Children’s author Beverly Cleary, 97, is undoubtedly an American institution. In 2000, the Library of Congress honored her with designation as a “living legend.” Cleary, whose books have been published in over 20 languages and have sold more than 90 million copies worldwide, still inspires a love of reading in children 63 years after the publication of her first book. Whether it’s 1950’s “Henry Huggins” or 1999’s “Ramona’s World,” Cleary’s books have remained popular and profound in the face of many years of generational change. With a dexterity comparable to Mark Twain and William Faulkner, Cleary has created a world full of some of literature’s most memorable characters, both human and otherwise. Let’s take a look at some of her most memorable creations.
Cleary’s first book, written as a response to a child’s letter, which asked, “where are the books about kids like us?”, introduces the readers to Henry Huggins, his dog Ribsy, and all the memorable characters from the Klickitat Street neighborhood. Henry’s humorous misadventures have since been compared to that of Tom Sawyer.
Henry and his loveable dog are at it again, and this time Henry has to keep Ribsy out of trouble for one whole month before he can go fishing with his father. When he succeeds, Ribsy surprises all by helping Henry catch a huge salmon.
The first in Cleary’s popular “Ramona” series, this book is told from the point of view of Ramona Quimby’s older sister Beezus as she traverses the challenges of being a 9-year-old girl with an imaginative-yet-pesky younger sister who sometimes gets on her nerves.
This book, set in the 1920s, follows the hilarious antics of absent-minded Emily’s life on the family’s farm in Oregon. The hero finds herself in such entertaining predicaments as accidentally intoxicating her father’s pigs with rotten apples and bleaching her horse white with Clorox to impress her cousin.
One of Cleary’s most popular books is the first in a series following Ralph S. Mouse, who lives with his family in the run-down Mountain View Inn. When Ralph finds the toy motorcycle of hotel guest Keith, he dreams of a life of speed and danger, and Ralph and Keith ultimately find friendship, which lasts through sickness and pest control.
Cleary’s first book to focus on Ramona Quimby as the protagonist finds one of her most memorable characters entering kindergarten and facing the struggles of sitting still and learning to get along with other girls in the class. The book’s humor and believable reality are indicative of Cleary’s style.
Cleary’s other famous animal character is Socks, the cat of the young Mr. and Mrs. Bricker. While newlyweds, the Brickers give Socks lots of love and attention, but when a new baby arrives in the house, Socks must learn to adapt to the new change in his house.
This book, again following the Quimby family, tackles tough issues as Ramona must adjust to the changes in her family after her father loses his job. Ramona’s touching coming-of-age story won Cleary Newbery Honors recognition.
Cleary’s Newbery Medal winner follows the young sixth-grader Leigh Potts, who writes to his favorite author Boyd Henshaw to interview him for a book report. Through the epistolary novel the reader learns of Leigh’s real-life struggles as he deals with his parents’ divorce and bullies at school.
Cleary’s autobiography, written toward the end of her long career, chronicles her young life on a farm in rural Oregon. The memoir traces the origins of Cleary’s love of books and offers the reader key insights into the inspiration behind some of Cleary’s most famous characters.
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