DOWN A SUNNY DIRT ROAD: An Autobiography

Stan Berenstain, Author, Jan Berenstain, Author, Jan Berenstain, Joint Author . Random $20 (208p) ISBN 978-0-375-81403-7

The creative couple behind the bestselling Berenstain Bears opens this sprightly, joint autobiography with alternating chapters chronicling their respective childhoods in Philadelphia. Stan's and Jan's anecdotal recollections work in the kinds of details that children lap up: Stan remembers spotting his first zeppelin (a "great silver cigar"), Jan recalls tracing the White Knight onto a color plate of John Tenniel's artwork and, later, the couple use their childhood memories of the Saturday matinee as inspiration for a Collier's cover (reproduced in the book). After their creative aspirations bring them together as students at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art (recorded in successive chapters as "Stan Meets Jan" and "Jan Meets Stan"), they offer perspectives on the ensuing WWII years (Stan served as a medical artist in the Army, Jan worked as an aircraft riveter), then merge their voices into one. Highlights include their auspicious meeting with the feisty, at times cantankerous Theodor Seuss Geisel, editor-in-chief of Random House's new Beginner Books, and the launch of the furry family from Bear Country. The roomy, clean design is reminiscent of Bill Peet: An Autobiography; their illustrations of themselves—jitterbugging or playing field hockey (rendered in the Berenstain's familiar, contemporary style) demonstrate the impressive versatility of the couple's talents. Though sometimes long on detail, this breezy, humorous saga makes for an intriguing publishing tale and may appeal most to aspiring artists and adult fans, who will happily follow these amicable, humble authors down their indisputably sunny autobiographical road. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 09/30/2002
Release date: 09/01/2002
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