There’s Mama in her blue polka dot dress and cap.
Papa in his yellow shirt and overalls, and usually a sheepish grin on his furry face.
There’s Brother and Sister, learning simple life lessons from their parents in the comfort of their tree house.
Maybe that all sounds foreign if you’ve never read any Berenstain Bears books.
But for so many people, the Berenstain Bears collection was a part of their childhood, or their kid’s childhood.
I was sad to learn that the Bears’ co-creator, Jan Berenstain, died on Friday at 88 years old. Along with her late husband, Stan Berenstain, Jan wrote more than 300 books, which sold more than 200 million copies.
I just remember being a cub – er, kid – and thinking how cool it was that a husband and wife had rhyming names. It didn’t take much to impress me.
Today, the 300 books and the millions of copies impresses me much more than the names.
I still have a lot of those books in boxes in my parents’ attic.
There were stories about the troubles and the bads in a kid’s life – bad dreams, bad habits, trouble with friends, trouble with grownups. And there were books about having too much, from TV, to pressure to vacation, even.
There were visits to the doctor, and the dentist, to Grandma’s and camp.
And in every book, there was a simple kind of lesson for the cubs or their parents, always
learned by the last page.
In an interesting New York Times article about Jan Berenstain, I learned that the couple credited their first Random House editor for helping them create their trademark style of simple language and illustrations. That editor was Theodor Geisel, known by his pen name, Dr. Seuss.
And I think it’s the simplicity that make the Berenstain Bears books so appealing. They make sense to kids, they’re as lighthearted as they need to be, and, despite the characters being a different species, the lessons are relatable. How many kids didn’t have trouble with a messy room?
I still do. I guess I have some more reading to do.