Berenstains, Berenstains… Wait a minute, Isn’t that?
Yes. Yes it is. If you were a kid in the closing decades of the 20th Century (especially the 1980s or ’90s), or raised kids during that time, then you probably have encountered the Berenstain Bears cartoon books by Stanley and Janice Berenstain. The husband-and-wife team had a long and productive run—the Berenstain Bears reached the 50th anniversary milestone in 2012.
But before the Berenstains turned almost all of their efforts toward producing gently humorous books about anthropomorphic ursines, they had another single-panel cartoon strip called It’s All In The Family that appeared in McCall’s and Good Housekeeping magazines.
The strip spawned several paperback collections, including this gem, Never Trust Anyone Over 13, from 1970. Imagining myself a future comic artist, I was a voracious reader and collector of all forms of comics back then, from Marvel superheroes to Charlie Brown compilations, whatever I could find. This is one that I’ve kept all these years. It’s a part of the Berenstain world that seems to have fallen through the cracks. I haunt a lot of used bookstores but have never seen another copy.
As with the bears, it’s gentle humor that examines the foibles of family life. It’s also an example of very skillful cartooning that manages to develop characters and tell a funny story all within the confines of a single panel.
Of course, it’s a product of its time, which makes it a fun period piece to read today. There are lots of jokes about long hair, teenage rock bands, and the ‘tween girl’s swooning over “Herbert’s Hoozits.”
And yes, the characters look like Berenstain Bears turned into people (or vice versa).
But it holds up well. And not to put too much of a financial emphasis on it, but the whole sprawling Berenstains empire is a reminder to writers how one well-developed property can have an extremely long and lucrative life. Especially if cute bears are involved.