Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

The Guidebook for Little Sisters Everywhere

Beverly Cleary (1916 –   ) is a well-loved American author who has written more than 30 books for young readers. Her books have sold over 91 million copies worldwide! As a child, I can still remember writing book reports on The Mouse and the Motorcycle(1965). For years, I wanted a pet mouse named Ralph, but settled for a gerbil named George instead. 🙂  

george the gerbil

Perhaps her best-loved series features Ramona (1955-1999). This eight book series features Ramona Quimby, starting at age 4, little sister to Beezus who has to try very hard to be responsible. Ramona has no regard for order and rules and thrives on chaos. It is the guidebook for little sister’s everywhere on how to be a pest. Included in this series are Beezus and Ramona, Ramona the Pest, Ramona and her Mother, Ramona and her Father, Ramona Quimby – Age 8, Ramona the Brave, Ramona’s World, and Ramona Forever.

Another series that won Ms. Cleary millions of fans is the Henry Huggins series (1950-1964). Henry Huggins takes in a dog that he bonds with over ice cream. He defies the dogs true owner and will stick up for his dog, Ribsy, no matter how much trouble he gets into! This is a great introduction to pets for young readers, and the series links back to the Quimby family in the Ramona series.

Ms. Cleary was influenced in her early education by the grammar school librarian who not only urged her to read everything but also to write. She taught her to believe that she could write for children some day. She graduated in 1939 with a degree in Library Science. This degree allowed her to work with kids of all ages and socioeconomic levels. She found that many of these young readers were searching for the same books that she had sought as a child. The kids often complained that there were no books written about children like themselves, so Ms. Cleary set out to write some.

The mother of twin girls, Ms. Cleary found that her life experience as a mom and a young girl herself, as well as her exposure to all the children in the library gave her the background she needed to write realistically about children. She has a deep understanding of her audience and what they care about.

In 1975, Ms. Cleary won the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for her contributions to children’s literature. In 2000, she was named Library of Congress Living Legend in Writers and Artists. She also received the National Medal of Arts in 2003 and was nominated for the international Hans Christian Anderson Award in 1984. She has won multiple Newberry Medal awards and honors, National book awards, and others.

The publishing house HarperCollins recognizes her birthday, April 12, as National Drop Everything and Read Day- a holiday that I truly feel should mean a day off for all of us!

I am excited to have a great-niece and a great-niece-to-be who are in the right age group to be introduced to Beverly Cleary’s books. I think the Ramona series should be required reading for all kids between 4 and 8 and certainly be revisited for many years after.

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