We Get Questions …

QuestionsOver the years, a number of the same questions have been asked many times.  The following answers from Mike Berenstain might help address some you have had …

         1) Why don’t the Bears have regular names like Bob or Betty or Sally – why just Mama, Papa, and so on?

      I could answer that the bear family is a family of symbolic Everybears – ursine stand-ins for the typical American family.  But the real reason is that when the characters were created in 1962, it was for the limited vocabulary Beginner Book line and it was felt that Mama and Papa would be easy to read.

       2) Why do the Berenstain Bears always wear the same clothes?

They are bears, not people, and bears always wear the same clothes.  Just go to the zoo sometime to check this out.

         3) How long does it take you to do a book?

This question tends to come from kids who are considering creating children’s books as a career and are concerned that it may take up too much of their spare time.  The answer is … as long as it takes.

          4) How do you draw the same picture over and over again in all those books so many times?

This comes from children who are under the impression that we draw all the printed copies of our books by hand.  They have never seen the huge commercial printing presses on which children’s books are printed.  I usually tell the children who ask this that we just Xerox them.

          5) Why did you decide on using a bear family as the central characters in your books?

There is a tradition of bears in children’s books and, also, they are animals that naturally stand up.  They look good in clothes and seem almost human when the humorous illustrator works with their facial expressions.

       6) Why don’t you do some books about some characters besides the Bears?

It’s a good question.  We certainly do seem to have gotten stuck in a rut!

          7) One question came from a particularly observant youth who pointed out that in The Berenstain Bears and the New Baby, it says Papa Bear hollowed out the family’s tree house from an oak tree.  But in The Berenstain Bears’ Moving Day, the family purchases and moves into an already existent tree house.

We gave this one to my mother, Jan.  Her answer was, I thought, resourceful.  She explained that the Bears did, indeed, move into the tree house as shown in Moving Day, but Papa then expanded it by carving out sections of the trunk previously unoccupied.  You can see why my mother was the brains of the operation.


Cubs and Reading

Reading posterAdvice from Stan and Jan Berenstain

1.         Advantages of an Early Start

How soon should a child be introduced to the book experience?  As soon as the child will sit still for and take obvious pleasure from the experience.  Of course, this varies from child to child, but a surprising proportion of pre-tots as young as six months is willing and able to enjoy being read to.  At this earliest stage, reading may mean no more than commenting on the illustrations in a simple picture book.  The early introduction of the book experience is not only advantageous to your child but to you as well.  What’s in it for your youngster – in addition to the warm, enclosing creature comfort of Mommy’s or Daddy’s lap – is a beginning knowledge of the cognitive connection between symbolic information (pictures and words) and objective information from nature (trees, flowers, and pussycats).  The earlier books become a pleasurable part of a child’s life, the more likely he or she is to develop that uniquely beneficial life practice: the book habit.

The advantage to parents of the early introduction of the book experience: getting the load off your feet for as long as your youngster will sit still for being read to.

2.         Book Selection

The short answer to the question “What kinds of books are likely to encourage children to become readers?” is “All kinds.”  A longer answer could include a proviso that commonsense “age and stage” considerations should always apply: a Three Little Pigs which a child accepts with equanimity at two may give that child the screaming meemies at three.

While the broad range of children’s books — board books, storybooks, nursery rhymes, and tales — are all helpful in preparing a child for reading, it is the easy-to-read category which has specific application to that learning-to-read process.  This general category falls into two subgroups:

                        1)  Simple not-quite-storybooks, often in rhyme and usually humorous, with bold pictures closely related to relatively few large-type words.  This type of book is most helpful at the earliest stage of learning to read, when the young aspirant to literacy needs all the help he or she can get from the clues provided by rhyme and close connection between words and pictures.

                        2)  Simplified storybooks (or works of nonfiction) in which pictures predominate and large-type text relates closely but not necessarily directly to the pictures.  This type of book is most useful for the child who has acquired some beginning reading skills: some phonics knowledge and some word recognition experience.

3.         Follow the Child’s Lead

Every child has his or her own temperament, which gives rise to a complex of tendencies, predilections, and interests.  Within reason these should be respected, not ridden roughshod over.  Children very early adopt favorites – favorite activities, favorite toys, favorite books, and favorite types of books.  While it’s certainly appropriate to offer a child a balanced diet of books, it’s neither fair nor appropriate to shut down on his or her special enthusiasms.  If you hear yourself saying, “But, darling, you already have seven dinosaur books.  How about this nice butterfly book?” just remember that five-foot shelf of Agatha Christies you’ve accumulated over the years – and bite your tongue.  How about digging down a little deeper and buying your budding reader the dinosaur book and the butterfly book?

Copyright © 1978 by Stanley and Janice Berenstain


Jan Berenstain’s Green Noodle Lasagna

Did you know National Lasagna Day is celebrated on July 29?  No?  Neither did we!

Kitchen with MamaHowever, Jan Berenstain made delicious lasagna, so it’s a perfect month to share her very own recipe with you.

Green Noodle Lasagna

1 package spinach lasagna noodles

2 cups cut-up, cooked veal or chicken

3/4 cup braised, sliced mushrooms (or small can)

2 (6-oz.) packages skim milk mozzarella cheese

1 (1-pound) container of skim-milk cottage cheese

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Salt to taste

Cook noodles according to instructions the package.  In a baking dish (9×13) – with a couple of spoons of white sauce (recipe follows) in the bottom to start – alternately layer noodles, veal or chicken, mushrooms, large dots of cottage cheese, sprinkles of sliced and broken mozzarella, and sauce – ending with white sauce.  Sprinkle top liberally with Parmesan cheese and lightly with parsley flakes.  Bake in moderate oven (350°) for 45-50 minutes.  Let stand for 15 minutes to set before cutting.

Note: May be baked in advance and reheated, covered with foil, in 350°  oven for 30 minutes.

White Sauce

3/4 cup corn oil margarine

3/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

4 cups skim milk

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Minced fresh parsley or dried parsley flakes

Melt margarine in saucepan.  Blend in flour, salt and pepper (off heat).  Add milk gradually to blend in smoothly, then return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until thickened.  Remove from heat and stir in Worcestershire sauce and a heaping teaspoon of parsley.

Lo-cal, delicious, and good for the whole family — even Papa Bear!

Jan's signature


Fun Facts …

Did you know Dr. Seuss named The Berenstain Bears?

SeussTed Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss, was Jan and Stan’s editor for their first books. Stan and Jan explain in their biography Down a Sunny Dirt Road: “When Ted showed us our second book, the cover looked like it was supposed to. There was Papa riding downhill with Small Bear hanging on for dear life, with the book’s title in big yellow letters.  But something new had been added.  In a dropped-out white box, it said, ‘Another Adventure of the Berenstain Bears.’  We were puzzled.  It was very nice.  But we didn’t quite get it.  We asked Ted what it meant.

The Bike Lesson“You know,” he explained, “your bears are a vaudeville troupe like Murgatroyd’s Mules and Dugan’s Dogs.”  It never would have occurred to us to name the bears after ourselves.  After all, we were the Berenstains and our bears were the Bears. And that wasn’t all.  He sharpened and shortened our byline from “Stanley and Janice Berenstain” (which it was on our first book The Big Honey Hunt) to “Stan and Jan Berenstain.” So Dr. Seuss not only named our bears, he renamed us.”

 Do you recognize the voice of Brother Bear and wonder who it is?

MichaelIt’s Michael Cera – Michael is a Canadian actor best known for his roles in Arrested Development, Youth in Revolt, Superbad, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and Juno. He was the voice of Brother Bear in the 2003 television series.

Do you know two women who voiced Mama Bear?

RuthRuth Buzzi – Ruth is an American comedienne and actress in theater, film, and television. She is best known for her performances on the comedy-variety show Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In from 1968 to 1973. Ruth also played many other roles including Freaky Friday, Cactus Jack, and Sesame Street.  She was the voice of Mama Bear in the 1985 television series for which she was nominated for a daytime Emmy.

CamillaCamilla Scott – Camilla hails from Toronto, Canada. She is known for her work in 3 Men and a Baby, Tommy Boy, Due South, and Guiding Light. She performs regularly in theaters in both Ontario and New York and performed in: Mamma Mia!, The Pajama Game, Three Days of Rain (also co-produced this show), Aladdin, Jack and the Beanstalk, Crazy for You, Shenandoah, and Evita.  Camilla was the voice of Mama Bear in the 2003 television series.

Did you grow up singing the theme song from the Berenstain Bears= television show?

Somewhere deep in Bear Country lives the Berenstain Bear family.
They’re kind of furry around the torso. They=re a lot like people, only moreso.
 The bear fact is that they=re just like you and me.
The only difference is they live in a tree.
The Berenstain Bears.
 When things go wrong as things might do,
The Berenstain Bears will find a way through.
Mama, Papa, Sister and Brother will always be there for each other.
The bear fact is that they can be sweet as honey.
Sometimes you’ll find they might be just plain funny.
 The Berenstain Bears. The Berenstain Bears.

Do you know who performed the song?

LeannLeanne Womack – Leanne is an award-winning American country songwriter and singer.  She has won Country Album of the Year and Female Vocalist of the Year and known for many, many songs including I Hope You Dance.


The Berenstain Bears Go Green

Stan and Jan were always concerned about conserving Mother Earth and eating healthy foods.  Over the years, they wrote a number of Berenstain Bears’ stories dealing with these topics.

As we celebrate Earth Day on April 22, let’s all find at least one simple way to be green!  In the Berenstains’ newest book, The Berenstain Bears Go Green, Mama, Papa, Brother, Sister, and Honey are doing just that!


The Berenstain Bears live in a wonderful place filled with green grass, blue skies, and lots of furry friends. But on a fishing trip at the creek, the Bear family discovers the town dump is overflowing. It’s spilling garbage into the water!
Can the Berenstain Bears find a pollution solution before their beloved county is filled with garbage?
Published by HarperCollins in 2013.

Too Much Junk Food

In long-time favorite The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food, Mama Bear lays down the law when she notices Papa and the cubs are getting too chubby.
With the help of Dr. Grizzly’s slide show on how the body works, the Bear family makes a healthful adjustment in their diet and fitness habits.
Published by Random House in 1985.

Don't Pollute

When careless citizens pose a threat to Bear Country’s environment, Brother and Sister Bear form the Earthsavers Club. Their spirited ecological efforts deliver a timely message about the urgent need to mend our polluting and wasteful ways.
Published by Random House in 1991.

Two Earthsaver Calendars were published in 1992 and 1993 by Random House.

Calendar 1992

Calendar 1993

Grow It!

Inspired by their neighbor Farmer Ben, Brother and Sister decide, with Mama’s help, to plant seeds, cuttings, and tubers. The Do-It! section includes instructions for the propagation of numerous food plants in water and/or soil, plus some simple plant science.
Published in 1996 by Random House.

The Whole Year Through

The Berenstain Bears the Whole Year Through invited you to be an Earthsaver and showed you how, with fun activities you could do every month of the year.
Published by Scholastic in 1998.


Project Grows Now grandson Sam is following in Stan and Jan’s footsteps.  A graduate of Eastern Mennonite University with a B.A in Environmental Sustainability, Sam spent a season in NYC working on two urban farms studying the practices of city produce production. With a passion for building a community around youth-oriented agriculture, Sam helped found Project GROWS in the Harrisonburg, Virginia, area where he spends his days sheet mulching, harvesting, and teaching about sustainable farming. Project GROWS is a 10-acre, non-profit youth-oriented community farm with a mission of improving the overall health of children and youth in the tri-county area through community farming that includes hands-on experience, nutrition education, and access to healthy food.


To celebrate Earth Day and the release of The Berenstain Bears Go Green, watch our Facebook page from April 19-22 to enter our give-away.  Five lucky entries will receive a copy of the book signed by Mike Berenstain.


The Berenstain Bears’ Storybook Bible

We are very excited to announce the new Berenstain Bears Storybook Bible. Join Papa, Mama, Brother, Sister, and Honey Bear as they read favorite Bible stories together and imagine what it would have been like to see Adam and Eve in the garden, watch Noah build the ark, and listen as Jesus tells a parable to the people.

Enjoy watching this short video clip … 

Zondervan image

Mike Berenstain was interviewed about the Storybook Bible by Care Baldwin from CHRI Family Radio.  You can listen to the interview here.

Storybook Bible

The Storybook Bible is part of the Berenstain Bears Living Lights series published by Zonderkidz and is available in bookstores and through our on-line store.


One Title – Two Covers

A Facebook follower recently asked, “why the cover art for The Berenstain Bears Meet Santa Bear changed from the original version and if other Berenstain Bear books have had more than one cover art?”

Original cover published in 1984

Original cover published in 1984

Mike Berenstain provided the following answer:

The Berenstain Bears Meet Santa Bear, first published in 1984, is the only title in the First Time Book series which was ever given a new cover.  This was a consequence of that peculiarity of the publishing business—the system of “returns.”

Unlike most other consumer products, books are typically sold to bookstores and other accounts on a basis that copies unsold after a given period may be returned to the publisher for credit toward future orders.  This practice was started during the Great Depression when book sales were languishing and publishers offered inducements for larger orders.  It has persisted even though it long since ceased to make any real economic sense. 

The greatest problem with the system is that it encourages publishers to promote, and booksellers to demand, over-optimistically large orders for books that it is believed will be popular—the theory being that, if they don’t sell them all, they can always be returned.  When this happens books that experience large returns can be unfairly stigmatized as not living up to expectations even though they may have sold quite well by any other standard.  This is what happened with the Santa Bear title.

After it was published in 1984, it sold very well during subsequent holiday seasons. It was viewed by its publisher, Random House, as a reliable seasonal standby. Then, during one holiday season in the early 1990’s, it was decided to market it as their lead promotional Christmas children’s book. It was shipped to the stores in record numbers. Though it sold just as well as in previous years, there were many copies left unsold from the massive distribution program. These copies became “returns.”

The redesigned cover

The redesigned cover

Concerned that this mismanaged marketing effort would depress sales in future years, Random House pulled the book out of distribution for several holiday seasons, then asked Stan and Jan to create a new cover for its re-release.  It has been a bestseller in every holiday season since.