The Berenstain Bears, created by husband and wife Stan and Jan Berenstain, have been a part of millions of childhoods across the world, including mine. Their appeal, at least to me, wasn't the playful, simple writing or the cartoonish illustrations, but the tight-knit Bear family anchored by bumbling Papa Bear and wise, gentle Mama Bear; practically the proto-Simpsons.
The Berenstain Bears books usually centered around navigating universal childhood fears and learning quaint (bordering on corny) life lessons: being scared of the dark, having bad dreams, resolving sibling squabbles and the virtues of keeping a tidy bedroom. There was something very reassuring about the books to me as a child - no matter what trouble the kids got into or what changes the family went through, Mama and Papa bear provided a safe haven of guidance and love in their cozy treehouse home.
Stanley 'Stan' Berenstain died in 2005 and his wife and collaborator Janet 'Jan' died last week. They leave behind hundreds of books that have been translated into 23 languages. If you'd like to learn more about their lives (I learned that Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, was the first editor of the Berenstain Bear books) here are some links for more about their lives and books:
• A bear-hug farewell to Jan Berenstain, cocreator of the Bear family (Philadelphia Inquirer)
• The authors Jan and Stan Berenstain interviewed by Scholastic students (Scholastic.com)
• Jan Berenstain Dies at 88; Created Berenstain Bears (NY Times)
Better yet, pick up one of their books and read it to your child today.
(Image: Carrie McBride)