Jan Berenstain, co-creator of Berenstain Bears children's books, has died

Jan Berenstain, who wrote and illustrated the popular Berenstain Bears children's books (and animated TV series, and records, and so on) with her husband Stan, has died at 88 years of age. The Berenstain Bears celebrated their 50th anniversary this year.


Berenstain suffered a severe stroke on Thursday and died Friday without regaining consciousness, her son Mike Berenstain said. The gentle tales of Mama Bear, Papa Bear, Brother Bear and Sister Bear were inspired by the Berenstain children, and later their grandchildren. The stories address children's common concerns and aim to offer guidance on subjects like dentist visits, peer pressure, a new sibling or summer camp.

From an interview with Jan at Scholastic, via Galleycat:

Why did you decide to give them your name?

That wasn't our decision. The first book we did was called The Big Honey Hunt. We didn't call them The Berenstain Bears. Our editor was Dr. Seuss. When we did the second book, it was called The Bike Lesson, and Dr. Seuss put on the cover The Second Adventure of the Berenstain Bears. So it was Dr. Seuss who named them, not us.


    1. I loved these books as a kid. But I read The Berenstain Bears and the Perfect Crime (Almost) with my son this week.  The moral was a weirdly right-leaning, in my opinion.  A lot of their recent books are overtly religious (eg: The Berenstain Bears Show God’s Love and The Berenstain Bears Let the Bible Be Your Guide).  Seems like they have changed in recent years, honestly.

      1. That’s what I find so remarkable — that their fairly unobjectionable, apolitical books somehow are insufficiently “conservative”.  Maybe if they had more pictures of dear leader in a cowboy had in the background or something.

        I’d just gone to Wikipedia because I’d always remembered them as the Berenstein Bears, then was surprised to see that little section.

      2. I think I read somewhere that Jan’s and Stan’s son took over the franchise in more recent years and consciously decided to take them down a more overtly evangelical/social conservative path.

        The early books do a lot of moralizing, but in a pretty mainstream (not anything particularly rightist or religious) way.

  1. Just last week I overheard a guy in the coffee shop reading “The Berenstains B Book” to his daughter.  It took me back to my childhood. I loved that one and several other books in the series. They were all just plain great. Thanks Jan, and RIP.

  2. I have read quite a few of these to my daughter. They were always delightful stories, with a decent moral to be had, but I never found them overly preachy.

    And to think: the books were named by Dr. Seuss!

  3. I grew up on a different set of Berenstain books. The “Lover Boy” series. Much more adult and un-PC. Kind of a 60s view of relationships as seen through the eyes of MAD and other demented humorists. They are out of print, but you can find them if you look hard enough.

  4. I grew up on these, but I have a sneaking suspicion they were rather conservative. Haven’t read any specific critique or gone back to look over them. Definitely loved them and they did keep me from eating Too Much Junk Food!

  5. My daughter was crazy about these books when she was younger. I found a few them annoying, smug, and conservative in their views but mostly they seemed harmless enough. Although some of the books were fun, I couldn’t quite understand their great appeal to my daughter. But sorry to hear that Jan passed on. She gave a lot of kids happiness through reading.

  6. I remember as a very young child being fascinated by the art in one of their books in particular, the title of which I’m not sure.  The family was at the beach, and someone had decided to jump off the pier without looking first and was headed for some rough looking rocks and sea shells.  The  sea creatures and even the pier on the beach were so different from the beach I knew growing up on the Gulf Coast, and so well drawn, that really I thought it was the neatest thing I had ever seen.  I remember pulling that book out to look at that one scene at different times for what seemed like a period covering years.  

    I wonder if in a few years the same book will inspire my own child… assuming kids are still reading books by then.  

    1.  Yes! I had that same book – “The Bears Vacation” is its title. I, too, was fascinated with the artwork and all the underwater dangers. I grew up far from any beach so I had quite a loaded idea of what it would be like the first time I finally went to one (Hawaii). :D

  7. Such a legacy. I’ll read the latest Berenstain Bears library book my kindergartener brought home with a lump in my throat. So grateful for the generational thread they’ve had.

  8. I LOVED the Berenstain Bear’s books when I was a kid. My fiavorite was the one in which the kids go to some sort of ancient history museum.

  9. pretty sure the “franchise” was sold to some fundamentalist publishers and thus in the last few years the tenor of the books has changed. yes, they always had some “moral” at the end, but the current state of the Berenstain’s is not the original.

  10. About 10 years ago,i worked at a Chapters bookstore and the sales associate was looking for people to dress up as the Berenstein bears to go see the kiddies in the kids section.I accepted.I was dressed in full costume as mama Berenstein and when we walked into the kids department,every face lit up,it’s as if Santa himself had walked in.One tiny little girl was happily telling how she read all my books and gave me a hug around the big costume neck. Nobody heard the sniffles inside the costume.
    Although i was losing weight from the sweating,i would have done it for 20 more hours.

  11. I liked reading them to my kids, but disliked the way the father was always portrayed as a bumbling fool.  Sure, give a character some faults, but don’t stereotype to the hilt.  Even my kids picked up on it.  They were thrilled when the cubs raised a little hell against the mother’s wishes. 
    For my money, Bedtime for Frances still rules. 

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