In 1962, a book titled
The Big Honey Hunt
introduced the world to
the Bear family. Some
50 years—and more
than 300 books—later,
the Berenstain Bears are
still encouraging kids to
read and teaching families
how to deal with everyday
issues. And, since 2008,
the Berenstain Bears have
encouraged families to
deal with spiritual matters
as well.

Bear Country’s many inhabitants were
created by Stan and Jan Berenstain, who
met each other in art school. They found
inspiration for their family-focused work
in their two sons, Mike and Leo.

But they also inspired their children,
their youngest son Mike Berenstain
recalls. “Obviously, growing up with my
parents, I saw the whole process. They
talked about it the whole time. In high
school I knew I wanted to be an artist,
but I didn’t know what kind.”

Mike went to the same art school as
his parents and eventually figured out
what he wanted to be: an author and
illustrator of children’s books. After
getting a job as a designer for the
children’s book department of a major
publisher, he started getting freelance
illustration jobs. “I did a lot of books
about dinosaurs and fantasy books. I
was a bit of a jack of all trades.”

In the mid-1980s, the Berenstain
Bears books were becoming so popular
that Stan and Jan Berenstain started to
feel overwhelmed. “There was a huge
wave of demand for the paperback
books,” Mike says. “They asked me for
help and I started helping them
more and more. We were doing all the
illustrations together.”
Mike even helped his father with some
of the writing. This continued until
2005, when Stan Berenstain passed
away. “After my father passed away,
I began doing all the writing. My
mother and I still do most of the
illustration together.”

As an adult Mike became a Christian.
“I wanted to incorporate that into
my work. Our most enthusiastic
feedback came from readers with
traditional family values, and many
of them are Christians. We moved
from Random House to HarperCollins,
and part of HC publishing group
was [Christian imprint] Zondervan and
that was intriguing to me.” As early as
2004, Mike began speaking with his
parents and HarperCollins about doing
a parallel series to be published by
children’s imprint, Zonderkidz.

Finally, in 2008, The Berenstain
Bears and the Golden Rule
“We always try to think of a subject
that families deal with. For example,
in The Joy of Giving, they witness
the gift of the Magi in a church
pageant and
relate that to
Christmas giving
and the origin of
Christmas giving.”

In nearly
50 years of
publishing, much
has changed—but
the primary
emphasis of the
books has not.

“The books people have come to appreciate
are the books that deal with
everyday life,” Mike says. “Readers
identify with those books and love
them and we want to serve our audience
in that respect, providing them
books that help in child rearing.”

—Ben Avery

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About The Author

In 1962, Stan and Jan Berenstain introduced the first Berenstain Bear books. Their son Mike grew up watching his parents work together with these lovable bears—and eventually started drawing and writing about them too. Stan died in 2005, and Jan died in 2012—but Mike continues the family tradition.