I’ve always wanted to (re)read Beverly Cleary books since she’s such an influential author of children’s literature- not just in Portland, where she’s considered to be a local literary hero, but in the world over. And, of course, April was the perfect month to do the reading challenge since that’s when Drop Everything And Read Day is celebrated (on her birthday, April 12th.)
One of the best literary events I’ve ever had was put on by the Multnomah County Library and was a walking tour of Beverly Cleary’s neighborhood visiting important landmarks of her childhood and ending at Grant Park where there are beautiful statues of some of her most beloved characters. The tour guide read a chapter from a Ramona book and it was just a lovely afternoon.
For this reading challenge, I decided to read four books by Beverly Cleary, including her first memoir. I’m including a review for each one plus her Newbery winning novel I read a year or so ago.
A great introduction to the world of Beverly Cleary! I may have read this and some other books by hers when I was in elementary school but that was such a long time ago, everything seems like a first-time read.
I loved that this book was written in response to not finding books boys actually enjoyed and that she went against writing a female main character just because that’s “what she knew.” She captured a boy’s mind well. And, Henry Huggins is an interesting character without being too goody-goodie.
Fans will delight in meeting a few of her other famous characters in this book as well!
I was absolutely delighted with Ramona Quimby, Age 8. It’s rare to be able to perfectly capture the thoughts of a child as Beverly Cleary did with this book. There are wonders and experience for sure but there are worries and fears as well that seem like all there ever is in their world in their young lives. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that.
I wasn’t really sold with Ramona at first but the more I understood her, the more I liked her. I finished reading the book caring for the characters and want to read more of their lives.
Of all the Ramona books, I chose this one because it introduced the Drop Everything And Read concept which has become a national literary celebration falling on Beverly Cleary’s Birthday!
“Two creatures who shared a love for motorcycles naturally spoke the same language.”
With sound logic like this to explain how Ralph S. Mouse (a mouse) and Keith Gridley (a boy), Beverly Cleary crafts another memorable tale of friendship.
It’s funny how finding an aspirin is one of the main plot points. A part of me thinks that Keith probably got sick from interacting so much with a rodent.
This reads like a total throwback but in a good way.
A Girl from Yamhill is a surprising and insightful look into Beverly Cleary’s life before she became the celebrated children’s literature author she is today. Her memoir also provides a fascinating historical glimpse of Oregon in the early decades of the 1900s.
I loved the moments that would later make their way into her books. In fact, in the beginning, I kept forgetting this wasn’t a Ramona Quimby story by a Beverly Cleary one- their personalities very similar to one another.
There were lots of candid moments as well including her relationship with her mother, her family’s struggles through the Depression, and a very icky incident with a relative.
Since this only covers her school days, I definitely want to pick up her follow-up memoir, My Own Two Feet.
Dear Mr. Henshaw is about a boy who writes to his favorite writer and through the letters (and later through diary entries) we learn more the boy’s life. This is not a cookie-cutter book. It deals with divorce and trying to fit in in an unfamiliar environment. And it invites readers to go back and ask themselves how they were able to get the information they did about the characters and the situations in the way that the book was written.
It’s amazing how kids books are perceived as simple but the best ones aren’t. This had depth and emotional resonance. And, for anyone aspiring to be a writer, this is a must read!