along, kids that young were rarely out alone. I don't think this will be a real problem, especially since the theme of wanting a puppy and being able to take care of it is what's important in the story. Most kids want a pet at some point and this is a good story to share with them while talking to them about being responsible.

Hilda Van Stockum shows how hard it can be to take care of a rambunctious puppy, but eventually Patsy gets the hang of it. Patsy and Honey's adventures are all illustrated with black and white line drawings done by the author.  And I have read that Patsy and the Pup was based on van Stockum's daughter and her puppy, giving it its realistic quality.

I enjoyed reading both of these books and so did the kids I shared them with.

These books are recommended for readers age 5+
These books were sent to me by the publisher, Boissevain Books


  1. The Velveteen Rabbit and Little Old Bear are familiar and dear to me. I read them to my son and my grandsons.
    I don’t know Patsy and the Pup at all, but it sounds charming. Have you ever done that thing where you read about a book and very quickly find it in a charity shop or at a flea market? It happens to me all the time, so I’m hopeful I will find this one.
    Happy New Year, Barbara

  2. Glad you like the books. I do too! Boissevain Books is named after my grandmother, who is Hilda van Stockum's mother. The other HvS book we published that works for this age group or a little older is Kersti and St Nicholas. Happy 2017!🎉


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