Growing up, we have always been fans of The Berenstain Bears books. They were always filled with great stories and illustrations. These books can be shared and loved at any age.
The first Berenstain Bears book was published in 1962 and written by husband and wife, Stan and Jan Berenstain. Their son later joined them and he has continued the series, writing and illustrating the books.
Mike Berenstain recently attended BookCon in NYC, signing his new book about Independence Day, God Bless Our Country.
While at BookCon we had the chance to interview Mike Berenstain!upfrontNY: What is the best part for you to be able to come to New York and go to BookCon?
Mike Berenstain: It is great to meet people who are very enthusiastic and meet people who grew up with the books which is wonderful to hear. It is always so fun to meet kids. Theres some kids here. I often speak att schools and kids are so great.
upfrontNY: What is the best part when you go to schools and you see all of these children who are excited to meet you after reading your books?
Mike Berenstain:I love hearing what they have to say. They are so funny. I recently did a book with HarperCollins about visiting the hospital. I was reading it to a bunch of 6 year old kids and after, they all wanted to tell me about the time they went to the hospital.
upfrontNY: I read online that with that book some of the money was donated to a foundation.
Mike Berenstain: My wife is a doctor that is how it all evolved. We set up a foundation in my parent’s memory, The Stan and Jan Berenstain Healthy Kids Foundation. Anybody who buys the book will contribute to the foundation and the foundation gives money to various medical activities.
upfrontNY: What inspires your stories?
Mike Berenstain: I am inspired by the life of families. I grew up in a family, I have kids, and all the stuff that happens in a family is so funny. Family life is infinite in its variety with universal subjects that everyone has experienced and can relate to.
upfrontNY: You grew up with these characters and now you have taken on the role to share these stories. What is it like to have grown up with these characters and now bring the legacy on.
Mike Berenstain: It is something that evolved. My parents did the first one when I was 8 years old and I saw them create the stories when I was growing up. I became an author and illustrator of my own books of various kinds in the 70s and 80s. In the 1980s the Berenstain Bears became very popular I would help finish the books. It is something that came naturally. By 1990 I was working with them full time. They trained me as an author and artist and I had art school training. It has become a natural evolution and something I relate to and like to do.
upfrontNY: Of all the books in the series, is there one book that you really connect with or is your favorite?
Mike Berenstain: I connect strongly with the ones my parents created when I was a kid. I loved seeing them be created. They worked with their editor at the time, Dr. Seuss, Ted Geisel and they would work with him back and forth and change things, and I could see that whole process. I have nostalgia from those early books. I think my favorite is The Bears Picnic. This was before they were doing books that were teaching lessons and morals, and it was a funny adventure about trying to find a picnic spot and everything going wrong. I think that was my favorite.
upfrontNY: Do you have advice for children on what they should do if they have a passion love writing and illustrating.
Mike Berenstain: They should do it a lot. Writers should write constantly and have a journal, writing everyday. Illustrators, if you want to be an artist, you should carry a sketchbook and carry it everywhere you go and just sketch anything, sketch this person or that chair. Just do it all the time. Get professional training if you’re an artist go to an art school. If you’re a writer, go to the best writing program you can find.
upfrontNY: Do you have any other books in the works right now or other ideas.
Mike Berenstain: I just finished a book about the Berenstain Bears under the sea where they visit the aquarium. The director of the aquariam offers to take them under the sea in a scientific explorer submarine where they see whales, coral reefs, and spider crabs.
To learn more about the Berenstain Bears head here.