It’s summer, and Brother and Sister Bear, Cousin Fred, and Queenie McBear can’t agree on what to do. Luckily for them, the circus comes to town. In order to raise money for a new hospital wing, Ralph Ripoff has asked his friend, Captain Billy, to bring his circus to town, and share the profits with Dr. Gert Grizzly, for the hospital. But something seems crooked about this circus. Will the cubs uncover the truth about the circus and save the new hospital wing, or will they be sleeping with the fishes?
The Berenstain Bears in the Freaky Funhouse by Stan and Jan Berenstain is a children’s chapter book starring the Berenstain Bears. Unlike the picture books, which feature full-page, full-color illustrations, this book features mostly smaller, black-and-white illustrations, plus a few full-page, black-and-white illustrations.
The art is pretty good, even without any color. The expressions on the bears’ faces are, as usual for a Berenstain Bears book, odd, but this time the strange expressions are evil grins on the bad guys’ faces, so that’s fine. There are plenty of great illustrations of the circus, including the crooked games. Seeing Cousin Fred struggle to lift the weighted bottle is great.
The story is pretty good. The mystery of exactly who is cheating whom, and how the cubs will save the hospital wing, is very nice, for a children’s book, but the bears’ acting as the authors’ voices is, as usual, annoying. It’s inconsistent, too: here, Cousin Fred insists that video games will rot your brain, and he’d rather do anything than play games, but in The Berenstain Bears Count Their Blessings, we learn that Cousin Fred has a large video game collection, which Brother Bear is jealous of. Of course, in that book, Mama complains about Brother’s desire for video games, so we get an anti-gaming message, either way.
It’s also a bit irritating when Mama insists that she will not tolerate cubs gossiping about grown-ups, and then she and Papa immediately proceed to do exactly that. I’d initially thought that it was going to be a lesson for Papa, that grown-ups, too, shouldn’t talk about others behind their backs, but, no, it was just a lesson that kids should never question adults. Later, when a whole group of the adults are gossiping about Dr. Gert and Ralph, and Sister interjects with a comment, Mama again scolds her for gossiping. It’s just hypocrisy, frankly.
But there are some good lessons in there, too. Always read things before you sign them, for one. Be wary of anyone that claims they’re doing evil for good reasons, for another. Don’t trust carnival games, too.
The Berenstain Bears in the Freaky Funhouse is a fun book. I spent about twenty minutes reading it, so it might provide an hour or two of good entertainment for a child, especially given the interesting illustrations. Definitely a good book for fans of the Berenstain Bears.