Jan Berenstain, co-creator of the Berenstain Bears series, died on February 24 at the age of 88, after a stroke. Together with her husband, Stan, who died in 2005, Berenstain wrote and illustrated hundreds of affectionate tales featuring Mama, Papa, Brother, and Sister Bear. “They were collaborators in the purest sense of the word,” said Kate Klimo, v-p and publisher of Random House/Golden Books Young Readers Group, which published the Bears titles until 2003, when HarperCollins acquired frontlist rights. “Jan’s gentleness and dry humor were a wonderful foil to Stan’s more gregarious nature.” In later years, Jan worked with her son Mike, an artist, on the books; his brother, Leo, a writer, is involved with the business side of the Berenstain franchise. HarperCollins is releasing 19 new titles in 2012, and Mike and Leo will continue to produce new Bears stories.
Jan and Stan Berenstain met on their first day of art school in 1941, and married in 1946. Prior to the 1962 publication of the first Bears book, The Big Honey Hunt, the couple launched a long-running cartoon series called “All in the Family,” and published artwork in magazines including Colliers and the Saturday Evening Post.
The Bears books, which were inspired by Jan and Stan’s children and grandchildren, address all aspects of family life, from getting kids to do chores to managing first-day-of-school jitters. But the series never shied away from modern concerns, online safety and childhood obesity among them. To date, more than 300 titles have been released in 23 languages. With more than 250 million copies sold, the Berenstain Bears series is one of the bestselling children’s book series of all time.
Berenstain's family is directing memorial gifts to Reading Is Fundamental.