By Molly Daly
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A local children’s author and artist whose books have entertained young readers for 50 years has died. Jan Berenstain died Friday in Bucks County. She was 88.
“She was just a remarkable person, and a remarkable mom, and she just had this warmth and humanity about her, that infused everything they did,” says David Leopold, who curated a Berenstain exhibit at the Michener Museum in Bucks County in 2002. During that time, he gained access to the work and lives of the couple, whose first book came out in 1962
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Jan met her husband, Stan, in their native Philadelphia in 1941, on their first day at the Museum School of Industrial Art. They went on to build a life, and a publishing empire, with their gentle stories about a family of bears inspired by their own lives.
The Free Library of Philadelphia’s Children’s Department Head Irene Wright says the Berenstain Bears were ground-breaking. “They really were the first books that came out that actually talked about character education. There were all kinds experiences that the family had,” like going to the dentist, summer camp, even coping with the arrival of a new sibling.
And even though the main characters were bears, they struck a chord. “The appeal of the books in the bear family is that they’re a family like other families, they’re not the perfect family.”
Jan Berenstain’s death comes as Random House prepares to re-release the Berenstains’ first book, The Big Honey Hunt, to mark its 50th anniversary. She’s survived by her sons Leo and Mike, and millions of readers around the world.