Sad News: ‘The Berenstain Bears’ Co-Creator Jan Berenstain Has Passed Away
Jan Berenstain, writer and illustrator of the children’s book series The Berenstain Bears, passed away this past Friday. RIP, Jan. You will be missed.
Jan Berenstain in 2011.
Sad news, Bettys: Jan Berenstain, one half of the team behind the classic children’s book series The Berenstain Bears, passed away last Friday in Bucks County, PA after suffering a stroke. She was 88 years old. Jan survived her husband by six years—Stan Berenstain passed away in 2005 at the age of 82—but now, with both halves of the couple gone, the Bears have finally fallen silent. A gloomy day indeed for both children and adults everywhere.
I don’t know about you, Bettys, but I’ve got a long and storied history with The Berenstain Bears. I grew up with them; in fact, the very first book I ever read on my own was The Bike Lesson. I was maybe three years old at the time, and I have an incredibly vivid memory of sitting on my parents’ bed with my mother, reading it to her just as she had read it to me so many times. The irony, of course, is that I didn’t learn how to ride a bike until several years later, but whatever. It was a huge landmark for me, reading all by myself, and it began what would become a lifelong love affair with books, storytelling, and the written word—arguably the most important element of who I would eventually grow up to be.
Jan as she appeared in her high school yearbook in 1941.
Although they were sometimes criticized for promoting outdated gender roles, what made the Berenstain Bears books so great is that Stan and Jan did, in fact, know how to roll with the times. Back when I was reading the books (and this was in the ‘80s, so they were already 20 years old by that point), technology barely existed in Bear Country; but as time has gone on, cell phones, computers, and video games made their way into the world of The Berenstain Bears, allowing the books to deal with the sorts of issues that naturally arise with the prevalence of tech in today’s world. Even so, though, Stan and Jan never lost sight of the fact that some issues pop up in every generation, and as such, their books were always relevant, no matter how many decades had gone by.
I’m not a parent yet, and I probably won’t be one for rather a long time, but if and when that time ever comes, you can bet that I’ll be pulling out the Berenstain Bears books for my kids. Though the lessons they teach may be simple, they’re important, especially to tiny people who see the world as big and scary. The first day of school doesn’t have to be frightening; the dentist isn’t really so bad; and a bad dream is just a bad dream, nothing more.
Stan and Jan, by the way, met on their first day of art school. They were married five years later, and they spent a lifetime creating together. If that isn’t true love, I don’t know what is.
Lucia Peters is BettyConfidential’s associate editor.