Thursday, April 12, 2012

[Book Review] The Autobiographies of Beverly Cleary


Andrea reviews A GIRL FROM YAMHILL (Morrow, 1988) and MY OWN TWO FEET (Junior Morrow, 1995) by Beverly Cleary

I was such an avid fan of all the Beverly Cleary books when I was younger. I loved the pesty Ramona Quimby, the awkward Ellen Tebbits, and even the troubled Leigh Botts. All Mrs. Cleary’s characters seemed so real, and I felt I could relate to all of them. Needless to say, I was most excited to find out the library owns her two autobiographies!

The first book, A Girl from Yamhill, tells about Beverly Bunn’s pioneer ancestry and her childhood. She grew up in Oregon, but because of the Great Depression, her home state did not have enough educational opportunities for high school graduates. Her parents took two different extremes to how they were going to send their only child to college. Mr. Bunn, the strong, silent pioneer, refused to worry and knew it was in God’s hands, whereas Beverly’s mother was constantly fretting. These were often the attitudes her parents assumed during Beverly’s entire childhood. At the end of this story, Beverly has found out her aunt has arranged for her to stay in California where she will attend undergraduate school. The story concludes with her boarding the train to California, beginning a new chapter of her life.

My Own Two Feet picks up right where A Girl from Yamhill left off. Readers will feel like they were on the train with Beverly because she described the passengers and scenery so well. College life was not easy for her; nor did she sugarcoat her difficulties. She did stay focused in her studies, as she knew she wanted to be a librarian someday. (Yet another reason to love Beverly Cleary!)

While in college, Beverly Bunn met the reserved, patient Clarence Cleary. The two eventually eloped because of different religious backgrounds. She remarked that she didn’t worry what the neighbors thought, because they waited fourteen years to have children! Beverly knew she wanted to write children’s books because her young library customers would ask her where the books about them were. Drawing from daily occurrences, like the spareribs she had thawing in the refrigerator, she drafted her first book, "Henry and Spareribs," which was later changed to Ribsy.

Mrs. Cleary will engage readers in both memoirs because of her strong and vivid storytelling. I recommend reading both of them!

FYI, Beverly Cleary turns 96 today!

Andrea King, Poplar-White Station Library

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Happy Birthday, Mrs. Cleary, and many returns!
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