In Praise of Stan and Jan Berenstain

I recently acquired the book: Down A Sunny Dirt Road, the heavily illustrated autobiography of Stan and Jan Berenstain.
Yes, it does have a few shockers in it. Including this one:
S&J, started out as cartoonists, but at first had great difficulty getting their cartoons published because … here comes the shock …. they were considered too intellectual.
 The irony here, of course, is that modern kidlitters seem to look down their noses at the Berenstain Bear books.
In fact, the looking down started before they did.
Already succesful cartoonists, they got a meeting with the head of Macmillan’s kids books. Here’s an excerpt:
“…as nearly as I can tell,” she said  accusatorily, “you are cartoonists; your drawings are cartoons.”
“Er, well, yes,” said Stan. “You see we’ve noticed that young children enjoy cartoons, so it was our thought–“
“Yes. But, Mr. Berenstain,” said the lady behind the well-ordered desk in the office hung with exquisite Caldecott art, “as I’m sure you and Mrs. Berenstain know, children like many things that aren’t good for them…”
We wouldn’t have been surprised if she had pulled a lever that tripped a trapdoor and sent us screaming down a chute that delivered us into a sewer under Fifth Avenue….
 So today and in coming posts I sing of Stan and the Jan:
The absurdist pranksters behind “The B Book.”
The word wizards behind “Inside Outside Upside Down.”
And the superb storytellers behind “Bears out at Night.”
And on top of all that, they taught me to read.

One Response

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more about the Berenstains. I think their early stuff for Beginner Books was fantastic, particularly Bears in the Night and Inside Outside Upside Down. But as soon as you tell someone who the author is, they don’t give the books serious consideration.

    I’ve read biographies of Dr. Seuss, and I’ve found the connection between him and the Berenstains to be absolutely fascinating. Thanks so much for posting about this biography. I will definitely seek it out.

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