We're taking a moment to remember Jan Berenstain, co-creator of the Berenstain Bears, whose death at age 88 was announced this week. The popular children's books — more than 300 of them — were her life's work; she wrote and illustrated them first with her husband, Stan, and then after his death in 2005 with her son Mike.
The collection began with "The Honey Hunt" in 1962. Fifty years later, children and parents still seek out the books.
"They talk about things that are relevant to [kids'] lives — homework, chores, bullies," says Marilyn Olson, head of children's services at the Johnson Public Library in Hackensack.
Jan Berenstain had called "family values" the core of the books, which have been released in 23 languages. In later years, the Berenstains tackled bigger issues in their chapter books.
"They all have a good lesson," says Bernadette Titterington, Wayne Public Library children/teen librarian, who adds that the fun illustrations and writing style ensure the lessons don't feel like lectures.
Indeed, if there is a life event or issue a child has to deal with — whether it's learning to avoid junk food or realizing that lying is harmful — it's likely Brother and Sister Bear have been through it, too. Maybe you (or your child) enjoyed a few of these titles over the years:
* "He Bear, She Bear" (1982), age 4 and up. Brother and Sister Bear can both grow up to be anything they want.
* "The A Book" (1997), "The B Book" (1971), "The C Book" (1997), age 4 and up. No lesson in these, just a lot of fun alliteration and repetition for early readers.
* "Go to the Doctor" (1981), age 4 and up. Brother and Sister deal with the fear and anxiety all kids go through with medical appointments. (In another book, they deal with going to the dentist.)
* "Too Much Teasing" (1985), age 4 and up. Brother thinks teasing Sister is fun, but he crosses the line.
* "No Guns Allowed" (2000), age 8 and up. The moral to this one: All guns, even toy guns, can be dangerous in the wrong hands.
Mike Berenstain has said he will continue to write and illustrate future Berenstain Bears books.
What is your favorite book, or your child's favorite? Let us know at northjersey.com.