In a sad development for those who grew up with her ubiquitous children's books, Jan Berenstain, co-creator of The Berenstain Bears, died on Friday at age 88 after suffering a severe stroke the day before, reports the Associated Press. The longtime resident of Solebury, Pennsylvania is survived by four grandchildren and her two sons, one of which, named Mike, told the AP's Joann Loviglio that his mother remained productive until the end. "She was working on two books and had been doing illustrations until the day before she passed away." All told, about 260 million of the jovial books filled with time-tested, family-oriented adages made their way into the hands of children and parents since the series first began. 

To get a sense of the original inspiration for the series, Jason Boog at Gallery Cat points to an interview Berenstain gave to Scholastic:

We had a zoo-drawing class once a week, and we liked to draw the bears. Once we decided to do books for children, we knew we wanted to do animals. We decided to do bears because bears have always been entertaining – performing bears in circuses and so on. Also, probably the best-known story for children is the Three Bears, so it was familiar. They’re sort of like people; the word is called anthropomorphic, and bears are naturally that way. They stand on two legs, their mothers are very good mothers, and so on. When we visited a class a few years ago and gave that answer, one student asked why we didn’t use fish, and our answer was that they aren’t enough like people. Another student said well, then, why not monkeys, and our answer was that they are too much like people.