Who is Bigpaw?

Great Bear1A reader recently asked if Great Natural Bear and Bigpaw were one and the same.  Mike Berenstain provided the following answer:

They didn’t start off being the same, but they became the same.

Great Natural Bear was introduced as a minor character in the Bears’ Almanac in 1973 to show a bear hibernating and doing other “natural” bear behaviors.

Big PawBigpaw was introduced later as the main character in the Thanksgiving TV special, The Berenstain Bears Meet Bigpaw, and he began to appear in other books, especially the chapter books, as an ongoing character. Bigpaw looked and acted just like Great Natural Bear. Though it was never actually stated, it was assumed that Great Natural Bear was the same character as Bigpaw but with a different name. Great Natural Bear can be viewed as a “precursor” to Bigpaw.


Excerpts from an interview with Stan and Jan Berenstain by Scholastic students

Professor_Actual_FactualOver the years, a number of questions have been asked many times about the Berenstain Bears.  The following answers, excerpted from an interview with Stan and Jan a number of years ago, might answer some you have had …

1)  Why did you decide to give the Bears your name?
That wasn’t our decision. The first book we did was called The Big Honey Hunt. We didn’t call them the Berenstain Bears. Our editor was Dr. Seuss. When we did the second book, it was called The Bike Lesson, and Dr. Seuss put on the cover The Second Adventure of the Berenstain Bears. So it was Dr. Seuss who named them, not us.

2)  Is Bear Country based on a real town?
Well, in a funny way it is and it isn’t. We started doing the Bear books and created the look of Bear Country before we moved to our present home.  The funny thing is where we live now looks exactly like Bear Country.

3)  What made you decide to use a tree house for the Bear’s home?
I wish I had an answer for that! It just seemed as inevitable as the sun coming up in the morning. When we decided to do a children’s book, it never occurred to us to have them live anywhere except a tree house. We get a lot of mail that says something like “I wish I could go to Bear Country and live in a tree house with the bears.”  I guess it’s every child’s fantasy.

4)  How old are the Berenstain Bears?
Mama is 27 and Papa is 29. Sister Bear is in first grade, Brother Bear is in third, and our new little Honey is about 18 months old. They won’t ever get older!

5)  Why won’t the Bears grow older?
Stan: Because the books are written for children who are about the same age as Sister and Brother Bear. And we think they’ll be more interesting and more fun for our audience. We also do Berenstain Bears Chapter Books, and there are older cubs in those books.

6)  Why are the pictures in The Big Honey Hunt different from the other books?
Stan: That is a very good question. The answer is that we really didn’t know how to draw the Bears in the beginning. In addition to that, our editor was Dr. Seuss, and he wanted the Bears to be as funny and comical-looking as possible.

7)  Why do you start all of your books with a rhyme on the first page?
Jan: Well, the first book we did with a rhyme in it was The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby, and I thought it would introduce the story nicely and set the scene.  Stan: It seemed like a good idea at the time, and it still does.

8) Out of all the characters in all your books, is there one who has become your favorite?
I guess my favorite is Papa Bear because to a great extent he’s based on me. He tends to get carried away, as I do. He tends to be a little bit clumsy, as I am. And he has very good intentions, as I do. Now I’m only occasionally as foolish and accident prone as Papa Bear is capable of being, but I do have my moments. I bet you Jan would say Mama Bear, because Mama Bear is based on Jan. Mama Bear is warm and wise and almost perfect, like Jan. I think they are like terrible exaggerations of the two of us.

Note:  Though Stan died in 2005 and Jan in 2012, their son Mike continues to create the delightful Bear adventures from his studio in Pennsylvania.


Original article

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!

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Summer – A Perfect Time for Reading

LibraryThe lazy days of summer are a perfect time to read to and with your cubs.  Going to your public library for books is a great place to start.  Jan Berenstain’s note (below) shows how much the public library inspired her …

I joined the Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, public library when I was ten.  I remember taking out A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson, illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith.  It not only opened my eyes to the fun of writing in rhyme, it inspired me to take up drawing and painting.  I’m now 80+ and I still love writing epigrams for and creating illustrations for the Berenstain Bears books.  I say – go to the library for inspiration!

Jan's signature

You can also visit our on-line store for great selection of books and ebooks.  But whether you visit the library or purchase your books, be sure to take some time to read to your cubs this summer!

Store - 2013