Reviews for Down a Sunny Dirt Road : An Autobiography


Booklist Monthly Selections - #2 December 2002
Gr. 5-8. Married more than half a century, the couple that has produced more than 200 Berenstain Bears books now offers a tandem autobiography, and their voices are as lively and quick as one might hope. The first few chapters are written alternately, as Janice and Stanley describe growing up and studying art during the Depression, as well as their fateful meeting in a Philadelphia art school. Their war stories (Janice was a Rosie the riveter, and Stanley found novel ways of using his artistic skills after being drafted) are of particular interest, humanizing that period for youngsters who might have outgrown the bears and now have a report on World War II to write. Their early work in cartooning for the Saturday Evening Post, among other publications, and the genesis of their bears under the manic tutelage of Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, make for engaging reading. The book is profusely illustrated with work from all phases of their careers, culminating in their own favorite images from titles across the decades. ((Reviewed December 15, 2002)) Copyright 2003 Booklist Reviews

----------------------
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2003 Spring
Walking on the sunny side of their autobiographical street, the Berenstains stress the positives in their lives, tempering the negatives with humor, and enlivening it all with peppy cartoons in a successful application of signature style to life. Numerous reproductions of their early art showcase the Berenstains' growth as individual artists. Children's literature professionals, as well as fans, will find much here of interest and value. Bib., ind. Copyright 2003 Horn Book Guide Reviews

----------------------
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2003 #1
As the title indicates, Stan and Jan Berenstain prefer to walk on the sunny side of their autobiographical street, stressing the positives in their lives, tempering the negatives with humor, and enlivening it all with peppy cartoons in a successful application of signature style to life. Alternating their voices in the initial chapters, first Stan and then Jan describe their childhoods and teen years. Despite the economic adversity of the Depression, the Berenstains fondly recall family togetherness, small pleasures (such as purloining shards from the icemanÆs truck), and their separate but growing interests in becoming artists. They describe meeting as students at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art and their courtship and separation during the Second World War. Marriage introduces ôTeam Berenstain,ö with both voices uniting to recount their attempts to break into cartooning, magazine illustration, greeting cards, and the beginning reader market. Numerous reproductions of their early art showcase the BerenstainsÆ growth as individual artists, while their upbeat memories reveal much about their success as recorders of nostalgia (particularly in cover illustrations for CollierÆs) and the lighter side of married life (as in the ôItÆs All in the Familyö cartoons for McCallÆs and Good Housekeeping). The BerenstainsÆ entry into juvenile publishing, including a volatile apprenticeship with Dr. Seuss himself, is told with the breezy style of a polished sitcom. Growing-up as well as grown-up fans of the Bears will be attracted by a cover design promising the same kind of domestic comedy, but childrenÆs literature professionals will also find much here of interest and value. With a bibliography, chronology, and an index. Copyright 2003 Horn Book Magazine Reviews

----------------------
Kirkus Reviews 2002 October #1
Two of the all-time bestselling children's authors reminisce-at length-about growing up in the '30s and '40s, getting their start in magazine cartooning, then moving into children's books as proteges of Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss). Though Stan, at least, can turn a lively phrase, describing himself at the beginning, for instance, as "a fat-kneed little kid riding a tricycle out in front of my grandmother Nelly's Army and Navy Store," and his wife-to-be's smile coming up "like thunder 'cross the bay," this narrative, written in alternating chapters until the authors' post WWII marriage and in a collective voice thereafter, seldom gets beyond an ordinary, self-absorbed tally of random memories, names and addresses, daily activities, school and wartime experiences. Should readers get that far, the final third picks up steam, as the Berenstains recount the sometimes quirky genesis of their first few books, and their often-stressful working relationship with the brilliant, domineering, opinionated, infuriating Geisel. Similarly, the illustrations, most of them either new or previously unpublished, mix earnest, conventional art school studies and student work with occasional lighter cartoons that take on that familiar Berenstain style only in the later chapters. Closing with standard tributes to editors and collaborators, plus a few fan-mail anecdotes, these pedestrian memoirs add detail but no dimension to profiles in reference titles. (index, huge bibliography) (Autobiography. 12+) Copyright Kirkus 2002 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved

----------------------
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2002 September #5
The creative couple behind the bestselling Berenstain Bears opens this sprightly, joint autobiography with alternating chapters chronicling their respective childhoods in Philadelphia. Stan's and Jan's anecdotal recollections work in the kinds of details that children lap up: Stan remembers spotting his first zeppelin (a "great silver cigar"), Jan recalls tracing the White Knight onto a color plate of John Tenniel's artwork and, later, the couple use their childhood memories of the Saturday matinee as inspiration for a Collier's cover (reproduced in the book). After their creative aspirations bring them together as students at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art (recorded in successive chapters as "Stan Meets Jan" and "Jan Meets Stan"), they offer perspectives on the ensuing WWII years (Stan served as a medical artist in the Army, Jan worked as an aircraft riveter), then merge their voices into one. Highlights include their auspicious meeting with the feisty, at times cantankerous Theodor Seuss Geisel, editor-in-chief of Random House's new Beginner Books, and the launch of the furry family from Bear Country. The roomy, clean design is reminiscent of Bill Peet: An Autobiography; their illustrations of themselves jitterbugging or playing field hockey (rendered in the Berenstain's familiar, contemporary style) demonstrate the impressive versatility of the couple's talents. Though sometimes long on detail, this breezy, humorous saga makes for an intriguing publishing tale and may appeal most to aspiring artists and adult fans, who will happily follow these amicable, humble authors down their indisputably sunny autobiographical road. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

----------------------
School Library Journal Reviews 2002 December
Gr 5 Up-The popular artists recount their early lives in alternating chapters from childhood until marriage. At that point, they tell their story together as they move from fledgling artists in the late 1940s and 1950s to the incredibly successful creators of the Berenstain Bears. The text is profusely illustrated with personal photographs; examples of their work, including the familiar bear family; pictures from lesser-known books; syndicated cartoons; advertisements; magazine covers; portraits; and paintings. The contrast between the commercially successful cartoons and their earlier traditional art is striking. The Berenstains provide a fascinating inside view of the children's book publishing world-the often frustrating process of getting works published, the early prejudices against cartoons in children's books, and their relationship with the volatile Theodore LeSieg as editor and mentor. This book will be a worthwhile read for those who loved these books when they were younger, as well as for adult fans of the popular bear family and the Berenstains' other work. The adult perspective, reminiscences of the 1930s and '40s including Stan's World War II experiences and the couple's courtship, and the emphasis on the publishing process make the book most appropriate for older readers. Parts of the book could be used with children with adult introduction. A comprehensive bibliography, chronology, and index are appended.-Heide Piehler, Shorewood Public Library, WI Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

----------------------