Recommendations by Kelly H with photo of Kelly H

“Quite often somebody will say, what year do your books take place? and the only answer I can give is, In childhood.”  - Beverly Cleary

I have a very vivid memory of getting 3 Ramona books in a box set for my birthday. I think it was the first time I had ever even seen a box set of books! I also remember a bit of anxiety in getting 3 chapter books. I was a "hesitant reader". I loved to hear stories but it was still work to read the longer chapter books. I loved the cover art on Ramona and her Father and so I was inspired to read it first. I'm not sure I even realized that I was reading them out of proper order. Ramona became a fast friend and reading all her stories was not work at all. I instantly related with Ramona's feelings about her working mother, a parent that smoked cigarettes and was trying to quit and I actually attempted to wear my pajamas to school underneath my clothes, just as Ramona did. I'm going to credit that little box set and Beverly Cleary as sparking my love of reading and books, and I know that I am not the only one who does.

"I hope children will be happy with the books I've written, and go on to be readers all of their lives." Beverly Cleary

Girl from Yamhill book jacketAs a child Ms. Cleary lived on a farm in Yamhill, Oregon. A town that was so small it didn’t have a public library. Her mother arranged with the State Library to have books sent to Yamhill and she in turn acted as its librarian in a small room above a bank. Beverly Cleary titled her 1988 autobiography A Girl from Yamhill.

When her family moved to Portland, Beverly struggled with learning to read in grammar school, an experience that gave her sympathy for other struggling and reluctant readers.  

After two years at Chaffey Junior College in Ontario, Calif., she enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley. She graduated in 1938. A year later, she earned a degree from the University of Washington’s school of librarianship.

Henry Huggins book jacket

Beverly Cleary served as a children's librarian in Yakima, Washington and became frustrated with the lack of quality literature for kids. In 1942 she began working as a full-time writer for children. Her goal was to write the books “she longed to read but was unable to find on the library shelves”. She wanted to write about the sort of children she knew. So, she introduced the world to Ramona & Beezus Quimby, Henry Huggins, Ellen Tebbits and her other beloved characters that lived on or near Klickitat Street, a real street near Cleary’s childhood home.

Mitch and Amy book jacketIn 1940 Beverly eloped with Clarence T. Cleary. Their twin children, Malcolm and Marianne later became models for her fictional fourth-grader twins, Mitch and Amy.  

Her son Malcolm's fascination with motorcycles and his difficulty with learning to read led Cleary to write one of her most popular series about Ralph S. Mouse. Cleary wrote the first volume of the series, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, in an attempt to capture the interest of similar reluctant readers.

Ralph S Mouse book jacket

Beverly Cleary has earned many prestigious awards over the years, including the Newbery Medal in 1984 for her book Dear Mr. Henshaw. This book tells the story of sixth grader Leigh Botts as he reveals his problems coping with his parents divorce, and being the new kid at school, written as a series of letters to his favourite author.

Dear Mr. Henshaw book jacketFor more information about her books or her characters and for fun trivia be sure to explore her website BeverlyCleary.com. You may also wish,(as I do), to one day visit The Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden for Children in Portland, Oregon that features bronze statues of Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins, and Ribsy.  

Beverly Cleary was a wonderful lady, librarian, and writer, who dedicated her career to creating characters kids can identify with, and care about. Her stories are full of excitement, imagination, and inspiration — key elements that make kids love to read. Beverly Cleary is leaving behind a literary legacy achieved by very few others.

More Titles by Beverly Cleary

Ribsy book jacket