Mother's Day Header

Mother’s Day with It’s All in the Family

For Mother’s Day we are revisiting Stan & Jan’s cartoon, All in the Family that ran for decades in McCall‘s and Good Housekeeping. These classic cartoons illustrate the ups and downs of Motherhood. We hope you give a big bear hug of appreciation to all of the Moms in your life this Mother’s Day!

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Summer Reading Guide copy

The Berenstain Bears’ Summer Reading Guide

With the changing of the season comes summer vacation, warmer weather, and lots more time for little cubs to get reading! Here are our picks for the books most suited to the long, hot days of the next three months. Click the pictures to view them at full size!

The Bears’ Vacation

The Bears' Vacation

The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Car Trip Too Much Car Trip The Berenstain Bears’ Lemonade Stand

Lemonade Stand

The  Berenstain Bears’ Dinosaur Dig

Dinosaur Dig

The Berenstain Bears Gone Fishin’ Gone Fishin The Berenstain Bears’ Seashore Treasure Seashore Treasure The Berenstain Bears God Bless Our Country God Bless Our Country The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Vacation

Too Much Vacation

The Berenstain Bears Go to Camp Go to Camp Happy reading!

Tree House Trivia

Tree House Trivia

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).

no such name “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
Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac

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!

DIY Bride

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.

Riveting class

Jan’s riveting class celebrates graduation

Healthy Kids Header

Announcing the Stan and Jan Berenstain Healthy Kids Foundation

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: general@berenstainfoundation.org.

Mike Berenstain      

Celebrating 50 Years

       Our blog this year has reflected on the Berenstain Bears and their creators Jan, Stan, and Mike Berenstain as they mark their 50th Anniversary.

       In celebration of our anniversary, HarperCollins Children’s Books and Random House Children’s Books worked with Jan and Mike to document the creation of the Berenstain Bears.  Filmed just 3 weeks before her death in February 2012, Jan never saw the completion of the five videos.  Now, for the first time ever, Random House and HarperCollins have  released excerpts from this phenomenal interview for all to see.

       We are very grateful to Harper Collins and Random House for these wonderful and very timely videos of our beloved Jan Berenstain.

       The interviews are available on the Berenstain-ology tab of the Parents Den on our website: 

50th Anniversary Interviews

www.berenstainbears.com

Team Berenstain – Part 4

Adapted and excerpted from Mike Berenstain’s Child’s Play: Cartoon Art of Stan and Jan Berenstain, published by Abrams in 2008.

The explosive popularity of television rang the death knell of the general interest weekly magazine.  Folks were not content to sit around reading when they could partake of the wild hilarity of Uncle Milty or Sid Caesar on the dimly luminous tube.  The Saturday Evening Post survived in truncated form by going from weekly to monthly publication.  But Collier’s went under at the end of 1956.

Surprisingly, Stan and Jan survived this catastrophic loss of their principle source of income quite nimbly.  One area of magazine publishing that continued to thrive in the new multimedia era was the venerable monthly woman’s magazine.  Redbook, Ladies’ Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, and McCall’s had been around since the turn of the century and were showing no signs of going the way of the buggy whip.  Stan and Jan shifted their focus to this alternate venue and thrived.

McCall’s quickly snapped up their new series, It’s All in the Family (no connection to the later TV sitcom), which graced its pages from 1956 to the new-broom regime of Shana Alexander in the early seventies when it migrated to Good Housekeeping, where it continued until 1988.  This feature, in fact, lasted so long that for the final few years of its existence it was ghost-written and drawn by Stan and Jan’s son Mike.

It’s All in the Family took the mom, the dad, and the daughter from Sister, bookended the girl between an older and younger brother, and settled them down in a Leave-it-to-Beaverish suburbia tailored to the traditionally domestic McCall’s.  These kids, by the way, had “real” names: Michael, Janie, and Billy.  They even had a last name: the Harveys.

This feature–seven panel cartoons or more on a single theme once a month for thirty-two years–became the background to the Berenstain family life while Mike and Leo were growing up.

Mike’s (temporary) obsession with dinosaurs, for instance, was immediately seized upon and turned into cartoons.

Dinosaurs; It’s All in the Family; McCall’s; January 1962

It was older son, Leo’s, attempts to master a two-wheeler that provided the model for Janie’s bike riding experiences–though, he, no doubt, dispensed with the stylish beret.

Two-Wheeler; It’s All in the Family; McCall’s; January 1959

But we haven’t touched Juniper Street or Wellington Road,
and there’s that whole new development down by the park.

Trick or Treat; It’s All in the Family; McCall’s; October 1957

 

And for the witch with the tallest hat.
Halloween Party; It’s All in the Family; McCall’s; October 1959

It’s All in the Family migrated from McCall’s to Good Housekeeping in the 1970s, where the feature was finally retired in 1988.

Of course, by then, the hugely popular Berenstain Bears children’s book series, which made its debut in 1962, had come to dominate the creative life of Stan and Jan.  The transition from cartoons about children to books for children was a natural one for Stan and Jan.  As parents themselves, they were interested and critical consumers of children’s books.

Their professional interest was aroused, as well, when many former cartoonists came into prominence in the children’s book field during the early sixties.  Most prominent of all was Theodor Seuss Geisel, also editor and publisher of the new Random House Beginner Books line, an outgrowth of Geisel’s groundbreaking early reader, The Cat in the Hat.

And, “the rest is history” as they say.  As the Berenstain Bears celebrate their 50th Anniversary during 2012, you can read how this loveable family of bears who live down a sunny dirt road began in “How it all started”  http://wp.me/p2duMi-8

Team Berenstain – Part 3

Adapted and excerpted from Mike Berenstain’s Child’s Play: Cartoon Art of Stan and Jan Berenstain, published by Abrams in 2008.

At the same time Stan and Jan were laboring over their larger cartoons, they continued to produce a flood of regulation-size gag cartoons chiefly, now, for Collier’s.  They began to focus their efforts on a tomboyish, wise-cracking little girl they thought of, simply, as “Sister”―a cartoon everyone could connect with.

People sometimes ask, suspiciously, where the idea of naming the Berenstain Bears by their family roles, “Papa,” “Mama,” “Brother,” and “Sister,” came from.  They seem to assume it has some subversive ideological import relating to their origin in the turbulent 1960s.  But the truth of the matter is that came out of the innocent world of 1940s American family magazines―a world where kids were generically dubbed “Butch” or “Skip” or “Sis”―just another average all-American kid.  The humor of the Sister cartoons could be sweetly cute and charming.  But it could also verge into the slightly edgy and subversive.

My ears are killing me!
Sister; Collier’s
; March 1951

 

We were going to make you something real nice but there were too many hard words.
Sister; Colliers
; 1949-1952.

Stan and Jan’s ever-rising professional profile drew the attention of an editor at Macmillan.  Since they were so good at creating cartoons about kids, he wondered, why not try their hands at a book on the subject, as well?  Dr. Spock’s Baby Book was, of course, the Bible of child-rearing in the early Fifties and seemed a natural target for a disrespectful spoof. Thus the Berenstains’ Baby Book was born, soon to be followed by a sequel, Baby Makes Four, and several other childrearing-themed books.

Much of the humor of these books centered on straightforward satire of the “by-the-book” and “he’s-just-acting-out” school of parenthood.  Stan and Jan were particularly adept at mimicking the pompously professional jargon of the early self-help tomes.

“Back to the sea!!!” shouted the brave puppet.
Berenstains’ Baby Book
; 1951.

 

… Thiamin, Thinness, Three month colic, Throat infections’ … there it is! “Thumb sucking!”
Baby Makes Four
; 1957.

Sister, the on-going panel cartoon they had produced for Collier’s, was the nucleus of the project.  It was popular―a book collection was published in 1952―and many of the gags had already taken on a sequential form similar to that of a comic strip.  Why not, schemed Stan and Jan, extend this successful magazine cartoon into a daily newspaper comic?

So, the intrepid couple set to work.  The Register and Tribune Syndicate picked up the new strip for 1953 and 1954.  The strip version of Sister highlighted the tomboyish, mischievous aspect of the character who was, in some ways, a female sibling of Dennis the Menace.

Sister, Daily Strip

Sister, Daily Strip

In the Sister Sunday features, Stan and Jan were able to loosen up with some elaborate and ambitious comic art.  They were also able to explore more complex subject matter and follow up on their baby book successes by offering a little parenting advice.

Though similar in some ways to Dennis, Sister did not resemble the Menace in the extent of its newspaper distribution.  The plain fact was that, in spite of all their efforts, it was not paying off.  After about seven hundred drawings, Stan and Jan decided the newspaper business was not for them.  They fled, sweat-soaked and ink-stained, not much richer but a little wiser, back into the welcoming arms of Collier’s, who happily, reintroduced their work in the original format they had pioneered: full-page feature cartoons.

Don’t miss Part 1 and Part 2 of Team Berenstain.

Stay tuned for Team Berenstain – Part 4