Books to entertain— not to teach anything.

Looking for a summer home-run read?  Look to the books of Beverly Cleary —95 years old— and the author of over 42 books, many of which turn(ed) countless kids into the readers they are today. I can’t imagine somebody not finding a book by Beverly Cleary they don’t fall in love with. And we know, that it takes only one “home run” book to turn a child into a lifelong reader.

Cleary’s success as an author can be understood up by her knack to offer children the ability to relate what they read to their own lives. What drove her to write for children was her frustration at not finding books she wanted to read as a child and knowing she could do better. The right age to read her books, find kids at their most impressionable time in life as a reader and as one author noted, “Her stories offer courage and insight into what to expect from their lives.” I appreciate how she wrote for both boys and girls and I recommend her books knowing that she is an author that encourages children to cross the gender divide.

Cleary says she wrote books to entertain, not to teach anything. As a young reader, “If I thought the author was trying to show me how to be a better behaved girl, I shut the book.”  Her mother, a frustrated writer told her to keep it simple and she kept in mind the advice of a writing professor: the proper subject of the novel is universal human experience grounded in the minutiae of ordinary life. But in addition to the realistic nature of her stories, she also offers readers humor. Judy Blume says,  “There’s both gentle humor and laugh-out-loud humor.”

Her writing has been compared to that of E.B. White and Elizabeth Bishop—a model of the “plain American style.”  Cleary captures the feelings, moods and thoughts of her characters but they never cross the line of being sentimental. If I had to choose a favorite, it would be Dear Mr. Henshaw, an epistolary novel for which she received the Newbery Medal in 1984.


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