Jan Berenstain and her husband, Stan, published their first Berenstain Bears book in 1962. Three hundred titles about the family of bears that deal with everyday problems appeared, as well as videos and TV shows.
Jan Berenstain, who with her husband, Stan, made up one of the most successful husband-wife teams in children’s literature, guiding an empire of books, videos and TV shows about the everyday problems of a family of bears, has died. She was 88.
Berenstain died Friday after a stroke in Solebury, Pa., according to HarperCollins, her publisher.
The Berenstain Bears books have offered parents and their young children guidance, comfort and old-fashioned humor about perennial issues such as fear of the dentist, dealing with bullies and resolving sibling rivalries since the first book was published 50 years ago.
Some 300 titles and 260 million copies later, the series featuring bumbling Papa Bear, practical Mama Bear and their children, Brother and Sister Bear, who live together in a multi-story treehouse, still resonates in families with pre-schoolers.
“The themes of those books — being kind to others, treating people with respect, being nice to your friends, saying what you mean — are universal,” said her editor, Dave Linker. “They brought a lot of humor, so reading them didn’t feel like drudgery.”
Berenstain was instrumental to the collaboration. Both she and her husband, who died in 2005 at 82, were accomplished illustrators and worked together on nearly every book. He was responsible for most of the humor and she for the stories’ “heart,” Linker said.
Both Berenstains acknowledged that they endowed their alter egos with their own character traits. Papa Bear provides comic relief, often behaving as foolishly as his offspring, while Mama Bear is the voice of reason and morality who guides everyone to a tidy solution.
“I hate the Berenstain Bears,” syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote in 1989. He found Papa Bear so wimpy “he makes Dagwood Bumstead look like Batman.” As for Mama Bear, he wrote, “Every adult will recognize her as the final flowering of the grade-school prissy…. The one you always dreamt of drowning.”
Mama, Berenstain acknowledged in a Washington Post interview many years ago, “is based on me. But I’m not as nice or stalwart.”
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SOURCE: The LA Times