Jan Berenstain passed away on February 24th at age 88, and when I read the news I was reminded once again of my childhood love of the Berenstain Bears. (Please don’t pronounce it “burn-steen” as I’ve so often heard–it’s “bear-en-stain”!) Little did I know as I scanned the book order pamphlets and book fair shelves that Stan and Jan Berenstain had been publishing books and cartoons since my mother was an infant (in 1951) and that they have been continuously publishing since then, with Jan and their younger son Mike (who joined the team by 1992) publishing the most recent Berenstain Bears story in January 2012! In 2004 publication was moved to HarperCollins, and, at Mike’s suggestion, they started a new sub-line of Berenstain Bears books (called Living Lights) which focuses on spiritual themes and is published by Zondervan. Stan passed away in 2005 before the first four books in this line were published in 2008. Their book credits range from coloring books to the traditional Berenstain Bears books to Berenstain Bears chapter books to parenting books and more!
The Big Honey Hunt (1962): Their first children’s book, this title was published by Dr. Seuss himself (as editor-in-chief of Beginner Books, a then-new division of Random House), without whose editing skill and influence we might not have ever gotten to know the Berenstain Bears. Papa Bear and Small (Brother) Bear go on an errand to get some honey.
“C” is for Clown (1972), rereleased as The [Berenstains’] C Book (1997): The third letter of the alphabet gets a lot of use in this book with alliteration to spare! (There is also The B Book (1971) and The A Book (1997).)
The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist (1981): I’m beginning to think that these books are the Topsy and Tim of America! (Still, again, with animal characters, and these are less basic.) This book is a part of the First Time Book series.
The Berenstain Bears Accept No Substitutes (1993): This book is in the Big Chapter Book series and takes place when Brother Bear and his classmates go a little too far in the pranks they pull on their substitute teacher.
The Berenstain Bears and Baby Makes Five (2000): Honey (the only Berenstain Bear I didn’t realize existed prior to researching for this post!) joins the family, and Sister Bear isn’t too happy about it at first…but (as always) Mama Bear helps make things right.
The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story (2012): This is the most recent book published, and it’s one of the Living Lights titles. Although the cubs are all wrapped up in the sweet trappings of Easter, their Sunday school teacher Miss Ursula manages to teach them about Jesus’ resurrection and the sweetness of salvation. It comes with stickers, too! (Can you guess what GirlChild’s getting in her Easter basket this year?)
Down a Sunny Dirt Road: An Autobiography (2002): After browsing the website and discovering bits and pieces about this family, I am intrigued to give this book a try! This was published three years before Stan’s death.
So there you have it! This list has one book from each decade of the Berenstain Bears’ existence (plus a book about the authors, a real bonus!), and there are still MORE THAN THREE HUNDRED MORE BOOKS to explore! I’ve only scratched the surface of the titles and series-within-a-series available with this list, so get to your library and get reading!
(All information that is not opinion was gleaned from the Berenstain Bears official website or from the individual product descriptions on Amazon.com. Most of these books are available either new or used from Amazon, and many Berenstain Bears books are also available for Kindle!)