Stan and Jan Berenstain

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Stan and Jan Berenstain

Often referred to collectively as “The Berenstains,” Stan and Jan Berenstain formed a prolific and creative duo. Both were children’s authors and illustrators, creators of the nationally acclaimed book series, the Berenstain Bears.

Stanley “Stan” Berenstain was born on September 29, 1923 in west Philadelphia. Jan Berenstain was born as Janice Grant on July 26, 1923, also in Philadelphia. The two met in 1941 at the age of 18 when they attended class together at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art. Their shared passion for drawing formed the basis of their close friendship. Together, they visited art museums, orchestra concerts, and theatrical plays.

During World War II, Stan served as a medical artist at an Army hospital in Indiana, while Jan performed engineering drawing for the military. After Stan’s Army service was over, the two were reunited and married on April 13, 1946. The newlyweds began collaborating on cartoons, submitting their illustrations to many magazines before finally becoming regular contributors to such famous publications as The Saturday Evening Post and Collier’s.

Impressed by their magazine cartoons, an editor at a New York publishing house contacted the Berenstains and offered them a book deal. Inspired by the recent birth of their baby, Leo, they published Berenstains’ Baby Book in 1951 as a lighthearted guidebook for new and expectant parents. They also penned a comic strip, Sister, from 1953 to 1955.

After their second son was born, the couple submitted a new children’s book to Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss), who ran the Beginner Book division of Random House. The first book in the Berenstain Bears series, The Big Honey Hunt, was published in 1962. After several more books under Dr. Seuss’s editorial leadership, the Berenstains started their own line of books in 1974.

As the Berenstains composed the dozens of books in their famous series, they found inspiration in the everyday trials and tribulations of parenthood, also drawing on their own childhood experiences. They focused on timeless themes that would resonate with every generation, such as friendship, obedience, and respect for others. Some of the classic titles the couple authored and illustrated are: Inside, Outside, Upside Down, Bears On Wheels, The A Book, He Bear She Bear, The Berenstains' B Book, and The Bear Detectives to name a few. The Berenstain Bears has evolved into a multi-channel franchise, with a television series, stage productions, and toys based on the book series.

After a battle with cancer, Stan died on November 26, 2005 in Pennsylvania at the age of 82. Nearly a year after his death, Jan was inducted into the Hall of Fame at her alma mater, Radnor High School. The couple’s younger son, Mike, is also a children’s author and illustrator, and continued to work with Jan on new Berenstain Bears books until her death on February 24, 2012, at the age of 88.

 

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