Many are familiar with the Berenstain Bears as popular children's books, created by the much-loved Stan and Jan Berenstain, that present a positive and moral message. But some may not know that the son of the original Berenstain couple has created a faith-based series of Berenstain Bears books.
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Mike Berenstain, son of the late Stan and Jan, came up with the concept of the faith-based series titled Living Lights after being inspired by his own faith.
Berenstain has been working with his parents on the Berenstain Bears series since the eighties. After becoming a Christian as an adult, Berenstain told Christian Daily that his faith became his identity and it is what drew him to create the new series.
"The books (Living Lights) deal with basic life situations, but from the perspective of Biblical teachings," Berenstain told Christian Daily.
Around 2003-04, the Berenstain Bears moved from Random House to HarperCollins. Zondervan publishing, a Christian publisher, was one part of HarperCollins and Berenstain decided to create a Christian-themed series for the Berenstain Bears with this publication.
"I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to express my faith and maybe we could do some books of Berenstain Bears with Christian themes with Zondervan," Berenstain said.
Although his parents were raised of mixed faith, he said that they were in support of the idea. Many of the Berenstain Bears audience, he explained, were Christian families.
Berenstain presented his concept of the Living Lights series to Zondervan, and they agreed to create the series. Now, a number of titles have been released in the series such as The Berenstain Bears: God Loves You, The Berenstain Bears Say Their Prayers and a Berenstain Bears Bible.
Berenstain's father passed away one year after the Living Lights series originated, and his mother worked with him on the books until her death in 2012. Now, Berenstain has taken full ownership of his parents' legacy.
Berenstain believes that anyone, those of faith or non-faith, can enjoy the Living Lights series.
"There's nothing offensive in these books," he explained. "They are positive books about the blessings of religion and faith."
He added, "I've gotten great reaction from people of Hindu faith, they thought that the style had some of the values they believe in."
Berenstain's most recent title in the Living Lights series, "The Berenstain Bears: God Bless our Country," takes a patriotic focus in light of Fourth of July.
"I always wanted to do a book about patriotism," he explained. "This is a book about the Fourth of July, but it has a broader theme. I, like many others, have many strong feelings about the origin of our country and wanted to explore that theme."
He said that there are many more Living Lights books to come, and they have been doing about six to eight books a year alongside the regular Berenstain Bears books.