Down a Sunny Dirt Road by Stan Berenstain, Jan Berenstain |, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
Down a Sunny Dirt Road

Down a Sunny Dirt Road

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by Stan Berenstain, Jan Berenstain

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Once upon a time, in Mrs. Sweeney’s first year drawing class at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art, a “lantern-jawed exotic” named Stan admired the drawing of a brown-haired, blue-eyed girl named Janice . . . and it was kismet! It also heralded the birth of one of the great collaborations in all of children’s literature: Stan and


Once upon a time, in Mrs. Sweeney’s first year drawing class at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art, a “lantern-jawed exotic” named Stan admired the drawing of a brown-haired, blue-eyed girl named Janice . . . and it was kismet! It also heralded the birth of one of the great collaborations in all of children’s literature: Stan and Jan Berenstain, creators of the Berenstain Bears.

This enormously readable account tells of the early years before they met, their courtship (briefly interrupted by World War II), married life, and their first fateful meeting with Theodor Seuss Geisel–the editor-in-chief and president of Beginner Books.

It was this fateful meeting that led to the publication of The Big Honey Hunt–the book that launched
their careers as children’s book artists and introduced to the world what would quickly become America’s first family of bears: the Berenstain Bears.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
The Berenstains' success is measured by over 260 million copies of hundreds of titles sold. Down a Sunny Dirt Road: An Autobiography is a dual memoir by the artists, both born in Philadelphia in 1923. It is told in alternating chapters, using a heavily illustrated procedure much like that of another narrative cartoonist in Bill Peet: An Autobiography. — Lisa Von Drasek
Publishers Weekly
The creative couple behind the bestselling Berenstain Bears opens this sprightly, joint autobiography with alternating chapters chronicling their respective childhoods in Philadelphia. Stan's and Jan's anecdotal recollections work in the kinds of details that children lap up: Stan remembers spotting his first zeppelin (a "great silver cigar"), Jan recalls tracing the White Knight onto a color plate of John Tenniel's artwork and, later, the couple use their childhood memories of the Saturday matinee as inspiration for a Collier's cover (reproduced in the book). After their creative aspirations bring them together as students at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art (recorded in successive chapters as "Stan Meets Jan" and "Jan Meets Stan"), they offer perspectives on the ensuing WWII years (Stan served as a medical artist in the Army, Jan worked as an aircraft riveter), then merge their voices into one. Highlights include their auspicious meeting with the feisty, at times cantankerous Theodor Seuss Geisel, editor-in-chief of Random House's new Beginner Books, and the launch of the furry family from Bear Country. The roomy, clean design is reminiscent of Bill Peet: An Autobiography; their illustrations of themselves jitterbugging or playing field hockey (rendered in the Berenstain's familiar, contemporary style) demonstrate the impressive versatility of the couple's talents. Though sometimes long on detail, this breezy, humorous saga makes for an intriguing publishing tale and may appeal most to aspiring artists and adult fans, who will happily follow these amicable, humble authors down their indisputably sunny autobiographical road. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
The Berenstains make the story of their lives a sunny road indeed. Glossing over the rough spots, in alternate chapters they first picture for us their childhoods during the Depression years. They poke good-natured fun at the trials of growing up. The interest in and love for drawing and art which they share leads to their meeting at the Philadelphia Museum School of Art. The attraction is strong and immediate. After the interruption of World War II, they marry and become a team. Under the good-humored description of their struggle toward success lie the details of their work creating cartoons and books, some inspired by their growing family. The story of the evolution of the famous bears is both fascinating and funny, as is the information-packed saga of their work with Ted Geisel, Dr. Seuss. After some 50-plus years, they still enjoy their work and see no reason to "retire." Pictures support the narrative on almost every page: photographs, illustrations of the text's events, and a large number of cartoons plus reproductions of their work from student drawings through examples from their 200 published books, showing their evolution. All these reinforce their positive attitudes while demonstrating the interrelatedness of hard work and a good technical education. The visuals keep us smiling and may encourage youngsters to pore over the text as well, with its wide margins and large type. A chronology, a bibliography and an index are included, but no Table of Contents. 2002, Random House,
— Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 5 Up-The popular artists recount their early lives in alternating chapters from childhood until marriage. At that point, they tell their story together as they move from fledgling artists in the late 1940s and 1950s to the incredibly successful creators of the Berenstain Bears. The text is profusely illustrated with personal photographs; examples of their work, including the familiar bear family; pictures from lesser-known books; syndicated cartoons; advertisements; magazine covers; portraits; and paintings. The contrast between the commercially successful cartoons and their earlier traditional art is striking. The Berenstains provide a fascinating inside view of the children's book publishing world-the often frustrating process of getting works published, the early prejudices against cartoons in children's books, and their relationship with the volatile Theodore LeSieg as editor and mentor. This book will be a worthwhile read for those who loved these books when they were younger, as well as for adult fans of the popular bear family and the Berenstains' other work. The adult perspective, reminiscences of the 1930s and '40s including Stan's World War II experiences and the couple's courtship, and the emphasis on the publishing process make the book most appropriate for older readers. Parts of the book could be used with children with adult introduction. A comprehensive bibliography, chronology, and index are appended.-Heide Piehler, Shorewood Public Library, WI Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Two of the all-time bestselling children's authors reminisce-at length-about growing up in the '30s and '40s, getting their start in magazine cartooning, then moving into children's books as proteges of Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss). Though Stan, at least, can turn a lively phrase, describing himself at the beginning, for instance, as "a fat-kneed little kid riding a tricycle out in front of my grandmother Nelly's Army and Navy Store," and his wife-to-be's smile coming up "like thunder 'cross the bay," this narrative, written in alternating chapters until the authors' post WWII marriage and in a collective voice thereafter, seldom gets beyond an ordinary, self-absorbed tally of random memories, names and addresses, daily activities, school and wartime experiences. Should readers get that far, the final third picks up steam, as the Berenstains recount the sometimes quirky genesis of their first few books, and their often-stressful working relationship with the brilliant, domineering, opinionated, infuriating Geisel. Similarly, the illustrations, most of them either new or previously unpublished, mix earnest, conventional art school studies and student work with occasional lighter cartoons that take on that familiar Berenstain style only in the later chapters. Closing with standard tributes to editors and collaborators, plus a few fan-mail anecdotes, these pedestrian memoirs add detail but no dimension to profiles in reference titles. (index, huge bibliography) (Autobiography. 12+)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.18(w) x 10.06(h) x 0.82(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

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Down a Sunny Dirt Road 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Everyone has heard of the Berenstain Bears by now, and now you can have the chance to know where they bears really came from.