Today is the birthday of Jan Berenstain (July 26, 1923 – February 24, 2012), co-author with her husband Stan of the Berenstain Bear book series.
Famed husband and wife authors, Stan and Jan Berenstain, were both born in 1923 and met each other on their first day of class at Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art in 1941. Drafted into the Army in 1943, Stan was given positions of limited service as he was blind in one eye. He worked as a medical illustrator and began publishing cartoons in magazines. During the war, Jan worked as a draftsmen and aircraft riveter. In 1946, the two were married and began their business of illustrating works for popular magazines and publishing books of their cartoons.
Stan and Jan Berenstain had two sons, Leo in 1948 and Mike in 1951. They were both big fans of Dr. Seuss books which inspired Stan and Jan to try their hand at writing children’s books. They began with their first book, The Big Bunny Hunt, in 1962 with Dr. Seuss, aka Ted Seuss Geisel, serving as editor and publisher of the book. It quickly became very popular among young, beginning readers. The cast of characters began with “Mama”, “Papa”, and “Small Bear”. Upon introduction of “Sister Bear”, “Small Bear” became “Brother Bear”. They chose these names as a way for young readers to easily associate the familial roles with the characters.
The Berenstain Bears enterprise has become a family business as their son, Mike, joined as an illustrator in the 1980s soon becoming a co-writer for the series. The series has been adapted in to all different media in the form of television specials, series, DVDs, and even a live musical.
Since 1962, The Berenstain family has published over 300 Berenstain Bear books and they remain one of the most recognizable book series’ of all time. Mike continues the legacy of his parents after Stan’s passing in 2005 and Jan’s passing in 2012. The Berenstain Bears will continue to entertain children for years to come with their adventures!
Here are some helpful links compiled by Happy Birthday Author:
1. Berenstain Bears – Official Website, Activities
2. Berenstain Bears Treehouse Website – Artwork
3. PBS Kids Berenstain Bears Website with Games, etc.
4. RandomHouse Berenstain Bears – Activity Page
5. Berenstain Bears Live – Website, Study Guide (September 2010 – June 2011) – East Coast
6. Strong National Museum of Play – Rochester, NY – Berenstain Bears Exhibit
7. Text Interview – Scholastic
8. 2007 Text Intervew – About.com, Children’s Books • 2010 Text Interview – About.com
9. Streaming Berenstain Bears Videos – Sprout Online
10. Great Video about Stan and Jan Berenstain – Video
11. Jan Berestain Dies at 88 – NY Times