(1916 - )
“. . . when I write I do not think about writing for children. I write stories that I enjoy telling and feel that
I am most fortunate that children enjoy reading them.” (Berg 1993, 4)
writes children’s books. She enjoyed writing assignments in grade school; then her eighth grade librarian suggested
that she should write children’s books when she grew up. Her goal was to write books about real children that real children
would enjoy reading. She never “writes down” to children. She believes that “if a child doesn’t understand
something, he can ask his parent, or use a dictionary. But most of the time, he can figure it out form the context of the
story.” (Berg 1993, 24)
Beverly Cleary has written
a total of thirty-eight books, most of them about a world in which lives Henry Huggins, his dog Ribsy, his friend Beezus,
and her little sister, Ramona.
She also has written picture
books for younger children, such as Two Dog Biscuits, which is about a set of twins
whose neighbor gives them each a dog biscuit and they must find a dog to give them to. She also wrote The Growing Up Feet in which a set of twins buy a new pair of red boots. This is interesting because Ms. Cleary
has two children, a set of twins. So much of her books are based on real-life events that the reader must wonder if her twins
ever gave dog biscuits to a cat and wore red rain boots!
She was once asked to write
stories for teenaged girls, so she wrote books such as Fifteen and Jean and Johnny. There are also stories in these books which are based on events of her life. They vividly capture
the dreams and insecurities of teenaged girls. Even though they are set in the 1950s, where things were much different than
today, the feelings experienced by this age girls are exactly the same.
Ms. Cleary has
written two memoirs of her life, A Girl From Yamhill, and My Own Two Feet. The first recounts her life from age two until she leaves Oregon
for community college in California. The second continues from there until she
writes her first book, Henry Huggins in 1950. These are extremely detailed accounts of her life; this woman’s memory
for details is amazing! Many of these experiences were later recounted in her books.
An interesting website about
this author is The World of Beverly Cleary, found at http://www.beverlycleary.com, which has information about her books, the characters (and even quizzes
to see how well you know them!), as well as an interesting interview with Beverly Cleary. Another website is http://falcon.jmu.edu/~ramseyil/cleary.htm, which is a teacher resource file, giving a biography and a bibliography
of her books as well as lesson plans.
- Until she was six years old, Beverly Bunn, an only child, lived on her family’s 80-acre farm in
Oregon. She played alone and had only two books. (Cleary 1988)
- She had reading problems in first grade and didn’t discover reading for pleasure until she was
in third grade. (Ward 2001)
- Her mother was very critical and disapproving
of her all of her life. (Cleary 1995)
- Her mother gave her two valuable pieces of advice in writing that she always tried to adhere to:
“Always remember, the best writing is simple writing,” and
“Make it funny.” (Cleary 1988, 186)
- After reading aloud one of Beverly’s stories in class,
her seventh grade librarian said, “When Beverly grows up, she should write
children’s books,” which gave her the confidence she needed to have a direction in life. (Cleary 1988, 147)
- Both of her parents disapproved of her choice of a husband, Clarence Cleary, because he was Catholic.
Even though he loved her very much, and took very good care of her, they never accepted him. (Cleary 1995)
- She was a librarian for several years before she became a writer. (Cleary 1995)
- When she was a children’s librarian, the little boys looking for books gave her the inspiration
for writing her first several books. “Where are the books about kids like us?” they wanted to know. (Cleary 1995,
- Beverly has always had trouble beginning a book,
especially her first one. When her husband asked her why she didn’t write a book, she said, “We never have any
sharp pencils.” The next day he brought home a pencil sharpener. (Cleary, 243)
- She still has trouble beginning a book. Her favorite part is revising her first draft. (Berg 1993)
- It takes her about six months to write a book. (Berg 1993)
- Many of her stories are based on real-life things that actually happened. She once knew a boy who snuck
a dog on a trolley in a box similar to how Henry Huggins got Ribsy home on a bus. Also, when she was helping a friend’s
mother set up for a party the next day, she and her friend went to watch a dance in progress downstairs. An older boy asked
her to dance. This is exactly what she wrote about in Jean and Johnny. (Cleary
You can write to Beverly Cleary at:1350 Sixth Avenue
Mrs. Beverly Cleary (Author)
c/o HarperCollins Children’s Books
Berg, Julie. 1993. Beverly Cleary. Edina, MN: Abdo & Daughers.
Cleary, Beverly. 1988. A girl from Yamhill: A memoir. New York: William Morrow and Company,
Cleary, Beverly. 1995. My Own Two Feet: A memoir. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.
Ward, Stasia. 2001. Meet Beverly Cleary. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc.