Before The Big Honey Hunt was published in 1962–marking the beginning of the Berenstain Bears series–author-illustrators Stan and Jan Berenstain worked primarily as cartoonists. One of their most beloved series was “It’s All in the Family,” which featured a family of five (plus pets!) and ran for decades in McCall‘s and Good Housekeeping, as well as being anthologized in several volumes. In honor of the upcoming holiday, we’ve revisited the Berenstain archive to share with you some of our favorite Valentine-themed “It’s All in the Family” cartoons! Continue reading
For many, the new year means new resolutions and a chance to make 2015 even better than what came before it. Here are a few books that might help your cubs achieve the goals that they and you have set for the coming year, sorted into a few helpful categories:
For a Healthier and More Active Lifestyle
For Improving Cleanliness and Organization
For Learning Basic Money Management Skills
For Gratitude and Giving Back
Happy New Year, and best of luck in all that you resolve to do in 2015!
In Bear Country, winter is one of our favorite times of year, and each December we get excited for all the season has to offer: evenings snuggled around the fire, steaming mugs of hot cocoa, fun outdoor activities and, of course, Christmas! Here are some of the things we’ll be celebrating this month:
Choosing the perfect Christmas tree
An excuse for silly hats
Sleigh rides through the countryside
The annual Bear Country ice sculpture contest
What are you most looking forward to this December? Let us know in the comments!
The Bear Family has a new Thanksgiving adventure this year in Thanksgiving’s All Around, a Lift-the-Flap book recommend for children ages 4-8. In it, Mama, Papa, Brother, Sister, and Honey stroll through lush autumn landscapes. In search of a wild turkey after stumbling upon his tracks, the Bears find many surprises along the way.
To get an insider’s look at how this book came together, check out our Q&A with author and illustrator Mike Berenstain below.
Thanksgiving All Around is a Lift-the-Flap book. Could you talk a little about the mechanics of illustrating a book in this format?
Lift-the-Flap books are very difficult to design—they’re like putting together an elaborate puzzle. The story has to be planned around a series of hidden surprises, these hidden elements must be logically worked into each illustration and each flap that covers the surprise must be created as a separate illustration which much line up precisely with the illustration underneath.
The book takes place, of course, in November. What sort of adjustments do you make when illustrating the Bear Country landscape in autumn?
Everything needs to take on a mellow autumn tonality—the greens are a warmer, yellower hue, autumn leaves must be a variety of yellows, oranges and reds.
Do you make any changes to the characters to reflect the season?
The Berenstain Bears are quite cold-tolerant—after all, they have thick fur. So, they only wear jackets and scarves when things get very chilly.
In addition to Bears, Thanksgiving All Around features all sorts of animals, like a woodchuck, kittens, turkeys, and more. How did you decide which animals to include?
The decisions about which ones to include was based on what would work with the flap book format. For instance, the idea of making a cloud in the sky into a flap suggested having a flock of geese flying by underneath.
What is your favorite thing about Thanksgiving?
Pumpkin pie, without a doubt!
Thanksgiving All Around was published by HarperCollins on August 26th.
You can purchase it online here.
About Our Name
People are often curious about the spelling of “Berenstain,” a phenomenon that’s much older than the Bears themselves. As Stan Berenstain recalled in Down a Sunny Dirty Road, the 2002 autobiography he co-wrote with wife Jan, even his fourth grade teacher had questions:
“On the very first morning, when [Miss McKinney] called the roll, she took exception to my name. She said there was no such name as Berenstain. The name, as everyone knew, was Bernstein—and that was what my name would be, at least in her room. When I raised my hand and protested that Berenstain had always been my name, she silenced me with an icy stare and said she didn’t approve of people who changed their names” (26).
“Berenstain,” it seems, is less common than other, similar variants. But there’s a simple explanation. According to family lore, the spelling results from an immigration officer’s attempt to record phonetically an accented version of the traditional Jewish name “Bernstein” as pronounced by Stan Berenstain’s grandfather. He had come to America from Ukraine, where the name would have sounded something like “Ber’nsheytn.” Since then, the family has always spelled it Berenstain, as it was originally documented.
On the Road & Down A Sunny Dirt Road
When Stan and Jan Berenstain decided to look for a an agent to assist them in getting their first children’s book published, they chose Sterling Lord, who was recommended to them by a number of different editors. Lord is perhaps most famous for jump-starting the career of one of America’s most iconic trouble-making writers: Jack Kerouac. As Vanity Fair‘s John Heilpern wrote in a 2013 profile of Lord, “Without [this] literary agent and gentleman of the old school…chances are we would never have heard of the mythic Kerouac.” Kerouac’s signature, jazz-influenced style—something he referred to as “spontaneous bop prosody”—represented a radical break with literary tradition, and not many agents were willing to take a chance on this young rebel. Lord did, getting On the Road published in 1957, and the rest is history. Other notable writers represented by his agency include Ken Kesey, Howard Fast, John Irving, and, of course, the Berenstains!
In 1943, Jan Berenstain–then Janice Grant–took a year off from the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art to contribute to the United States’ war efforts. After completing a two-week training at the Bok Vocational School in South Philadelphia, Jan began working as an aircraft riveter at Brill’s trolley car factory, which had a Navy contract to assemble center wing sections for PBY flying boats. But wing assembly wasn’t the only example of Jan’s metalworking during the war. When she and Stan married in 1946, they wore wedding rings she herself had fashioned out of airplane aluminum.
We are pleased to announce the creation of the Stan and Jan Berenstain Healthy Kids Foundation. Formed by the Berenstain family to honor Stan and Jan’s memory, the Foundation is devoted to the funding of children’s health and well-being initiatives. Inspired by the childhood-celebrating and family-affirming message of Stan and Jan’s creative legacy, we are seeking out those who share our goal of providing for that most basic of all children’s needs: good health.
Initially funded by a contribution from the Berenstain Family, the Foundation will receive ongoing financial support from the publication of The Berenstain Bears’ Hospital Friends by Mike Berenstain, forthcoming from HarperCollins in April 2015. All author’s royalties from sales of this book will be donated directly to the Foundation.
This new book is a fulfillment of the long-cherished dream of adding a story about visiting the hospital to the Berenstain Bears series, which has for decades a source for children coping with new experiences and problems. When Mike Berenstain married Dr. Laura Diaz—pediatric anesthesiologist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)—they immediately began making this dream a reality. With Laura’s help and CHOP’s sponsorship, Mike toured the hospital, interviewed staff and used sketches made in every medical department to create the book’s illustration.
The first project given funding by the Stan and Jan Berenstain Healthy Kids Foundation joins a medical mission with the spirit of art. Face to Face: The Craniofacial Program Portrait Project is a collaboration between CHOP, the Studio Incamminati School for Contemporary Realist Art, and the Edwin & Fannie Grey Hall Center for Human Appearance. Artists are commissioned to create portraits of young patients with craniofacial conditions to help them gain self-esteem and social resilience.
Of added interest is the historic connection between this art/medical project and Stan Berenstain’s service as an Army medical illustrator during World War II. His art recording operations on war wounds was donated to the Army Museum in 2010.
The collaboration between the creative and medical worlds has been furthered by the make-up of the Foundation’s board, consisting of members of the Berenstain family along with outside medical directors associated with The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Long term, the Foundation intends to meet the requirements to qualify as public foundation, maximizing its potential for growth and increased funding.
We hope that you will join us in supporting this exciting new undertaking growing out of the life stories and life’s work of Stan and Jan Berenstain.
For more information, to contribute to the Foundation, or to explore other ways to partner with the Foundation in its work, please visit our website or contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maura McColgan (pictured left with fellow castmate Joey Anchondo), an actress and rising senior at West Chester University, is a member of the Greater Ocean City Theatre Company for the 2014 Season. She recently played Sister Bear in the OCTC production of The Berenstain Bears on Stage.
What was your immediate thought upon finding that out you had been cast as Sister Bear?
I was so excited. I thought that Sister Bear would be a perfect role for me to play! She’s sassy, smart, and a very developed character. I had no problem getting myself into character because I was a lot like Sister Bear when I was a child.
How is playing an animal on stage—even a singing and dancing one—different than playing a human?
Playing an animal was probably the biggest struggle of the whole experience. To be honest, I kind of forgot that she wasn’t human because she is so personified! I did however try to add animalistic qualities to Sister Bear, like having her sniff the toy box that Papa Bear makes for her and Brother Bear in The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room [laughs]. I also growled when she was angry. Yes, playing a bear who is so much human was a little bit of a challenge! [Ed. Note: “They’re kind of furry around the torso / They’re a lot like people, only more so”]
How did acting in The Berenstain Bears on Stage compare to some of your past theater experiences?
Acting in The Berenstain Bears was very different from anything I have ever done before. We had only five rehearsals, all in one week! And then we performed four shows! Two in Ocean City, one at Stockton College, and one at the Cape May Convention Center. It was extremely fast paced but it was an amazing learning experience. It gave me confidence that I can learn things very quickly and perform successfully after only a few rehearsals. Specific to The Berenstain Bears, it was also my first time playing an animal! Even if the Berenstain Bears are very much human and go through human conflict to teach lessons. All the stories are very relatable.
The Berenstain Bears on Stage is based on five different Berenstain Bears stories: The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby, The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room, The Berenstain Bears and the Double Dare, The Berenstain Bears Tell the Truth and The Berenstain Bears Get Stage Fright. Which one of these was your favorite and why?
My favorite story to perform… that is a hard one. If I could pick one, it would be The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room. One of the songs in this scene is actually a rap where Brother Bear and Sister Bear rap about their messy room and what toys they have. That was pretty fun for us because it seemed so random to have a rap in a musical, but the composer sure had a sense of humor! It somehow worked and was genius. Probably the most epic part of the scene though involved a closet that Brother Bear (Joey Anchondo) and I had to strategically place all of the toys into so that when Mama Bear (Chrissy Hartzell) opened the door of the closet, a lever was pulled so the toys would all fall on top of her. It caused the audience to laugh hysterically every single time! It was a lot fun.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I want to thank the Greater Ocean City Theatre Company for giving me my very first professional theatre experience this summer! It was extremely rewarding to see all of the little kids at the end of all our shows give us hugs and high fives. A few of the kids told me I was their favorite in the play, which, to be honest, means more to me than being told that my acting and singing was great for one reason: for that amount of time that I was on stage, I WAS Sister Bear to them. I was able to take them out of the real world and even after the play was over, I was still Sister Bear to them. When you are able to make a child that happy and feel that special to meet you because you inspired them, taught them a lesson, or look up to you, you did your job. I always believe that I do what I do for others, and children’s theatre is the most direct way that any actor can make a difference, in my opinion.