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AUTHOR STUDY -- Beverly Cleary Analysis
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AUTHOR STUDY -- Beverly Cleary
AUTHOR STUDY -- Beverly Cleary Bibliography
AUTHOR STUDY -- Beverly Cleary Analysis
AMBER WAS BRAVE, ESSIE WAS SMART
A JAR OF TINY STARS
IT'S RAINING PIGS AND NOODLES
INSECTLOPEDIA
AND THE GREEN GRASS GREW ALL AROUND
BUBBA THE COWBOY PRINCE : A Fractured Texas Tale
SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK
SQUIDS WILL BE SQUIDS
HOW MANY KISSES DO YOU WANT TONIGHT?
MY FRIEND RABBIT
A CALDECOTT CELEBRATION
JUMANJI

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BEVERLY CLEARYANALYSIS

 

The two books I have chosen for analysis are HENRY HUGGINS, Cleary’s first book published in 1950, and RAMONA’S WORLD, Cleary’s most recent book published in 1999.

 

HENRY HUGGINS is a collection of six stories about a third-grade boy who often thought, “I wish something exciting would happen.” In fact, interesting things do happen to Henry, beginning with finding a dog in a drugstore. Cleary has created a believable character who, in typical fashion for a young boy, gets himself into scrapes without even trying. In this book, Henry gets to ride in a police car, “grows” gallons of guppies, catches over 1300 night crawlers, and manages to get himself painted green and his dog turned pink. Readers of all ages are captivated by his antics and sympathize with him in his problems, all the while chuckling at the humorous sequence of events. A review in Publisher’s Weekly remarks that Cleary’s writing “can amuse as well as tug at the heart.”

 

When Cleary wrote HENRY HUGGINS, she created a four-year old little sister of Beezus, a friend of Henry’s. Her name was Ramona. Cleary continued to write about Beezus, but did not write about Ramona for thirteen years. She knew that the next logical step for Ramona would be kindergarten; but Cleary had never attended kindergarten, so she did not feel qualified to write about a child in that grade. Then her twins went to kindergarten, talked about their experiences over the dinner table, and Cleary knew she had enough information to write about Ramona. Cleary went on to write eight more books about Ramona, the first seven of which develop this character into, perhaps, the most beloved of all she has created. Cleary’s last book about Ramona is RAMONA’S WORLD, in which Ramona enters fourth grade.

 

RAMONA’S WORLD begins with Ramona excited about attending school so that she can tell everyone about her new baby sister. She believes, as most optimistic nine-year-old girls that, “The fourth grade was going to be the best year of her life, so far.” True to life, she has both good and bad experiences. Her teacher corrects her spelling in front of the whole class, she makes a new best friend (Daisy), and survives falling through the ceiling in Daisy’s house. She writes a letter to a newspaper advertiser to point out their poor spelling and grammar and actually got a reply back. She is embarrassed about making a funny face for her school picture. She also baby sits for the first time for her little sister who gets her head stuck in the cat condo. She writes a special valentine to a boy she has a crush on, and he wrote her a poem! The book ends with Ramona’s tenth birthday, which she calls her “zeroteenth.” She says, “And I’m a potential grown up!”

 

School Library Journal says, “Irrepressible as always, [Ramona] does not fail to satisfy with her antics.” In another review, SLJ says, “The story is so well written . . . that readers escape into the text.” This writer disagrees, however, and thinks that RAMONA FOREVER is a dull rendition of a “typical fourth grader of the nineties.” Cleary has clearly lost touch with generational changes. Contemporary fourth graders would not play dress-up, and ninth graders would not be attending their first boy/girl party. Hornbook magazine agrees, saying, “This latest book about Ramona lacks the immediacy and tart style of its predecessors; Cleary here seems intent upon making Ramona (and Beezus) more typical than individualized, and while fans may welcome this Ramona redux, it’s disappointing to see how innocuous she’s become.”

 

HENRY HUGGINS has all the elements that make up superior contemporary realistic fiction. The characters (Henry, in particular, but also his parents and friends) are well developed, and they (as well as the situations they find themselves in) are true to life. In the final chapter, where Ribsy is trying to decide if he will stay with Henry or go with his original owner, the reader is not sure until the very end which way the dog will go. Even though the story is set in the 1950s, children still can relate to the scrapes Henry finds himself in, the way he loves his dog, loathes being in school plays, wants to earn money to buy a real football, and wants to prove that his dog is the best.

 

In RAMONA’S WORLD, not all of these elements are present. As mentioned above, even though Cleary describes Ramona’s personality and speaks of Ramona’s sometimes unruly behavior, she seems all too quiet. Not all of the events are quite believable. However, young girls will still chuckle at Ramona’s falling through the attic floor, understand when she makes a face just as the photographer snaps her school picture, and identify with her elation at finally turning ten years old.

 

Cleary has been and still is such a beloved children’s author that a few shortfalls in her latest book can be forgiven. The fact that she was eighty-three years old when she wrote RAMONA’S WORLD is amazing in itself. This, combined with knowledge of her previous wonderful books, does not lower the pedestal she is on at all. It probably does mean, however, that she should simply enjoy her retirement.

 

Cleary, Beverly, 1950. HENRY HUGGINS. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.

 

Cleary, Beverly, 1999. RAMONA’S WORLD. New York: HarperCollins Children’s Books.

 

Publisher’s Weekly, 2001. Book Review. Publisher’s Weekly, May 14. In Bowker’s Books In Print, [database online]. Available from http://ezproxy.twu:2123/merge_shared/details/details.asp. Accessed 09 March 05.

 

Horn Book Guide. 2000. Book review. Horn Book Magazine, April. In Bowker’s Books In Print [database online]. Available from http://ezproxy.twu:2123/merge_shared/details/details.asp. Accessed 09 March 05.

 

School Library Journal. 1999. School  Library Journal, August. In Bowker’s Books In Print [database online]. Available from http://ezproxy.twu:2123/merge_shared/details/details.asp. Accessed 09 March 05.