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14 Essential Talking Points About The Berenstain Bears

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With 300-plus titles in print and more than 260 million books sold, the Berenstain Bears are bound to come up in conversation. Here’s how to steer a predictable discussion about teamwork and manners to one on sex and panda discrimination.

1. Creators Stanley Berenstain and Janice Grant grew up in the same neighborhood in West Philadelphia, but they didn’t meet until their first day of art school.

2. During World War II, Stanley served in the Army. He and Janice stayed in touch by sending each other hand-drawn cartoons.

3. Although they’re remembered for their bear adventures, the Berenstains also illustrated humor books for adults, including How to Teach Your Children About Sex Without Making a Complete Fool of Yourself.

4. The Berenstains knew about teamwork. They wrote together, drew together, and colored the art together. That’s cooperation!

5. The Berenstains created their bears after reading a New Yorker profile of a Random House editor named Theodor Geisel who was starting a line of children’s books.

6. Yup, that's Theodor "Dr. Seuss" Geisel.

7. Geisel sensed their potential immediately. He closed his first meeting with the couple by saying, “Berenstains, I can’t tell you how happy I am to be working with you. I just know we’re going to get a wonderful book.”

8. He also changed their names. The couple had always been Stanley and Janice, but Geisel shortened their names to Stan and Jan to get that cute, Seuss-like rhyme.

© Random House Children's Books

9. Stanley and Janice initially planned to follow up their first book with one about penguins, but when The Big Honey Hunt sold well, Geisel convinced them to stick with bears.

10. Why bears? According to Stanley: “Bears can stand up on their hind legs like people, and they look good in clothes.”

11. For the record, the Berenstains had zero interest in drawing monkeys.

12. Stanley called Mama and Papa Bear “terrible exaggerations” of himself and his wife. “[Papa] tends to get carried away, as I do ... tends to be a little bit clumsy, as I am. And has very good intentions. Mama Bear is warm and wise and almost perfect, like Jan.”

13. The Bears have tackled some hard-hitting issues over the years, including peer pressure, stranger danger, and cyber crime. In The Berenstain Bears’ New Neighbors, Papa must overcome his mistrust of the—er—pandas who move in next door.

14. The Berenstains’ son Mike inherited their love of drawing. He began working on the books in the 1980s and took over the franchise with his mother when Stan passed away in 2005. Jan died in February 2012.

This article originally appeared in mental_floss magazine. Get a risk-free issue!

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Hamilton Broadway
A Hamilton-Themed Cookbook is Coming
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Hamilton Broadway

Fans of Broadway hit Hamilton will soon be able to dine like the Founding Fathers: As Eater reports, a new Alexander Hamilton-inspired cookbook is slated for release in fall 2017.

Cover art for Laura Kumin's forthcoming cookbook

Called The Hamilton Cookbook: Cooking, Eating, and Entertaining in Hamilton’s World, the recipe collection by author Laura Kumin “takes you into Hamilton’s home and to his table, with historical information, recipes, and tips on how you can prepare food and serve the food that our founding fathers enjoyed in their day,” according to the Amazon description. It also recounts Hamilton’s favorite dishes, how he enjoyed them, and which ingredients were used.

Recipes included are cauliflower florets two ways, fried sausages and apples, gingerbread cake, and apple pie. (Cue the "young, scrappy, and hungry" references.) The cookbook’s official release is on November 21—but until then, you can stave off your appetite for all things Hamilton-related by downloading the musical’s new app.

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New Tolkien-Themed Botany Book Describes the Plants of Middle-Earth
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While reading The Lord of the Rings saga, it's hard not to notice J.R.R. Tolkien’s clear love of nature. The books are replete with descriptions of lush foliage, rolling prairies, and coniferous forests. A new botany book builds on that knowledge. Entertainment Weekly reports that Flora of Middle-Earth: Plants of J.R.R. Tolkien's Legendarium provides fantasy-loving naturalists with a round-up of plants that grow in Middle-earth.

Written by University of Florida botanist Walter Judd, the book explores the ecology, etymology, and importance of over 160 plants. Many are either real—coffee, barley, wheat, etc.—or based on real-life species. (For example, pipe-weed may be tobacco, and mallorns are large trees similar to beech trees.)

Using his botany background, Judd explores why Tolkien may have felt compelled to include each in his fantasy world. His analyses are paired with woodcut-style drawings by artist Graham Judd, which depict Middle-earth's flowers, vegetables, fruits, herbs, and shrubs in their "natural" environments.

[h/t Entertainment Weekly]


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