Safety Tips that “Bear” Repeating:
Learn from The Happy Hollisters’ Bear Scares!
According to the National Park Service, the average person has a 1 in 2.1 million chance of being attacked by a bear—but this statistic doesn’t stop Pete, Pam, Ricky, Holly, and Sue Hollister from having plenty of close calls throughout The Happy Hollisters series. While solving mysteries around the world or exploring the woods near their hometown of Shoreham, the Hollister children have numerous encounters with bears, from watching a “dancing bear” performance in The Happy Hollisters and the Indian Treasure to a close call with a grizzly in The Happy Hollisters and the Mystery of the Totem Faces.
While some of the Hollisters’ bear encounters might be momentarily scary for young readers, they also serve as important teaching moments. Join us in taking a look at a few of their bear encounters to see what they did—and didn’t—do correctly when it comes to safety around bears.
Explore with Caution and Respect
Whether you’re visiting a national park or simply hiking near your home, bear safety tips from the National Park Service stress that if you avoid bears, they’ll probably avoid you, too. If you’re in an area that might be inhabited by bears, it helps to make noise—talk, sing, or hit two sticks together—so that they hear you coming and can retreat before you get too close. Bears typically avoid humans and tend to go about their own business unless provoked. Forests and parks are their homes, so it’s important for human visitors to be respectful of their spaces and to observe them—and all other wildlife—from a safe distance. In The Happy Hollisters and the Scarecrow Mystery, curious Holly wanders off and pokes her head into a cave where she spots a bear. Instead, it would have been safer for her to stay on the beaten path because just like people, bears don’t appreciate someone suddenly coming into their home without notice!
Remain Calm and Quiet
Holly immediately screams and runs back to her siblings to warn them about the bear. Fear is a reasonable reaction, but park rangers usually recommend staying quiet and still around bears. Screams or sudden movements may provoke an attack.
In The Happy Hollisters and the Mystery of the Totem Faces, the Hollister family travels to Alaska and are told by their guide to make a lot of noise when their group is suddenly confronted by a grizzly bear. In this situation, their collective yelling makes them seem like a bigger threat to the bear, and it quickly retreats. While this might have been a common safety tip when the book was written in 1958, calm and quiet is the current recommendation. However, there is some merit to trying to intimidate bears; the National Park Service recommends making yourself look as big and threatening as possible if approached by a bear, by standing up straighter or moving to higher ground. By doing this, you make yourself look less like prey.
Look Out for Kids and Cubs
It’s no surprise that Pam Hollister, a known animal-lover, has one of the best reactions to a bear in The Happy Hollisters and the Mystery of the Totem Faces. During their grizzly bear scare, she quickly picks up her youngest sister, Sue, and moves her away from the bear. This is a recommended course of action if you see a bear while hiking with young children.
Bears can also be fiercely protective of their families, just like the Hollister kids are for each other. If you see a young bear in the woods, its mother is probably nearby—and won’t appreciate anyone coming near her baby. This is why you should never hang out too closely to bear cubs, no matter how cute they may be!
While the Hollisters might not always demonstrate the safest or most up-to-date reactions to dangerous bears, they always end up unscathed and with an exciting story to tell. When reading books like The Happy Hollisters and the Scarecrow Mystery or The Happy Hollisters and the Mystery of the Totem Faces, kids will enjoy these heart-pounding moments and parents can take advantage of a valuable teaching moment to talk about safely exploring bear country.
by Libby Svenson Kennedy
Research notes, Andrew Svenson Archives of The Hollister Family Properties Trust
If you’d like to learn more about bear safety: