My daughter Chickpea's current obsession is the Berenstain Bears, the titular characters of those ubiquitous and flimsy books that littered my bedroom as a preschooler in the early 80s. As she is coming up on her second birthday next week, and yet has no real idea what "birthday" means, she has made me read The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Birthday (1986) dozens of times in the past week while she exhorts Sister Bear to "blow out birthday candles!"
I used to look back fondly on the Berenstain Bears along with other remnants of my childhood - that is, until I had to sit down and read them to Chickpea. The anthropologist in me is quite irritated by the rather strict gender lines drawn in the series, especially between Brother and Sister Bear, as well as the depiction of Papa Bear in the bumbling oaf trope that is at least as old as Archie Bunker and yet as recent as Homer Simpson. Normally, I'll just take a book out of regular rotation if it doesn't meet my expectations, but sometimes Chickpea has already fallen in love with it - then I have to make up a different narrative on the spot or attempt to explain the problematic parts. Too Much Birthday has some issues with it, but there is one I can't let pass by as an osteologist - unfortunately, it's one I can't explain to Chickpea yet.
|"Too Much Birthday" (1986)|
“Those are annual rings,” explained Papa. “They tell us how old the tree is.” [...]
“Do we have annual rings, Papa?” Sister asked.
“No,” said Papa, giving her a little hug. “We have something better – birthdays!”
|Cross-section of a long bone|
|System of osteons|
|Section of cortical bone showing osteons, from Ubelaker 1989 (p. 92, fig. 104)|
Crowder, C.M. 2005. Evaluating the Use of Quantitative Bone Histology to Estimate Adult Age at Death. PhD dissertation, University of Toronto.
Fitzgerald, C.M. and J.C. Rose. 2008. Reading between the lines: dental development and subadult age assessment using the microstructural growth markers of teeth. In: Biological Anthropology of the Human Skeleton, M.A. Katzenberg and S.R. Saunders, eds. Chapter 8.
E. Kerley (1965). The microscopic determination of age in human bone American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 23 (2), 149-163 DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.1330230215
Kerley ER, & Ubelaker DH (1978). Revisions in the microscopic method of estimating age at death in human cortical bone. American journal of physical anthropology, 49 (4), 545-6 PMID: 216268