What comes to mind when you hear the word “animal”? Do you envision farm animals, your pet at home, or something a bit more wild? Perhaps you even think of a Muppet or two. Either way, it’s hard to ignore that animals fulfill a pretty big role when it comes to play.
As toddlers, many of us learn our animals and their corresponding sounds through that popular little ditty “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.” Animal stories can teach us valuable life lessons too. In The Story About Ping, we learn the importance of being punctual through a dawdling duckling. In Bread and Jam for Frances, we discover the value in trying new things, when a perpetually particular badger eats only bread and jam. Anthropomorphic animals have limitless capabilities. They drive, cook, work, and have homes and families. For instance, the Berenstain Bears (popular in books, television, and an exhibit here at The Strong), are a working class family of five from whom I’ve learned a tremendous amount—don’t eat too much junk food, don’t watch too much television, and don't fear the dentist. Presenting familiar concepts through animal characters seems to resonate in a way that is both entertaining and effective.