Thursday, March 01, 2012

A Sad Goodbye to Jan Berenstain, Creator of Berenstain Bears

Jan Berenstain, who with her husband wrote and illustrated the Berenstain Bears books, gentle best-sellers that enlightened preschoolers for half a century with simple lessons about kindness and tidiness, and reasons not to be afraid of the doctor, died on Friday in Solebury, Pa. She was 88.

Mrs. Berenstain, together with her husband Stan, wrote over 300 books, most of them offering moral lessons through the lives of a family of bears known simply as Mama Bear, Papa Bear, Brother Bear and Sister Bear. The Berenstains’ family most often confronted issues common to most families — the arrival of a new sibling, getting homesick at summer camp, the etiquette of trick-or-treating.

“Family values is what we’re all about,” Jan Berenstain told an interviewer last year.

The Berenstains credited their first editor at Random House, Theodor Geisel, who wrote books himself under the name “Dr. Seuss,” with helping them achieve their trademark simplicity in language and illustrations. That style made their books popular as reading primers, by helping toddlers see connections between stories and words on a page.

“He wanted very simple, schematic illustrations with nothing in the background,” Mr. Berenstain told The Chicago Tribune. “Because the purpose of the books was to help kids tie the pictures in with the words.”

Jan Grant was born in Philadelphia on July 26, 1923, the daughter of Alfred and Marian Grant. She met Stanley Berenstain on their first day of classes in 1941 at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art. They were both 18.

During World War II, while her future husband served as a medical illustrator in an Army hospital, she worked as a draftswoman in the Army Corps of Engineers and as an aircraft riveter. The couple married in 1946.

Ms. Berenstain is survived by their two sons, Leo and Michael, an illustrator who became a collaborator in the family’s Berenstain Bears enterprise, and by four grandchildren.

From the NYT article published on February 27, 2012

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