Most children born and raised over the last 50 years have learned a number of valuable life lessons from the lovable children’s books,The Berenstain Bears. Janice Berenstain and her husband Stanley Berenstain authored and illustrated the beloved books together. Stanley passed away in 2005 at 82 years of age. Janice suffered a stroke on Thursday, February 23rd and passed away the next day.
Many of us have been touched by these simple and enjoyable stories over the years. In fact, most have continued the legacy by reading these very same stories to children and grandchildren. Throughout the 50 years since the first book, “The Honey Hunt”, over 300 titles have been published in 23 different languages, with over 260 million copies being sold.
How did this legacy begin? Janice and Stanley met in 1941 during a first-year drawing class at the Philadelphia Museum of Industrial Art. During World War II, Stanley served in the Army as a medical artist, while Janice continued her studies and worked as a riveter in a factory assembling flying boats for the Military. The couple was reunited after Stan’s discharged and married a few weeks later in 1946.
Initially the couple worked together doing illustrations and comics for a number of magazines and newspapers, including the Saturday Evening Post, Colliers, McCall’s and Good Housekeeping. They found success in cartoons regarding domestic humor, such as burnt dinners, couple squabbles and who used up the toothpaste. They also published a monthly feature entitled “It’s All in the Family”.
The Berenstains raised two children, Michael and Leo, which were the inspiration for their successful children’s books. Seeing how much their children loved the Dr. Seuss books, the Berenstains decided to try their skills at writing books for children. In fact, they even submitted their first book directly to Theodor Geisel, AKA “Dr. Seuss”, for publication consideration. Geisel instantly saw the appeal of the books and the first, “The Honey Hunt” was published in the early 1960’s.
Geisel edited 17 books of the series himself, and was also responsible for naming the series as “The Berenstain Bears” and shortening the authors’ names to “Stan and Jan” so they would rhyme.
Over the years, their books have been made into animated features, Saturday morning cartoons and films. The books cover a wide array of topics, such as cleaning, healthy eating, bullies, stage fright, doctors, dentists, television, fighting, jealousy and coping with a new sibling. In the stories, Papa Bear is the comedic relief and often gets into as much trouble and mischief as Brother and Sister Bear. Mama Bear offers the kind and gentle voice of reason that helps guide the family through the tumults of life.
Thankfully, the Berenstain legacy will continue on. Son Michael had been working alongside his mother creating the books and plans to continue to series. Leo handles the business side of the multimillion-dollar Berenstain Enterprises. In fact, 19 new books are set to publish this year.
We express gratitude to Stan and Jan Berenstain for the wonderful lessons that they have given us and our children over the years. They have truly helped make this world a better place to be by sharing their love, joy, laughter, values and lessons over the past 50+ years. We are so glad that their legacy will continue for future generations.
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