Why are large stuffed bears, some wearing elaborate outfits, populating the Children’s section of the Millennium Library? I counted six nine foot tall ones and three smaller ones.
You can see them standing on top of some of the bookshelves. Two of them, nine foot tall Giant Pandas, balance cake servers holding teacups and apples, even a teapot, on their heads at the entrance?
The Children’s section has A LOT of books. There’s also some cute kid size seating and computer terminals only kids can use. It’s much like any other library but there’s something about those bears…
And on the afternoon of Dec. 17, special guests will be coming to Millennium to read a famous story that is closely related to a book about these bears.
If you’ve ever picked up a copy of The Woodland Nutcracker, you’ll realize that they’re all characters in the book – a loose ursine adaptation of the Nutcracker. The Woodland Nutcracker is a festive children’s story written by Avrill Tyrrell and illustrated by her sister Frances.
In the classic Nutcracker story written by E.T.A. Hoffman back in 1816, and performed each year just before Christmas by countless ballet companies, a girl’s favourite Christmas toy, the Nutcracker, comes alive. After she helps him defeat the evil Mouse King in battle, he whisks her off to a wonderful kingdom populated by dolls.
This classic tale has been adapted many times since 1816, most notably by Alexandre Dumas in 1892.
In the Woodland Nutcracker adaptation, Clara and Peter are both black bears and the Nutcracker is a stuffed bear who transforms into a common brown bear. It’s a kinder, gentler bearier version of the classic tale as Clara chooses to feed all the mice in the spirit of a Christmas truce.
She is rewarded for her generosity by being transported to the ice palace of the Great Bear by the Nutcracker Prince.
Once at the palace Ursa Major, the Queen, a Polar Bear from directly under the Pole Star in the Arctic presides over a special Cirque des Etoiles, starring dancing and juggling bears from distant lands. Clara is the guest of honour.
The Queen (of course) is in the library’s collection of stuffed bears. You can find her above the picture books starting at Leb to New.
Find all the bears who performed for Clara at the Cirque des Etoiles dotted around the Children’s section. Placards besides the bears have a descriptive paragraph or two from the book.
The two pandas standing at the entrance to the Children’s section spinning plates with the makings of afternoon tea on their noses? They’re Tung Tung and Chi Chi, famous juggling Giant Pandas from China.
Orchid is the Australian Koala and trapeze artist who performed in the Cirque des Etoiles with her teammates Bottlebrush Billy, Billy Buttons and Bluebell. She is easily identifiable (besides the fact she’s a bear) by the necklace of orchid flowers that adorns her and can be found above the Folk and Fairy Tales section in the J’s.
Yuk Tuk the Polar Bear from the Arctic Circle who won an Olympic medal for her ribbon routine is standing by the movie shelves showing off her medal.
Paco and Rosa are Spectacled Bears from South America who perform a flamenco dance in the story. They are over by the window overlooking the Jimmy Pattison Reading Garden in all their ruffled finery.
Mama Grizzly is the large Bear from the Rocky Mountains wearing the red and white striped dress with the crinoline across from Tung Tung and Chi Chi. She referees a demonstration hockey game between bear cubs in the story.
Sarita Thapa, the Lesser or Red Panda from Nepal and accomplished Veil Dancer is sitting above the Halloween books in the Seasonal Book section.
All these nine bears were originally part of Eaton’s famous and much loved Christmas display.
After Eaton’s closed, Sears donated the bears from each store across Canada to different children’s hospitals or libraries in their home cities. The Central library received a set from the Winnipeg store and put them in storage until it reopened as the Millennium Branch.
The Woodland Nutcracker is a very short Christmas story with many illustrations of the bears. You can find it with the other Christmas books in the Seasonal Book section. The library has 14 copies in the system. If they’re all out, there is a copy you can look at in the Children’s section at the Millennium branch.
That’s also where you can hear Royal Winnipeg Ballet apprentice dancer Jesse Petrie read from E.T.A. Hoffman’s classic Nutcracker on Dec. 17 from 2-3 p.m.
There will be tutus (and other costumes) to try on, a craft and Filbert the bear will make an appearance. Filbert is the mischievous bear who is everywhere in the first act of the RWB Nutcracker Ballet.
There will be a plethora of bears both stuffed and animate in the Children’s section that afternoon. Maybe the recounting of the Nutcracker will work it’s festive magic. Wouldn’t it be lovely to meet the juggling and dancing bears who spend their nights reading in the Children’s section of the Millennium Library.