Books and Beyond
When I read that 104-year-old children’s author Beverly Cleary died this March, I put her on my list and have checked out many of her books and the CDs of her books from Marshall-Lyon County Library. I started by reading her first published book, “Henry Huggins,” c 1950. She was a librarian in Oregon where my brother lives. His grandson attended the Beverly Cleary School in Portland as an elementary student.
Henry Huggins is a third-grader, and in chapter one he goes on the bus to the YMCA to swim. It’s a city big enough to have buses to ride. He stops at a drugstore and buys an ice cream cone with his three nickels and one dime. Then he sees a small dog, and he wants to take the dog home with him because he doesn’t see an owner. Buses don’t allow dogs as passengers, so Henry calls his mom (phone booth, we assume) to tell her what is going on.
This lost dog, whom he names Ribsy, is a main character in the book. The next thing Henry wants is a football like his friend Scooter McCarthy has, so he works for a neighbor digging up worms for fishing. When Henry and Scooter are playing with the football, something weird happens. A car goes by fast, and because the football isn’t thrown correctly, it hits the car window, breaks it, and is now going somewhere in the car.
About midway through the book, Henry is in the school Christmas play, “A Visit to Santa Claus.” He has the part of Timmy, “the little boy who dreams the whole story” (p. 85). Henry is on a ladder helping the crew paint items on the stage, and Ribsy runs in, bumps the can of green paint, and as Henry comes down the ladder he gets covered with paint. The teacher tells him he will have a new part — the Green Elf!
It’s time to enter his dog in a contest and he meets young girls Beezus and Ramona, whom we read more about soon in another Cleary book. Henry and Ribsy do win a prize in the contest, and these winners have their picture in the newspaper.
About a week later, a boy comes by where Henry is playing with friends, and says he saw his dog’s picture in the paper. The lost dog Henry found in Chapter 1 belongs to this boy, and he wants him back. But Henry wants to keep Ribsy. The boys develop a contest where the dogs…no, I’m not going to give you these details. I think you would enjoy reading Henry Huggins and finding out who finally gets the dog. That’s how the book ends.
Next I wanted to read more about Beezus and Ramona, so I read “Ramona’s World,” c 1999.
In the first chapter, the baby Roberta is born to the Quimby family. Her two older sisters are excited and happy. It’s Ramona’s first day in 4th grade, and she has a bus ride to school. We meet her teacher Mrs. Meacham, her friend Daisy, and the boy Yard Ape (Daniel).
The teacher asks the students to write a paragraph about themselves. What they learn when Mrs. Meacham reads Ramona’s paragraph, is that she has some misspellings, and these words are used for spelling lessons.
When Ramona gets home from school on the second day, her mother is reading “Moby Dick,” the choice for the book club she is in. She finds time to read quite a bit, even with three children in the house. Mr. Quimby manages the Shop-rite Market, but he is very involved in family life. When Beezus is invited to a dancing party, he teaches her some dance steps when he gets 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 were in a story. As I was reading “Ramona’s World” and writing notes about the book, I was also writing notes about how my years as a young girl were a lot like Ramona’s, even though I grew up in a small town, not a city. Once I gave a “dress-up” party, and when my friends came for that Saturday afternoon, we put on women’s clothes I had — dresses, skirts, blouses, hats.
At the end of this book, when Ramona’s 10th birthday party is at a park and several girls have been invited, in a way Yard Ape invites himself to come and have a good conversation 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 enjoy them. When our friend Christine came for a visit recently, she paged through several Cleary titles and said she read many of them when she was about 7 years old.
The illustrations in the books are fun black and white drawings (Louis Darling and Alan Tiegreen). When I give a Ramona book to my grand-niece, I plan to send her a box of crayons for her to use to color the pictures in the book.
My next choice for a Cleary book is her autobiography, “A Girl from Yamhill,” c 1988. This plan got me started making a list for autobiographies I’d like to read. Here are some examples: “Me/Elton John,” c 2019, “Everything Beautiful in its Time: Seasons of Love and Loss,” by Jenna Bush Hager, c 2020, and “Just as I am: A Memoir,” by Cicely Tyson, c 2021. I can borrow them from Marshall-Lyon County Library.
Your library is open Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m.-2 p.m., marshalllyonlibrary.