Jan Berenstain, 88 years old, of The Berenstain Bears books died of a stroke last Friday. Her husband, the co-author and co-illustrator of the 300 plus book collection passed away back in 2005.
Not everyone loved the Berenstain Bears book; some critics find them too didactic. But, the books with moral lessons from an anthropomorphic family of bears have sold over 260 million copies in 23 languages since 1962 (not bad!).
The books cover the host of issues kids go through: the arrival of a baby sibling from the hospital, visiting the dentist, poor sportsmanship, going camping, dealing with bullies, and so on (ad nauseam!). The book’s themes of safety, manners, loyalty, honestly, etc. literally run the gamut!
The bear stories pretty much follow a formula: The action begins when Brother Bear or Sister Bear faces a problem. They turn to Papa Bear, whose solution to the problem usually makes things worse. Then Mama Bear (our hero!), enters in and makes everything right. Aha!, no wonder mothers everywhere endorse, buy, and read these books to their kids!
The books pale in comparison to Dr. Seuss for me personally (they’re cute but a little syrupy), but the Berenstain Bears books are clearly a huge franchise in themselves (think Happy Meals toys to Berenstain Bears Graham Cracker Cookies). In fact, in 2009, Walden Media announced a feature length film on the Berenstain Bears books but the movie, described as something like the movie Elf, is still in the script phase of production.
Even though I find them in a different category than Dr. Seuss (ie. not exactly classic) they’ve clearly had a huge impact on children for the past 50 years (myself included). They were read to me, I read them to my kids, and thanks to my Mom giving us a massive collection, I’ll be able to read them to my grandkids too, which is all pretty cool, even if they’re a little saccharin.
“It’s wonderful to do something you love for so many years. Not everyone has that.” -Jan Berenstain