Long Live Mamma Bear!

A tribute to Jan Berenstain, co-creator of the beloved children’s book empire, the Berenstain Bears, has died. She was 88.

With her husband, Stan, Berenstain created a lovable bear family living in a multi-story treehouse, which spawned a “bear country” empire complete with books, videos, and TV shows, based on the homespun advice and old-fashioned humor doled out in her books. The simple, un-sophisticated stories dealt with perennial parenting issues like resolving fear of the dark, dealing with bullies, visiting the dentist, and controlling candy consumption.

The Berenstain’s own story is as sweet as their characters’. Berenstain met her husband Stan in a first-year drawing class at the Philadelphia Museum of Industrial Art in 1941. They married, Stan joined the army and when he was discharged, they collaborated on cartoons that honed their homespun humor. Inspired by their love of Dr. Seuss books, they decided to collaborate on a children’s book featuring a human-like bear family, a practical Mama Bear, a bumbling Papa Bear, Brother Bear, and Sister Bear. They wrote and illustrated the stories, which were based on their own Berenstain children, and later, grandchildren, to address common childhood concerns. Their first book, “The Big Honey Hunt,” was published in 1962. Since then, more than 300 titles in 23 languages have been released and some 260 million books have been sold. The books have been spun off into a PBS series, theme-park attractions, toys, clothes, e-books, apps, a video game, even an off-broadway musical.

When my sister and I were skyping this morning, She mentioned that Jan Berenstain had died. Kathi says she thought of me because she knew how much I loved the books she and her husband wrote. I went on-line to read about her and was overwhelmed with sheer volume of the books they have written. I browsed through title after title smiling as I remembered reading them with my parents, with my children and more recently with the two little ones I nanny.

They are timeless stories about how to cope with life. I remember reading many of the books as a child, completely oblivious to the lessons they were teaching me through the humor and silliness of the bear family. As a parent I have gone back to these books over, and over, as they so poignantly hit on a vast variety of parenting, and common childhood issues. Many of the ageless issues of manners, bullying, greed, and wanting a pet have helped me communicate with my children better and more clearly than anything I could say. Yet they still forged on as the times changed addressing such topics as too much TV, computer games, gossip, drugs, and pollution.

I am forever grateful for this woman’s creativity and sense of humor that led her to write these lovable books. I am told she had an amazing wit and clear head up until the end of her 88 years. Must have been all that laughter and heeding her own advice that made each year count. Thank you Jan Berenstain for your incredible contribution to this crazy world so similar to “bear country”. Long Live Mamma Bear!


4 Comments so far
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I have the series and I can’t help dipping into them now and again…probably a bit too old 😉

Comment by gloominatiquer

I still read them even when I am not with my kids 🙂 bearestain bears on vacation still makes me laugh

Comment by Kari

Nice job Kari Bear.

Comment by Anonymous

Thank you! Who is this?

Comment by Kari

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