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When I read that 104-year-old children’s author Beverly Cleary passed away last March, I put her on my list and looked through several of her books and the CDs of her library books. of Marshall-Lyon County. I started by reading his first published book, “Henry Huggins”, Around 1950. She was a librarian in Oregon, where my brother lives. Her grandson attended Beverly Cleary School in Portland as an elementary school student.
Henry Huggins is a third grader and in Chapter One he takes the bus to the YMCA to swim. It is a city big enough to have buses to go. He stops in a drugstore and buys an ice cream cone with his three nickels and a penny. Then he sees a little dog and he wants to bring him home because he doesn’t see an owner. Buses don’t allow dogs as passengers, so Henry calls his mother (phone booth, we’re assuming) to tell her what’s going on.
This lost dog, which he names Ribsy, is a main character in the book. Next thing Henry wants is a soccer ball like his friend Scooter McCarthy, so he works for a neighbor who digs up worms for fishing. When Henry and Scooter are playing soccer, something weird happens. A car goes by fast, and since the soccer ball is not thrown properly, it hits the car window, smashes it and now goes somewhere in the car.
Around the middle of the book, Henry is in the school Christmas play, “A visit to Santa Claus.” He has the role of Timmy, “The little boy who dreams the whole story” (p. 85). Henry is on a ladder to help the crew paint things on the stage, and Ribsy walks in, hits the can of green paint, and when Henry comes down the ladder he gets covered in paint. The professor tells him that he will have a new role – the green elf!
It’s time to enter his dog for a contest and he meets the young girls Beezus and Ramona, more of which we’ll read soon in another book by Cleary. Henry and Ribsy win a prize in the contest, and these winners have their photo in the newspaper.
About a week later, a boy walks by where Henry is playing with friends and says he saw his dog’s photo in the newspaper. The lost dog that Henry found in Chapter 1 belongs to this boy and he wants him to return. But Henry wants to keep Ribsy. The boys are developing a competition where the dogs… no, I’m not going to give you those details. I think you might like to read Henry Huggins and find out who ultimately has the dog. This is how the book ends.
Then I wanted to know more about Beezus and Ramona, so I read “Ramona’s world” circa 1999.
In the first chapter, baby Roberta was born into the Quimby family. Her two older sisters are excited and happy. It’s Ramona’s first day in grade 4 and she’s taking a bus ride to school. We meet his teacher Mrs. Meacham, his friend Daisy and the boy Yard Ape (Daniel).
The teacher asks the students to write a paragraph about themselves. What they learn when Ms. Meacham reads Ramona’s paragraph is that she has spelling mistakes, and those words are used for spelling lessons.
When Ramona comes home from school on the second day, her mother reads “Moby Dick” the choice of the book club in which it is located. She finds time to read a little, even with three children at home. Mr. Quimby runs the Shop-rite Market, but he is very involved in family life. When Beezus is invited to a dance party, he teaches him a few dance steps when he comes home from work.
After school one day, Ramona goes to Daisy’s house, and they play dress up and talk to each other like they’re in a story. While i was reading “Ramona’s world” and while writing notes on the book, I was also writing notes that my young girl years were a lot like Ramona’s, even though I grew up in a small town, not a town. I once gave a “get dressed” party, and when my friends came over for that Saturday afternoon, we put on some women’s clothes that I had – dresses, skirts, blouses, hats.
At the end of this book, when Ramona’s 10th birthday party is in a park and several girls have been invited, somehow Yard Ape invites himself to come and have a good chat with Ramona. “That day was perfect – well, not really, but close enough” (p. 192).
The Cleary books and CDs are very lively, and I can see why people of all ages love them. When our friend Christine came over for a visit recently, she leafed through several of Cleary’s titles and said she read a lot when she was around 7 years old.
The illustrations in the books are fun black and white drawings (Louis Darling and Alan Tiegreen). When I give my grandniece a Ramona book, I plan to send her a box of crayons that she will use to color in the pictures in the book.
My next choice for a Cleary book is his autobiography, “A girl from Yamhill”, c 1988. This plan allowed me to start making a list of autobiographies that I would like to read. Here are some examples: “Me / Elton John” c 2019, “All that is beautiful in its time: seasons of love and loss” by Jenna Bush Hager, c 2020, and “Just as I am: a memory”, by Cicely Tyson, circa 2021. I can borrow them from the Marshall-Lyon departmental library.
Your library is open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., marshalllyonlibrary.