Allow me to kick off today with a quick happy World Book Day! Because, honestly, books are the greatest and they deserve all the love. So, do your lovely books a favour today and give them a dusting, and straightening up those bookshelves. It is fitting, and I am pleased that World Book Day would land on Kidlit Thursday here at the Green Onion Blog. In celebration I thought long and hard about what I should review today. Thinking back to my childhood, there was always one series that you would find on every one of your friends bookshelves, and was a staple at the local library. They taught us how to be good people, take care of ourselves, and treat people right. Of course I am talking about the Berenstain Bears.
If you are a fan of the loving, sweet stories of The Berenstain Bears, you will love the background history. Janice and Stanley met and found an instant connection in 1941 but were quickly separated by the events of World War II. In 1946 they were reunited and quickly married after that. They decided then to collaborate their illustration careers working on magazines and book covers before they began publication of nearly two dozen of their own light-hearted how-to books for adults based on their experiences with raising their son.
In the 1960’s the couple decided to shift their work into children’s stories. Their first manuscript landed on the desk of none other than Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss. With the help of the legendary children’s book author the first Berenstain Bears book was published in 1962, The Big Honey Hunt. At which point Dr. Seuss suggested that they focus their efforts on a different animal due to their being so many bears in pop culture at the time. As they were working on a book about a family of penguins the numbers came in on The Big Honey Hunt, showing them the worth of a sequel. Over Jan and Stan’s life they collaborated on hundreds of children’s stories. In the 90’s the couples two sons, Leo and Mike, joined in on the family business collaborating with their parents. With the passing of Stan in 2005, and Jan in 2012, Mike Berenstain continues on the legacy releasing new Berenstain Bears books, while Leo handles the business end of the franchise.
Residing in a tree house, the Berenstain Bear family consists of Papa Bear, Mama Bear, Brother Bear (formally Small Bear), with the 1974 addition of Sister Bear, and 2000 introduced baby, Honey Bear. Each book features the same basic formula: Kids have a problem; Papa Bear offers advice, that typically ends up with things worse off; Mama Bear saves the day with her perfectionist solutions. Each book focuses on an important issue or lesson for children, including stranger danger, screen time, bullying, healthy eating, messiness, etc.. Putting the focus on typical parenting issues that are a timeless plague for families.
Today there are over 400 books featuring the Berenstain Bears, and has been adapted in to an animated TV series, stage shows, film, video games, and merchandise. Spanning generations eager young readers have grown with the Berenstain’s to become parents, grandparents, great-grandparents. Selling hundreds of millions of copies, the Berenstain Bears have received much praise and awards, and many of their stories have been included on essential lists of children’s stories. In our modern age, the stories are criticized for being out-dated, and not keeping up with the times and have been described as “little more than stern lectures dressed up as children’s stories”. These criticisms have lead to more recent publications to have a much more Christian focus.
Despite the un-modern tones many of the lessons taught in these books have a timeless connotation. The Berenstain Bears have proven effective in teaching our own children, with Alex understanding the risks of strangers, Zyler, the impact of too many video games, and maybe even Dad with not needing that extra treat. If your family is going through any typical parenting issue, I would say, and recommend that there is probably a Berenstain Bears book for that, with decades of proof of their effectiveness.
Thanks booknerds, this Papa bear is going to go have a healthy lunch.