Jan Berenstain, 88, co-created Berenstain Bears

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Jan Berenstain, 88

Jan Beren­stain, 88

Philadel­phia native Jan Beren­stain, writer and illus­tra­tor with her hus­band Stan of the preschool Beren­stain Bears books and car­toons that have appealed to the young (and young at heart) for 50 years, died Fri­day. She was 88.

A long­time res­i­dent of Sole­bury in south­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia, she suf­fered a severe stroke Thurs­day and died with­out regain­ing con­scious­ness, son Mike said.

The Beren­stain Bears inspired sev­eral ani­mated pro­duc­tions, includ­ing TV spe­cials that she and her hus­band cre­ated and wrote. The first, the NBC spe­cial The Beren­stain Bears’ Christ­mas Tree, was pro­duced in 1979. Four other NBC sea­sonal spe­cials, pro­duced by Joseph Cates Pro­duc­tions, Per­pet­ual Motion Pic­tures and Buz­zco Pro­duc­tions, fol­lowed: The Beren­stain Bears Meet Big­paw (1980), The Beren­stain Bears’ Easter Sur­prise (1981), The Beren­stain Bears’ Comic Valen­tine (1982) and The Beren­stain Bears Play Ball (1983).

As well, the Bears gave birth to two Sat­ur­day morn­ing car­toon series on TV. The first, which Jan Beren­stain co-wrote, came from South­ern Star and Hanna Bar­bera Aus­tralia, run­ning for 28 episodes on CBS from 1984–85.

A sea­son of PBS daily shows was cre­ated in 2002, pro­duced by Canada’s Nel­vana Lim­ited and Agogo Enter­tain­ment. Jan Beren­stain was exec­u­tive pro­ducer of sev­eral episodes.

The human Beren­stain fam­ily inspired the tales of Mama Bear, Papa Bear, Brother Bear and Sis­ter Bear, and dealt with children’s con­cerns. The sto­ries offered advice about deal­ing with vis­its to the den­tist, sum­mer camp, peer pres­sure, or a new brother or sister.

The Big Honey Hunt, the first Beren­stain Bears book, was pub­lished in 1962. Over 300 titles have been released in 23 lan­guages, most recently in Ara­bic and Icelandic.

Around 260 mil­lion copies of Beren­stain Bears books came out since Theodor Geisel (bet­ter known as Dr. Seuss), then a children’s books edi­tor at Ran­dom House, helped the ear­li­est books get published.

They say jokes don’t travel well, but fam­ily humor does. Fam­ily val­ues is what we’re all about.” Jan Beren­stain told the Asso­ci­ated Press last year.

Born on July 26, 1923, Jan­ice Mar­ian Grant met Stan — also 18, and also a native Philadel­phian — on their first day at art school in 1941. Five years later, they mar­ried; they had two sons.

Son Mike, an illus­tra­tor, worked with his mother on the Beren­stain Bears books in recent years. Writer Leo Beren­stain, his older brother, works with the busi­ness aspect of the franchise.

Until her death, Jan Beren­stain worked at her home stu­dio in Bucks County, north of Philadel­phia. The area helped inspire the books’ setting.

It’s won­der­ful to do some­thing you love for so many years,” she told AP in 2011. “Not every­one has that.”

Jan Beren­stain was pre­de­ceased by her hus­band in 2005. She is sur­vived by her sons and four grandchildren.

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