I spent a good portion of my childhood behind the cover of books.
I read everything from “Encyclopedia Brown” to the uncomfortable sci-fi YA thrillers penned by William Sleator.
And, of course, there were The Berenstain Bears.
These flimsy books weren’t flimsy in content. I learned about sibling rivalry, loneliness and how to organize my room with cardboard boxes, peg boards and markers.
It always surprises me how often I reflect on my favorite books from childhood — and how often those books involve this family of bears who lived in a treehouse in Bear Country.
There was Papa Bear, a carpenter, and his wife, Mama Bear, who took care of the home (always in that blue polka dot dress.) Brother and Sister Bear were getting into trouble, questioning the world, and learning lessons by the end of these everyday stories. I’m no bear, but I somehow related to my furry bipedal friends.
It was incredibly sad to read, then, about the passing of Jan Berenstain, co-creator of the book series that sold more than 200 million copies in two dozen languages, turned into an animated TV series and starred in more than 20 television shows. (Read her obituary here.) She was 88.
Jan Berenstain wrote and illustrated these best-sellers with her husband, Stan, who passed away in 2005.
“Every day she was very productive,” Mike Berenstain, their son, told the Associated Press. “She was working on two books and had been doing illustrations until the day before she passed away.”
To Stan and Jan Berenstain, thank you for being a part of my childhood and teaching me the simple things in life.