Sunday, August 19, 2018


~ Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday
Retro Fiction Feature ~
Post Includes:  Book Spotlights, Author Bio &
My Thoughts

ABOUT THE AUTHOR {from Goodreads}:

Beverly Cleary (born April 12, 1916) is the author of over 30 books for young adults and children. Her characters are normal children facing challenges that many of us face growing up, and her stories are liberally laced with humour. Some of her best known and loved characters are Ramona Quimby and her sister Beatrice ("Beezus"), Henry Huggins, and Ralph S. Mouse.

Beverly Cleary was born Beverly Atlee Bunn in McMinnville, Oregon. When she was 6, her family moved to Portland, Oregon, where she went to grammar and high school. She was slow in learning to read, due partly to her dissatisfaction with the books she was required to read and partly to an unpleasant first grade teacher. It wasn't until she was in third grade that she found enjoyment from books, when she started reading The Dutch Twins by Lucy Fitch Perkins. Thereafter, she was a frequent visitor to the library, though she rarely found the books she most wanted to read — those about children like herself.

She moved to California to attend the University of California, Berkeley, and after graduation with a B.A in English in 1938, studied at the School of Librarianship at the University of Washington in Seattle, where she earned a degree in librarianship in 1939. Her first job was as a librarian in Yakima, Washington, where she met many children who were searching for the same books that she had always hoped to find as a child herself. In response, she wrote her first book, Henry Huggins, which was published in 1950. Beezus and Ramona, Cleary's first novel to feature the Quimby sisters as the central focus of the story, was published in 1955, although Beezus and Ramona made frequent appearances in the Henry Huggins series as supporting characters.

In 1940 she married Clarence T. Cleary and they moved to Oakland, California. The Clearys became parents to a set of twins, Marianne Elisabeth and Malcolm James, in 1955. Clarence Cleary died in 2004. Beverly Cleary currently lives in Carmel, California.

She has also written two autobiographies, A Girl from Yamhill and My Own Two Feet.

ABOUT THE BOOKS {from Goodreads}:

Ramona Quimby is the youngest of all the famous characters in Mrs. Cleary's wonderful Henry Huggins stories. She is also far and away the most deadly. Readers of the earlier books will remember that Ramona has always been a menace to Beezus, her older sister, to Henry, and to his dog Ribsy. It is not that Ramona deliberately sets out to make trouble for other people. She simply has more imagination than is healthy for any one person.

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This is the second title in the hugely popular series about Ramona Quimby. Ramona doesn't think she's a pest - she knows that she isn't a pest on purpose. So how in the world does Ramona get in trouble? Why does Davy run away whenever Ramona comes near him? And how does she manage to disrupt the whole kindergarten class during their rest time? Beverly Cleary is one of America's most popular authors and has won many prestigious awards, including the American Library Association's Laura Ingalls Wilder Award.

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I adored Beverly Cleary's books as a middle-grade student. I remember one of my favorite teachers reading each of these two books to us after lunch. She also read many other good books such as 'The Boxcar Children' and 'My Side of the Mountain'. We were expected to read on our own, but the daily time she set aside to read aloud to the entire class was treasured by me.

As a teacher, I read to my students after lunchtime each day, every day of the school year. When I taught fourth grade I read 'My Side of the Mountain' to my class and was thrilled when they experienced the same sense of wonder I had experienced when my teacher read the book aloud. When I taught first grade, I began the school year by reading picture books each day. As the students matured and their attention spans lengthened, I gradually changed up the stories to chapter books and non-fiction picture books. 

Without fail, every school year, I began finding favorite books on my desk with little notes stuck inside saying, "Please read this to us again, Mrs. Jacobs!" or "We love this story. Read it again, please!"

People, including other teachers, used to ask me why I was reading aloud to ten-year-olds when they were capable of reading to themselves. How do you impress upon someone that there is just something magical about an adult or older student/sibling reading aloud to a child? The listener is carried away into a different time and place. Cares about peer pressure and being cool are long forgotten, instead those concerns are replaced with enjoyment and engagement with the characters and the events in the story.

I recently reread the above two 'Ramona Quimby'  books in preparation for this Retro Fiction feature. I must say that with the exception of Christian Wild West Romance author Mary Connealy's books and Amish fiction author Jennifer Beckstrand's books, I have not laughed more or louder in the past few years or so than I did while reading about Ramona's antics.

Ramona is a headstrong, imaginative, curious little sister who loves to be in control of every situation in which she is involved. Family life at the Quimby's home revolves around making Ramona happy-- because if the family doesn't, she revolts and causes misery for her parents and big sister, Beezus. In Kindergarten {'Ramona the Pest'}, Ramona wants to be her teacher's favorite. She yearns to be the student her teacher feels has hung the moon and the stars in the sky.

I found the characterizations of children in the books to be age-appropriate and accurate with the time period in which the books were written, 1955 for 'Beezus and Ramona' and 1968 for 'Ramona the Pest'. A majority of American mothers stayed at home to take care of the house and children while father spent his days away at his job. Children as young as Kindergarten were allowed to walk to school alone. Teachers were considered to be the authority and were respected by students and their parents.

The singular element which makes these stories stand up to the test of time is the author. Plain and simple--Beverly Cleary understood children. She was a master at humor, physical comedy, and kids' feelings about themselves and the world around them. She got the fact that sometimes it's all right for a child to be the center of attention--when she/he wants it. Mrs. Cleary also understood the fact that there are times when it is not appropriate for a child to be the center of attention because of a child's embarrassment, shyness, fear, etc.

I will close with another personal story. I went to school in the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area; Mrs. Cleary lived nearby in the Oakland/Berkeley area at that time. After our teacher had read these two books aloud to us, she told us that this author loved receiving letters from children and that Mrs. Cleary had the reputation for personally responding to letters from her readers. 

So each of us wrote a letter to Mrs. Beverly Cleary. Several weeks later our class received a letter from Mrs. Cleary. She apologized for not having the time to write individual replies to each student, but she wrote a letter of thanks to our entire class. Hearing back from this woman meant the world our entire class. Just another reason I consider this author to be in a class of her own. 

Oh, and did you notice that Mrs. Cleary turned one-hundred two years old this past April?

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--  Wednesday, August 22nd:  Blog Tour Stop for 'Mourning Dove'. Post includes a book spotlight, excerpt, and giveaway. Tour organized by JustRead Publicity.
--  Thursday, August 23rd:  Book Blast for an inspirational/Christian poetry book, 'The Works of Christ'. Post includes a book spotlight and excerpt. Book Blast organized by Write Now Literary Tours.
--  Friday, August 24th:  Blog Tour Stop for 'Amish Homespun' book spotlight and excerpt. Blog Tour organized by Read with Audra Publicity.
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  1. Thanks for the personal stories. I too love reading aloud to kids of all ages. What a great lady you have portrayed here. She is a real treasure.

  2. I loved this series as a child. I read them in the late 50s and adored the Quimby sisters. Enjoyed your personal memories. Receiving a letter from Beverly Cleary would have been exciting. I can't believe she is 102. She certainly loved her writing life.

  3. I can't believe I've never read any of the books in this series (although I have read Cleary's The Mouse and the Motorcycle)! I also love the stories you have from teaching about the books and Cleary's letter. Thanks so much for the review!



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