The second generation author of the bestselling children's series The Berenstain Bears, says the new "Living Lights" mini-series gives him the opportunity to express his newfound faith.
The Berenstain Bears series has existed for nearly five decades, teaching children of all ages lessons about everyday family life. In the last four years the brand has also begun publishing Bible-themed stories such as the The Berenstain Bears Show God's Love and The Berenstain Bears Follow God's Word in a mini-series called the Living Lights.
Mike Berenstain, the son of the series original writers and illustrators, is the brainchild behind the mini-series. He says the mini-series, specially created for Christian publisher Zondervan, gives him an outlet to share his Christian beliefs.
"I felt that we are called upon to use your talents in the service for God," Berenstain said of his involvement in the Living lights series. "I wasn't doing much else. I wasn't going out visiting the sick and I wasn't visiting the jails. I was just drawing."
He has used his talent for drawing to create the newly released Berenstain Bears Holy Bible for children ages 4 to 7. The special Bible has a dictionary, a reading plan and 18 full-color pages featuring the bears with verses highlighting virtues such as respect, courage, and friendship. Berenstain is also working on a Berenstain Bears Bible storybook that will be released in 2013.
The author said he wants the books and their Sunday School-style lessons to excite children to explore the Bible and learn more about God. Ironically, Berenstain said his own search for God began as child.
Growing up, he watched his parents Stan and Jan create the Berenstain Bears collection. His parents, both cartoonists, created the first Berenstain Bears book, The Big Honey Hunt in 1962. Berenstain said his parents specialized in creating books about parenting, and incorporated morals into each story.
While many fans have praised the books for teaching morality, Berenstain said his parents derived the lessons from "their own personal philosophy about raising children." Berenstain said he and his older brother Leo were raised in a secular household.
"My father was a secular Jew; my mother was raised a nominal Christian," he told The Christian Post. "We weren't raised religious."
Berenstain, who very much interested in science as a child, grew dissatisfied with his parents' secular values. In college, he sought answers in philosophy. It was not until he married and sent his children to Quaker schools that he was introduced to the Bible. Berenstain said he then began to read the Bible and attend a local church.
He later accepted Christ and was baptized in a Presbyterian church. Ten years later, he is writing books with his mother. An accomplished artist and children's book author in his own right, Berenstain began helping out with the family book series in the 1980s. He took over from his father in 2005 when Stan Berenstain passed away at age 82. His mother, now 87, continues work with him on the series.
Mike Berenstain is amazed at the success of the Zondervan line of Berenstain Bears books. He said the sales of the mini-series are great and parent blogs are raving about the stories.
One parent couple who read The Berenstain Bears Say Their Prayers to their son said “suddenly their little boy who wasn't interested [in prayer] wanted to say the prayer every night, " Berenstain recalled with excitement.
He describes the deal between HarperCollins and Zondervan allowing him to write the Living Lights series as nothing short of "providential."
The Berenstains are set to release two books through Zondervan in July: The Berenstain Bears Reap the Harvest and The Berenstain Bears: The Trouble with Secrets.