Storytelling Research Projects by SLIS 5440 Students


The Popularity of Teddy Bears in Stories
By Denise Rhoads

"We refer to today's teddys as one of the few "cradle to grave" toys. People purchase teddy bears as crib toys for babies. Young men buy them for their sweethearts as a token of affection. They are used for solace in police cars and hospitals. Dealers buy for profit. And collectors buy them for pure joy!"

Everywhere we look teddy bears are a popular icon in the telling of stories. Teddy bears make us feel comfortable because every one of us has had the experience of cuddling up with a childhood stuffed bear. Because of this familiarity, we relate to the beloved figure in picture books and teachers are still finding this beloved animal to be a great learning tool in the classroom. Wherever you find a teddy bear story, you are sure to find an interested audience in any child-young or old.

To understand the teddy bear in storybooks, it is essential to get a little background of the origin and popularity of the stuffed teddy bear itself. I've included this background information in one of the 10 citations for this assignment and have tried to list the citations in chronological order for easier understanding. The cites included are:

1. A General History Of the Teddy Bear, by Kelly Brown Brehm
2. Ultimate teddy bear book, The, by Pauline Cockrill
3. Ira sleeps over, by Bernard Waber
4. Pocket for Corduroy, A, by Don Freeman
5. Good as New, by Barbara Douglass, pictures by Patience Brewster
6. How teddy bears are made: a visit to the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory, By Ann Morris, photographs by Ken Heyman
7. Ruff, by Jane Hissey
8. No bad bears: Ophelia's book of manners, by Michele Durkson Clise
9. Mr. Bear to the rescue, By Debi Gliori
10. Website -

To state the obvious, there is a plethora of information regarding teddy bears and the availability of story and picture books with a teddy bear theme is plentiful. I tried to select a sampling of a good general overview of the popular teddy but it was hard to exclude some of the greats. Those being, Berenstein Bears, Martin Waddell's Little Bear series, Paddington, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and Teddy Bear's Picnic, just to name a few.

How I found the sources for this research on Teddy Bears was really quite easy. First of all, our elementary school librarian has an extensive collection of teddy bears and teddy bear books so I borrowed heavily from her. Secondly, there is a plethora of information on teddy bears on the Internet so I used search engines for different searches. Thirdly, I experimented with the UNT online research

strategies for further info on more academic sources related to the symbol of the teddy bear.

The purpose of this research is to examine the popularity of teddy bears as used in children's stories and how they (the stories and the bears) originated. I also want to explore the different uses in which teddy bears can be used in storytelling situations, hence the inclusion of the Internet site "Build a Bear Workshop" that markets the making of your very own stuffed teddy bear. With all of these elements pulled together, I think the research provided could prove very beneficial and worthwhile to use as an educational tool with students and could even serve as a use in the school's curriculum.

To describe this research project I would have to say that this is a narrative paper that illustrates the fun and entertaining way in which teddy bears have become such a popular icon for children of all ages. The final project will be a written narrative paper that cites various storybooks, some useful websites, and is accompanied by a slide presentation.

To express the importance of teddy bears in education, even today, the following quote--the much-maligned teddy bear--is helpful… "I recently attended a language learning conference at which poor Teddy had the stuffing kicked out of him. The speakers repeatedly chastised anyone who would still do such a frivolous theme as "teddy bears." I spent the week discussing the use of themes in a language-learning classroom and, in particular, my beliefs about learning and how it all relates to the seemingly insignificant teddy bear. In the end, I came to the conclusion that it isn't so much the theme as what you do with it that makes the difference…

"For five- and six-year-olds, a bear theme is a first opportunity to come together as a learning community. It's a theme during which children learn how the classroom works, how to make friends and how to find one's own voice… Shy children find their voices, sad children find comfort and confident children find stories to share… Teddy stands up against standards that I've used repeatedly when reflecting on my teaching practice."


A General History Of the Teddy Bear, by Kelly Brown Brehm

"As the story goes in 1903, while arbitrating a border dispute between Louisiana and Mississippi, our 26th President Theodore Roosevelt, went on a bear hunting expedition. The hunt was unsuccessful. The hosts, eager to please the President, captured a cub and brought it to him to shoot. Teddy Roosevelt sternly refused.

"This incident was reported to the Washington Post Newspaper. Working for this newspaper was a political cartoonist named Clifford Berryman. Berryman decided to depict the incident in a political cartoon, called "Drawing the Line in Mississippi". This cartoon was eventually published in newspapers across the country…

"A Russian immigrant and entrepreneur, Morris Michton saw this cartoon. He and his wife Rose operated a novelty store in Brooklyn, New York. Michton asked Rose to make a bear to display in their store window to sell. Next to the bear he placed the Berryman's cartoon and a sign that read...TEDDY'S BEAR. It sold immediately. The couple continued to make more bears. Their bears soon caught the attention of a wholesaler from Butler Brothers. With the financial backing of Butler Brothers, the Michtons opened a company called The Ideal Novelty Toy Company…

"Roughly at the same time, the German manufacturer Steiff was introducing a toy resembling a bear at the 1903 Leipzig Toy Fair. It was here where a big New York Toy Imported, Hermann Borgford of George Borgford & Co. ordered 3,000 Steiff bears…

"It was in 1904 when Teddy Roosevelt changed his mascot from a moose to the bear for his re-election campaign…

"The teddy bear craze began…

"It was in 1906's Playthings magazine, when the words "TEDDY BEAR" was first published, "Imported Teddy Bears - Best Quality with Voice!"…

"By the mid 1910's there where many teddy bear companies and many types of novelty teddy bears. Teddy Bear memorabilia was being produced. There were Roller Bears, Tumbling Bears, Teddy Bear china, Electric Eye Bears. It was also very fashionable for children to have their picture taken with their teddy bear."

Ultimate teddy bear book, The, by Pauline Cockrill
A research collection of teddy bear stories wouldn't be complete without an encyclopedic citation on the evolvement and soaring popularity of teddy bears worldwide. The curator of a childhood museum, in London, who specializes in the history of teddy bears, writes "The Ultimate Teddy Bear Book". Detailed descriptions and authentic photographs of "ninety-years of teddy bears" make this book very informative. "Organized chronologically, each chapter begins with an analysis of the bear typical of that era." Also included is an introduction by Paul and Rosemary Volpp, world-renowned teddy bear collectors.

An extensive description of the evolution of teddy bear manufacturing, from 1902-1990, this photographic book provides a wealth of information for any teddy bear collector (or arctopholist). And relating to the specific research of teddy bears in picture books, there is included valuable data on the literary beginnings of Rupert Bear (1920), Winnie the Pooh (1926), Smokey the Bear (1944), and Paddington Bear (1958). So learn all you can about these adorable, cuddly friends and enjoy their popularity in books and merchandise even more!

Ira sleeps Over, by Bernard Waber
"Ira Sleeps Over tells the story of Ira, a little boy who wants to bring his teddy bear with him when he goes to sleep over at his friend Reggie's house. His parents think that this is a good idea. "Of course you should bring your teddy bear," they say. But his older sister doesn't agree. "Reggie will laugh," she says. Ira believes his sister and leaves his teddy bear at home when he goes to Reggie's. That night, as the boys get ready for bed, Reggie introduces Ira to his own teddy bear. Ira immediately excuses himself and rushes home (in his pajamas!) to bring his teddy bear to join the slumber party."

Corduroy, by Don Freeman
Corduroy, on a department store shelf, finds out that he is missing a button when all the shoppers have gone home for the night. He climbs down from the shelf to look for his missing button and discovers an unknown adventure on the escalator and the upstairs furniture department. Thinking he has found his button, which is really part of a mattress, he tugs unsuccessfully and falls with a crash. The night watchman finds Corduroy and places him back onto his shelf. The next morning, the little girl who was in the store the previous day, buys Corduroy with her piggy bank money and rushes home with him. She eagerly sews a new button onto his overalls and shows him his new home that is her bedroom. Corduroy decides that this must be the home he has always wanted and that Lisa must be his new friend!

Good as New, by Barbara Douglass, pictures by Patience Brewster
Young Grady is not happy about sharing his beloved stuffed bear with his cousin, but after much coaxing from his parents, Grady finally allows K.C. to play with, and ultimately destroy, his bear. Realizing that the bear will never be the same, Grady asks his Grandpa to restore his most prized possession and is undecided about the process when his bear becomes completely "unstuffed" and nothing more than a bear-skin!

The "rebuilding" of this stuffed bear will amaze readers, as Grandpa shows us the restoration process. The soft, watercolor illustrations complement the text that would not be nearly as interesting without the guiding pictures. The progressing transformation will encourage children to keep turning the pages of the book to see what happens next. Even older children will enjoy the mechanics of this bear "coming to life" and younger children will delight in the companionship between the boy and his bear. The newly personified bear is as "good as new" in the end and Grady and Grandpa take the bear for a walk the next time K.C. comes to the house!

How teddy bears are made: a Visit to the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory
by Ann Morris, photographs by Ken Heyman
This is a short, 28 page picture book that takes the reader on a tour of a teddy bear factory. Three (3) very young children walk through the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory and see up close how a teddy bear is designed and created. Large and simple to read text makes this an easy reader book that that is aptly paired with large, simple photographs of the factory process.

The children start their tour in the "teddy bear lobby" where they are greeted by a giant stuffed teddy bear to play on. They next visit the teddy bear designer, who leads them into the machine room where they see how the teddy bears are cut out and sewn together. As the bears are pieced together, they go through several grooming areas that complete the product. At the end of their tour they stop in the packaging room where bears are placed in a bag and shipped out to customers. And finally, upon leaving, each child is given his own bear and takes him out to lunch. Easy to follow and understand, this is a great book for any children's library.

Ruff, by Jane Hissey
Old Bear, Bramwell Bear, and Little Bear hear a strange "ruff-ruff" noise coming from outside the door. When they open the door, a wooly dog bounces in, nearly knocking over Little Bear. The bears all introduce themselves, along with the other stuffed animals in the nursery, and soon discover that this new wooly dog does not have a home or a name. Upon naming him themselves, Ruff, they embark on a seven (7) day adventure of surprising their new friend with a birthday party each day. Ruff had never had a birthday party so on this 7th birthday the bears give him the best surprise of all…his very own blanket welcoming him as a permanent member of their family!

Hissey's illustrations are some of the most soft and charming pictures you will find in a picture book. The bears in this book are part of a series of stories and they are more than just adorable illustrations to the author. Old Bear was Hissey's very own childhood teddy bear and the other bears were actual favorites of her own children. So when viewing these illustrations there is more to the story than you would know. Hissey and the bears now live in Sussex, England where they all share a family home.

No bad bears: Ophelia's book of manners, by Michele Durkson Clise
Learning proper manners is hard for children young and old, so this little book gives delightful and humorous lessons in teaching simple etiquette. Ophelia Bear and her friends, Schnuffy, Nou Nou, and Sophie, allow us to photograph them in different social situations so that we may learn proper etiquette. Children will learn the essentials of please and thank you, proper table manners, phone etiquette, grooming techniques, manners around company, punctuality, and several other general rules.

Simplistic text along with antique teddy bears photographed against a black background, make this 31-page picture book an old-fashioned look at manners. Readers will delight in these adorable bears and the messes they get themselves into (and out of) and will be a great asset to any book collection to give a humorous look at a serious subject!

Mr. Bear to the Rescue, by Debi Gliori
Another delightful story about Mr. Bear takes us on a charming adventure of search and rescue. When Mr. and Mrs. Bear settle into their warm and cozy home on a cold, stormy night, a small bunny arrives and asks for assistance. The storm had upset the home of some of the animals and a baby bunny was lost. Without hesitation, Mrs. Bear prepares Mr. Bear to head out into the night and assist. Upon arriving at the blown over tree that was home to an owl, some bees and the family of bunnies, Mr. Bear is able to help them locate the lost baby and transport them all back to his home where he is able to provide shelter for them all. Accompanied by the usual soft, colorful illustrations in the Mr. Bear series, the animals are adorable and full of character. The creative bedding choices for the small animals in the bear's home is sure to get a laugh from young readers. A fun edition to any library!

Website -
This is a beary adorable and easy to use website that offers activities and games for young children (of all ages!). The main objective of this server is to promote "build a bear" workshops that are located nationwide at various locations. Locations near us in the Dallas area are: Arlington, Frisco, and Ft. Worth. For visitors who are not able to attend a "build a bear" workshop, there is a "let's go shopping" icon that lets you pick the bear you want and any accompanying clothes and accessories. All for one beary "small" price, of course!

Colorful and animated images of bears link the patron to various pages within the website making this beary hands-on site beary palatable. There are links to games, stories, jokes, the li-bear-y, party invitations, and on-line shopping. To book and attend a bear workshop you simply follow the online instructions and submit your form. Each child who attends a workshop will walk away with a handmade bear that they built from scratch.

Build-A-Bear Workshop™ was developed in 1997 and is a teddy bear-themed experience retail store that combines the universal appeal of plush animals with an interactive process that allows children to create their own huggable companions. It opened in Saint Louis to a resounding success.


I hope to explore the many ways in which teddy bears are used in stories -- personified or otherwise. To do this, I will follow three (3) narrative approaches to compare and contrast my story sources: Plot Analysis, Character Analysis, Symbolism.

Plot Analysis

Every story I have selected in this research has had a specific sequence of events. They all start with the simple introduction to the story and its main characters. Two (2) of the stories involve only teddy bears with other animals while the other three (3) stories have the teddy bears interacting with a human character. The stories quickly build to a climactic event that has to be solved and in the end there is a reward. Along the way there are difficulties to overcome but not always an actual adversary due to the simple audience the story is aimed toward.

The opposing forces range from a disapproving mom, an older sister, a young (toddler) cousin, a disapproving playmate, and a bad storm. The complementary characters involve a little girl wanting a bear, a grandfather helping to put together a torn up bear, Mr. Bear's encouraging wife, a child's parents, and a nursery full of stuffed animal friends. The struggles or relationships that these characters all have with one another create the typical narrative story line that evolves into a predictable, simple storybook for young children. There is interaction between text and illustrations to make the plot an easy to follow scenario.

By placing teddy bears into the story lines, children will find these stories much more palatable and even believable. Series, such as Corduroy and Mr. Bear included in this research, have a consistent narrative and illustrative style that readers can expect. Children love to see their favorite bear characters involved in other stories or plots.

Character Analysis

The teddy bears in these stories all involve children-aged bears that young readers can relate to that learn life's lessons. The bears all represent characters that have been given human attributes (personification) to make the story more palatable to young readers. They are intriguing to young readers in these roles because they give the story such an imaginative element that children enjoy as it adds dimension to the narrative. They are intriguing because it is a way to see childhood toys, mementos, and stuffed animals come to life in print and imagination.

The teddy bears, and all their friends where appropriate, are charming and adorable characters that readers will embrace. As I mentioned above, they are like us in story form and come from typical every day scenarios. All of these stories can take place in today's time, so in a sense they are timeless. As seems to be typical of our society, the main teddy bear characters are male, or at least appear to be, and the more indirect teddy bear characters are the females that complement the leading "man".

I also noticed that the theory of one (1) or three (3) comes into play in these stories, "as three (3) is the highest number of characters that can be distinguished as individuals." I found this to be true in these stories. From the Olrick reading in class, it is explained that the main characters are usually introduced or depicted one, two, or three to a page (or scene); rarely more than that.

The one story that utilizes the teddy bear as an indirect character (that is not personified) is Ira Sleeps Over. Here, the main character is a boy whose focus is on whether or not to take his teddy bear on a sleep over. His sister plays the antagonist by teasing about his insecurity that Ira is trying to overcome.


In Mr. Bear to the Rescue, Corduroy, and Ira Sleeps Over, there is actual use of stairs or escalators, or hills to symbolize the climaxes and completion of events. As Corduroy looks for his lost button, he finds himself on the escalator going up in search of the unknown. The climax is building. As the night watchman finds him, he brings him back down the escalator, symbolizing to us that climax is coming to an end. And at the end of the story, is the final climax (little girl running up the stairs with Corduroy in hand) of Corduroy coming home to live with his new best friend, forever.

The teddy bear in Ira Sleeps Over is an all too famous scenario representing the facing and conquering of childhood fears.

In Mr. Bear to the Rescue, there is some simple symbolism, or foreshadowing, of events to come. On the opening page is the Bear family getting ready for bed with the baby bear snug in his bassinet. Over him is a 'bumblebee' mobile and beside him is a bumblebee stuffed animal. In the end of the story, some of the actual rescued animals are bumblebees that Mr. Bear tucks snuggly into warm "beds".

And of course, the most obvious symbolism in all of these stories is the family struggles that family members interact with daily. By using teddy bears to depict these scenarios, children will find the story line and subject matter much more palatable than just human characters. Teddy bears make everything seem possible!


Baskwill, Jane, The much maligned teddy bear, Teaching PreK-8, Feb 98, Vol. 28 Issue 5, p56, 2p, 2c.

Clise, Michele Durkson, No bad bears. Viking : New York, 1992.

Cockrill, Pauline, Ultimate teddy bear book, The, p. 6, Dorling Kindersley, Inc.: New York, 1991.

Douglass, Barbara, Good as new / pictures by Patience Brewster. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books: New York, 1982.

Freeman, Don, A Pocket for Courduroy. Viking : New York, 1978.

Gliori, Debi, Mr Bear to the rescue. Orchard Books : New York, 1996.

Hissey, Jane, Ruff. Random House : New York, 1994.

Morris, Ann, How teddy bears are made: a visit to the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory / photographs by Ken Heyman. Scholastic : New York, 1994.

Opsal, Christen. The Importance of Communication, From Teddy Bears to Type 1 Diabetes, Journal of American College Health, Jul 99, Vol. 48 Issue 1, p45, 2p.

Waber, Bernard, Ira sleeps over. Houghton Mifflin : Boston, 1972.