April is quite a big month for children’s book authors! Aside from Hans Christian Andersen, another famous children’s author born in April is Beverly Cleary, born on April 12, 1916 and 98 years old as of 2014. Her school-aged characters Ramona and Beatrice (also known as Beezus), feature in a variety of books. Cleary is also famous for writing The Mouse and the Motorcycle, another children’s favorite.
Beverly Cleary’s books are known for telling the tales of very familiar schoolchildren, with lives and conflicts very similar to our own. Cleary’s inspiration for her books came from working as a librarian, and working with children who felt they couldn’t relate to the books they had to read. Cleary’s first children’s book featuring her famous Quimby sisters, Beezus and Ramona, was published in 1955. Beezus is nine years old, and her sister Ramona is four. The two fight and argue throughout the book about the kinds of things siblings who love each other tend to fight about.
Throughout the course of the Ramona and Beezus’ books, the two girls grow up. Ramona becomes the subject of the books when her sister enters junior high, and the series ends with Ramona in 4th grade, learning to take care of her new baby sister, Roberta. The books also focus on Henry, Beezus’ friend. All of the books feature humor and down to earth adventures that are reminiscent of some of the homier moments in Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn centered books.
The enduring appeal of Beverly Cleary’s stories speaks to her ability to capture the open-mindedness, curiosity, and humorousness of youth. Her characters have adventures not on the Mississippi River but at friends’ houses, in yards, around the town, and in the same places students today have fun. Her works are appropriate for older elementary school lesson plans and middle school lesson plans alike.
Do you have your students read Ramona and Beezus stories as part of your classes? How do you plan on using Cleary’s style to encourage students to write stories of their own? Let us know in the comments!