What’s New With the Berenstain Bears?

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I recently interviewed Mike Berenstain using your questions from Facebook. I found out what’s new with the Berenstain Bears (a lot) including their new I Can Read books for ZonderKidz. Read on to hear what Stan and Jan’s son, Mike, says about the Bears these days.

Berenstain Bears

Berenstain BearsMelissa: Mike, I can’t believe how many books you’ve published this year. With your dad’s passing, you started working more with your mom on the books. Tell us what is new with the Berenstain Bears.

Mike: We are doing a number of books with Zondervan using our traditional square paperback format about the Golden Rule and saying your prayers.

Our publisher, Harper Collins is the parent company of Zondervan. When Zondervan began doing books in the I Can Read format, a line of book that has a religious themes, I suggested we come up with the Good Deed Scouts. We quote biblical verses in support of morals.

Our books fall into two categories – Read To and Read Themselves. I wanted to do a line of books which were easy reading but also taught  lessons and morals like our other story books.Berenstain Bears

I made up characters called the Good Deed Scouts. Their role is everyday they must find a good deed to do –like rescue a kitten up a tree, or help a neighbor having trouble mowing the lawn. Each book has an ethical content to it. People who are looking for that come to our books for that purpose.

We have ongoing plans into 2014 for more I Can Read books.

Also, we’re doing  books in the lift-the-flap format like Here’s the Church, Here’s the Steeple and Get Ready for Christmas where kids find various figures of Christmas Nativity scene.

We’re in the early stages of a Storybook Bible with simplified stories from the bible as characters. It will have papa bear reading Bible stories to the cubs who are imagining it happen.

We have a feature film in the works – going to be a story that brings the Berenstain Bears into contact with real live people so it’s going to be a digital CGI interacting with live action, designed to be all ages.

Melissa: Are any of the stories taken from real life?

Mike: Some are, some aren’t. But, they all are about everyday life. Sometimes about very literal experiences, other times I have an idea from general life.

Melissa: Were you always interested in illustrating?

Mike: I was very focused on science growing up. In high school, I got interested in art. I was very interested in biology, nature, animals. My parents had a library of art books.

Berenstain BearsI was constantly reading growing up. My favorite author was Dr. Seuss, who was my parents initial editor.

Melissa: Did your own children like the Bears books?

Mike: I read to them of course. We had all the books at home, but they’d want to take my copies and bring them home from the school library, too.

Melissa: How did it happen that you joined your mom to write and illustrate the books?

Mike: My parents started out as magazine cartoonists which was their main career when I was a child. They got into doing children’s books first 1962 when I was 9 years old. The experience of them being authors and illustrators seemed normal to me growing up.

I started my career in freelance illustrating. It wasn’t until the late 80s that I started getting involvedBerenstain Bears with them. Now Mom is 88. I write, and we illustrate together.

Melissa: Is there a big difference in your personal styles?

Mike: Having been trained by my parents, I did know a lot of their techniques. When I started out, I did a lot of realistic work – in the 70s and 80s. When I started working with my parents, I was able to imitate their style.

Over the years the Berenstain Bears have changed visually.  The first books were cartoon oriented – big long claws and spikey fur.

My parents made the bears more more rounded, and symmetrical in the mid to late 80s and that’s pretty much the way they look now — fingernails, not claws anymore.

Their early books were easy to read comic slapstick adventures. As the books evolved, they became about everyday family life. {apa became less clownish and became more of a family man. Mama became more involved. Family is universal and constant – everybody lives in some kind of family.

Parents and I have always tried to make the books entertaining and interesting with simple humor.

Melissa: Mike, thank you so much for sharing with us. It is an honor to talk with you in person. We’re happy to hear the Berenstain Bears will continue to entertain and teach us for more years to come. Berenstain Bears

Also check out these Berenstain Bears iPad Book Apps.


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  1. It’s so interesting that the Berenstain Bears have such strong branding that it can be passed down to the next generation in terms of content creation. I think that’s rare! I wonder if Marc Brown Arthur series can pull that off.

  2. The whole notion of growing up so intertwined with the Berenstain Bears is fascinating. Thanks Melissa for giving us a window in the world of Mike the son as well as the author and illustrator.