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Berenstain Bears co-creator Jan Berenstain dies at age 88

Jan Berenstain, who with her husband Stan wrote and illustrated the Berenstain Bears books that have charmed preschoolers and their parents for 50 years, has died. She was 88.

Berenstain, a longtime resident of Solebury in southeastern Pennsylvania, suffered a severe stroke on Thursday and died Friday without regaining consciousness, her son Mike Berenstain said.

The gentle stories of Mama Bear, Papa Bear, Brother Bear and Sister Bear, were inspired by the Berenstain family. The stories addressed children's common concerns and aimed to offer guidance with coping with dentist visits, peer pressure, a new sibling or summer camp.

The first Berenstain Bears book, "The Big Honey Hunt," was published in 1962. Over the years, more than 300 titles have been released in 23 languages - most recently in Arabic and Icelandic - and have become a rite of passage for generations of young readers.

"They say jokes don't travel well, but family humor does," said Jan Berenstain told The Associated Press in 2011. "Family values is what we're all about."

Stan and Jan Berenstain, both Philadelphia natives, were 18 when they met on their first day at art school in 1941. They married five years later and had two sons.

Mike Berenstain is an illustrator who collaborated on the bear books with his mother in recent years. His elder brother, writer Leo Berenstain, is involved with the business end of the family franchise.

Jan Berenstain continued to work daily at her home studio in an idyllic part of Bucks County, north of Philadelphia, that served as inspiration for the books' setting.

"It's wonderful to do something you love for so many years," Jan Berenstain told the AP in 2011. "Not everyone has that."

About 260 million copies of Berenstain Bears books have been held in the hands of children and their parents since the earliest books were published with the help of Theodor Geisel, a children's books editor at Random House better known as Dr. Seuss.

Jan Berenstain is survived by her sons and four grandchildren.

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