Stanley Melvin Berenstain and Janice Marion Grant were both born in 1923 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, growing up in families struggling through the Great Depression. They met in 1941 while attending the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Arts. Stan was drafted into the Army during World War II serving from 1943 to 1946. Blind in one eye, he was given limited service, spending most of his army career as a medical illustrator at an army hospital in Indiana. During the war, Jan worked as a draftsman for the Army Corps of Engineers and as an aircraft riveter building the navy's PBY flying boat. While in the army, Stan began drawing cartoons and publishing them in magazines. Stan and Jan were married right after the war and began careers as a magazine cartoonist team. They published in The Saturday Evening Post, Colliers Magazine, McCall’s, Good Housekeeping and many more focusing on humor about children and families. In addition, they published many book collections of their cartoons. The start of their own family came with the birth of son, Leo, in 1948 then, Mike, in 1951.
Since both sons were big Dr. Seuss fans, Stan and Jan decided to try their hands at creating a children's book, themselves. This became The Big Honey Hunt featuring Papa, Mama and, at that time, Small Bear, published in 1962 with Dr. Seuss (aka Ted Seuss Geisel) as editor and publisher. Over two hundred Berenstain Bears books followed over the next forty three years until Stan's death in 2005. Small Bear became Brother Bear with the birth of Sister in 1974. Little sister, Honey, arrived in 2000. The names, "Papa," "Mama," "Brother," and "Sister," were chosen for ease of reading and to emphasize their archetypical roles in the family. Total sales of the series have topped 250 million copies.
Until the late '80s, Stan and Jan continued their work as magazine cartoonists along with their children's book creation. Son Mike had become a children's book illustrator and author in the 1970s and joined with his parents in the 1980s on magazine work, moving to illustrating and co-writing Berenstain Bears books by 1992.
The Berenstain Bears became popular beyond the world of children's books. The first animated TV show, an NBC Christmas special, was produced in 1979. Four other NBC seasonal specials followed in the early 80s. Two seasons of Saturday morning animated cartoons followed on CBS in 1985/'86 and a season of PBS daily shows was created in 2002. The characters have been featured as dolls, toys, games, puzzles, software, clothing and many other products. During the '80s and '90s, there were Berenstain Bear Country attractions in a number of amusement parks. More recently, children's museums across the country have displayed Berenstain Bears exhibits including the permanent Berenstain Bear exhibit at the Strong Museum in Rochester New York. There have been four Berenstain Bears plays and stage musicals including the highly successful musical, The Berenstain Bears Live in Family Matters.
Shortly before his father's death, Mike suggested to Stan and Jan that they create a new sub-line of Berenstain Bears books on spiritual themes while continuing to publish their traditional storybooks. They co-created the first four titles in the ongoing Living Lights series which were published after Stan's death. Jan and Mike continue to write and illustrate Berenstain Bears books together on all sorts of subjects--everything from going for a ride on the train to the golden rule. They live and work in the rolling countryside of Eastern Pennsylvania--an area that looks a lot like Bear Country.