All in the Family; The Big Honey Hunt; Drexel Citation; First Time Books; Philadelphia College of Art and Design; Step Into Reading Series
Award-winning children's book author of The Berenstain Bears series Jan Berenstain was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1923 and attended The Philadelphia College of Art. Read more here.
"About the Berenstains." The Berenstain Bears website. 2018. 5 November 2018.
Janice Grant was born in 1923 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After she graduated high school, she enrolled in the Philadelphia College of Art and Design. She met Stan Berenstain on the first day of classes. Stan spent several years in the Army after college; his first job was as a writer and illustrator for an Army newspaper, which is where he got his start drawing cartoons. Soon the couple began their own collaborative effort, a comic called “All in the Family,” which ran in McCall’s and Good Housekeeping from 1956 to 1990.
The Berenstains used their success with “All in the Family,” along with several other adult humor books they had written to break into the market of writing children’s books. The Berenstains have two children, Michael and Leo, who especially enjoyed the works of Theodore Geisel, commonly known as Dr. Seuss. The Berenstains knew Geisel personally, and in 1962, he asked them to write a book for his Cat in the Hat Beginner Series. The first Berenstain Bear book, The Big Honey Hunt (1962), came out of this effort.
Since 1962, Stan and Jan Berenstain have written over 250 Berenstain Bear books. Their children, now grown, have also become part of the Berenstain Bear production team. Their son Michael has illustrated many Berenstain Bear books, while Leo has written manuscripts for many books in the series. Michael has also written 30 children’s books on his own, and Leo has published a book of short stories about his travels to Indonesia.
Jan Berenstain said about her influences: “I was intrigued with how rhyme helped me learn new words as a child. Also, I went to the same art school that my Dad went to so that I could draw as well as he—and that’s where I met Stan.”
According to Stan and Jan Berenstain, the Berenstain Bears were such good characters because “they can stand up, they look good in clothes, and they are fun to draw.” They based the stories on their own children and their grandchildren. The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby, published in 1974, was based on the addition of Michael to the Berenstain family. Stan and Jan added Sister to the Bear family to correspond with how their own family was changing. The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby was also the first in their series of First Time Books, which teach children important lessons about growing up. Books in this series have dealt with issues such as fighting, spending time away from home, and the importance of recycling. The most popular Berenstain Bear book is The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby.
The Birds, The Bees, and the Berenstain Bears (1999) explains the birth of the newest sister in the Berenstain Bear family. The book is surprisingly frank and honest about the process: “When Sister Bear learns that the reason Mama Bear’s lap is getting smaller is because a new cub is growing in her womb, she is curious about how it will get out. Mama takes her with her to Dr. Grizzly, who explains that she (the doctor) will be there to help when the baby comes down the birth canal.”
Jan Berenstain lived in Bucks County, which is north of Philadelphia. She continued to write after her husband’s death in 2005, but the main focus shifted from younger readers to slightly older readers—ages 8 to 11. The Big Chapter and Bear Scout books have few illustrations and average over one hundred pages long. They are meant for children who have outgrown the normal Berenstain Bears picture books. She did not forsake the Berenstain’s younger readers though—she targeted younger readers with the Step into Reading series and the Baby Bear series.
The Berenstains may be two of the most commercially successful authors of all time. They have sold over 240 million copies of their books. Of their books, 35 are in the Publishers Weekly top 250 titles of all time, and 15 are in the top 100 children’s paperbacks. Each year, new Berenstain Bear books are released, and the Berenstains continue to break new ground. In 1999, the Berenstains released The Berenstain Bears and the Big Question, the first Berenstain Bear book to discuss religion. However, the bestselling Berenstain Bear book of all time is still The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby.
Over the years, Jan and Stan Berenstain received many awards for their outstanding work in the area of children’s literature. Some of these awards include the Ludington Award from the Educational Paperback Association, the Drexel Citation from Drexel University, and several Philadelphia Children’s Literary Roundtable honors. Although they have received many awards, they said on multiple occasions that the awards they received directly from children were their favorites.
Jan passed away on February 24, 2012, after suffering from a severe stroke the day before. Her passion for family values has created a reading sensation that has produced more than 300 titles with about 260 million copies sold and read by multiple generations. She is survived by her sons and four grandchildren.
- The Berenstain Bears Go Up and Down. New York: Random House, 1999.
- The Berenstain Bears in the House of Mirrors. New York: Random House, 1999.
- The Berenstain Bears’ Mad, Mad, Mad Toy Craze. New York: Random House, 1999.
- The Berenstain Bears and Baby Makes Five. New York: Random House, 2000.
- The Berenstain Bears and No Guns Allowed. New York: Random House, 2000.
- The Berenstain Bears Go In and Out. New York: Random House, 2000.
- The Berenstain Bears and the Missing Watermelon Money. New York: Random House, 2001.
- The Berenstain Bears--Phenom in the Family. New York: Random House, 2001.
- Big Book of the Berenstain Bears. New York: Random House, 2007.
- The Berenstain Bears All Aboard!New York: Harper Collins, 2010.
- The Berenstain Bears’ Winter Wonderland. New York: Harper Collins, 2011.
- “Author Profile.” Kidsread.com. 2003. 12 Oct. 2003. <http://www.kidsreads.com/authors/au-berenstain-jan-stan.asp>.
- “The Berenstain Family - Bears and People” The Berenstain Bears. 2003. 27 Feb. 2012. <https://www.berenstainbears.com/parents/biography.html>. Web address inactive.
- “Meet the Author: Stan and Jan Berenstain.” BookPage. 2003. 12 Oct. 2003.
- “Jan Berenstain.” Get Cited. 2003. 12 Oct. 2003. <http://www.getcited.org/mbrx/PT/2/MBR/10011119>. Web address inactive.
- “Jan and Stan Berenstain Teacher Resource File.” 2003. 12 Oct. 2003. “Stan and Jan Berenstain.” 2003. 12 Oct. 2003.
- Loviglio, Joann. “Berenstain Bears Co-Creator Jan Berenstain Dies.” centredaily.com. 27 Feb. 2012. 27 Feb. 2012 <www.centredaily.com/2012/02/27/3105699/berenstain-bears-co-creator-jan.html>. Page content replaced.
- Mariska, Bradley. “About Stan and Jan Berenstain.” 2000. 27 Feb. 2012 <http://www.frontiernet.net/~bmariska/bears/bio.html>. Web address inactive.
For More Information:
- Berg, Julie. The Berenstains; The Young at Heart. Edina, MN: Abdo & Daughters, 1994.
- Berenstain Bears Draw-It! Drawing Lessons from Jan and Stan Berenstain. New York: Random House, 1996.
The Berenstains are the award-winning authors of over 200 Berenstain Bears books.