Back in February I reviewed a charming little children’s book called Cubby in Wonderland. Since then, you have no doubt been wondering, whatever happened to that ursine lad? Did he hibernate? Did he go off on his own? Did he encounter any new creatures? All these questions and more are answered in the second and final installment of this series, Cubby Returns to Yellowstone. (Two and out? Frances Joyce Farnsworth was clearly an amateur at milking a series.)
When the book opens, Cubby is stirring from a deep sleep, fretting that he feels odd and stiff, and his feet feel prickly. Mommie Bear explains that he is just waking up from his “long night” and that they’ve been sleeping for a very long time: weeks, possibly even months. Upon rousing themselves, Mommie and Cubby decide the first thing they should do is go back to Yellowstone and see what they missed.
On this, his second trip to the park, Cubby is curious to discover who the first animal was to arrive in Yellowstone. He asks everyone he meets, and of course most animals claim the title for themselves and their own families. Much like the first book, Farnsworth uses these encounters to introduce children to different animal species and the wonders of nature. In one encounter with a woodland mouse, Cubby learns that there are many different types of mice: white-footed mice, grasshopper mice, red-backed mice. He learns that some mice live among people and “help them by not letting any food go to waste.”
“In 80 years our descendants will be famous for their pizza-eating antics.”
On top of many new creatures, he also encounters some old friends from the first installment. At one point he and Mommie meet a juvenile black bear who turns out to be a youngster called “Troublesome” whom they had met on their earlier journey. Mommie Bear is impressed that Troublesome has turned out to be such a nice, friendly bear when he had been so ill-mannered in the past. Then Troublesome goes on to prove he is still a jerk by pointing out that Cubby should be out on his own and Mommie needs to be careful not to make a sissy of him.
Not long after, the National Park Service implemented its famous no-bullies campaign.
Cubby does go off on his own (as Mommie had always intended, not because of that snot-faced Troublesome) and learns how to make his way as an independent bear. Life as a bear may be tough, but in Yellowstone in 1935 you could at least catch a meal from the campers and even the park rangers, so Cubby manages pretty well on his own. He meets a big horn sheep, a porcupine, and woodchucks. In one beautiful chapter called “Woodland Movies,” Cubby sits quietly in a tree and observes the scenes from nature unfolding in front of him. He watches as an osprey feeds her babies but also has to cede a choice fish intended for her young to a pursuing bald eagle. He watches a mule deer hide her two spotted fawns in the grass while she goes off to eat. He watches a coyote searching in the grass but failing to find the fawns, and he reasons that the babies must have no scent, or surely the predator would have found them.
This idyllic scene is only broken by one incident with a weasel and two young chipmunks. Cubby watches the weasel pursing the tiny critters and, being a kind-hearted bear, he roots for the youngsters to escape. They run past Cubby in his tree, and he decides to intervene by raising his paw to the weasel and reasoning with him that he should let the chipmunks go. Haha, just kidding. He kills the weasel. Cubby kills the weasel for being a predator.
“Momma, when will Daddy be back with dinner?”
This is my only complaint about this book; there are a couple of places where Farnsworth paints predators as the bad guys, which is odd since you know, bears eat meat also.
Wait, fish count?
All in all, though, this is a charming book and I’m delighted to have the complete set of the Cubby series. Cubby never does find out who was the first animal in Yellowstone, but in the end he decides to stop trying to find out and to just enjoy the park with all its wonders and wildlife. Except for weasels. Weasels are fuckers.