Jan Berenstain, who along with her husband Stan created the popular children’s books about the family of lovable “Berenstain Bears,” has died in Philadelphia, her publisher said on Monday, after suffering a stroke late last week. She was 88.
“We are all deeply saddened to share with you the news that Jan Berenstain, surviving member of one of the greatest teams in all children’s literature — Stan and Jan Berenstain — passed away last Friday,” publisher Random House said in a statement.
Stan Berenstain died in 2005 at age 82. The couple was longtime residents of Solebury, the Bucks County community that surrounds New Hope.
The Berenstains met in art school, married in 1946 and were inspired to write their first “Berenstain’s Baby Book” as young adults raising their own two sons and dealing with new questions of caring for infants and toddlers.
Their publisher said Jan and Stan were the perfect collaborators: he was outgoing and gregarious, and she was the quiet and steady force who was always by his side. Both showed a flair for and love of drawing and storytelling from their earliest years.
Stan and Jan were married after World War II and began careers as a magazine cartoonist team. They published in The Saturday Evening Post, Colliers Magazine, McCall’s, Good Housekeeping and many more family-oriented publications, focusing on humor about children and parents.
They had two sons, born in 1948 and 1951, who loved Dr. Seuss books. The kids’ appreciation of Theodor Seuss Geisel’s tales inspired the Berenstains to try their own hand at children’s stories.
Geisel quickly became of fan of theirs and, as editor and publisher of Random House, released the Berenstains’ first book.
Until the late 1980s, Stan and Jan continued working as magazine cartoonists and on children’s books. Their son Mike joined the family business that continues to run today, keeping to the same formula of providing helpful family hints and good old-fashioned common sense.
Helped both parents, kids
Their first “Bears” book, “The Big Honey Hunt,” was published in 1962 — and from it sprang a publishing sensation printed around the world in some 23 languages. More than 250 million copies have been sold, and the book series has spawned TV shows, dolls, toys, games and computer software.
The stories of Mama Bear, Papa Bear, Brother Bear and Sister Bear, with titles such as “The Berenstain Bears: New Baby” and “The Berenstain Bears: Messy Room” deal with everyday dilemmas and help answer questions new parents and children face.
“The books are as helpful to adults in their parenting years as they are to kids,” Kate Kilmo, publisher of Random House/Golden Books for Young Readers, told Reuters.