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Berenstain Bears Co-creator Dies at 88, Slate’s Hanna Rosin Says ‘good Riddance’

By Periscope @periscopepost
Berenstain Bears co-creator dies at 88, Slate’s Hanna Rosin says ‘good riddance’

Children's books. Photo credit: San Jose Library

Jan Berenstain, co-creator of the much-loved children’s series The Berenstain Bears, has died at the age of 88. Along with husband Stan, Berenstain wrote and illustrated a series of books about the everyday life of a family of bears that captured the popular imagination. “More than 300 titles in 23 languages have been released and some 260 million books have been sold. The books have been spun off into a PBS series, theme-park attractions, toys, clothes, e-books, apps, a video game, even an off-broadway musical,” reported Husna Haq for The Christian Science Monitor.

Berenstain’s death has attracted a host of praise-filled obituaries. Alexandra Petri described the books as “timeless, timely, and kind-hearted, like all the best literature” on a Washington Post blog, and declared: “Thank you, Jan Berenstain”. According to The New York Times, The Berenstain Bears were “gentle best-sellers that enlightened preschoolers for half a century with simple lessons about kindness and tidiness”.

But not everyone is a Berenstain fan – and a piece by Slate’s Hanna Rosin has sparked controversy.

Ouch. “The world today brings news that Jan Berenstain, co-author with her husband Stan of the 45 years and running Berenstain Bears series for children, has passed on to a better world. As any right-thinking mother will agree, good riddance,” wrote Rosin at Slate. Rosin found the books humourless and overly coy, and found the character of Mama Bear, who rarely leaves the house and always wears the same clothes, particularly disturbing: “What’s her problem? Is there no Target in Bear Country? Is she too busy to change? Is she clinically depressed?” But it was the good riddance line that attracted censure, and Rosin subsequently published an apology: “I admit, I was not really thinking of her as a person with actual feelings and a family, just an abstraction who happened to write these books. Apologies.”

Unnecessary. “Good riddance? Good grief,” snapped Richard Lawson at The Atlantic Wire. According to Lawson, online journalism and blogging has created a constant demand for new content, and this gives rise to pointless pieces like Rosin’s.  ”In a desperate attempt to not only fill this yawning void but to stand out in it, many writers/bloggers/whatevers like Rosin (and myself, on many more than one occasion) take it upon themselves to offer up something contrarian or needling or exhaustingly over-analyzed — in order to shock, to titillate, to lecture in cultural correctness,” wrote Lawson. Rosin’s error was in saying something simply for the sake of it, when in fact she really had nothing to say, argued Lawson.

Bad timing. “Just as one tries not to wear fuchsia to a funeral, it seems that one might fruitfully reserve one’s more pointed critiques for another occasion,” wrote Katie Roiphe at Slate. Roiphe identified a recent trend towards negative obituaries in the US, citing Katha Pollitt’s piece on Christopher Hitchens. But, said Roiphe, surely writers and bloggers could show a bit more humanity after someone has died: “I can’t help thinking that we could, without too much inconvenience or suffering, wait a few days for the performance of our own cleverness.”

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