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Maria Salvadore

Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

Beverly Cleary, one of a kind

March 3, 2016

Beverly Cleary

Beverly Cleary has received countless awards. They include being named by the Library of Congress as a Living Legend; Cleary received the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for her lasting contributions to children’s literature; she is the recipient of a Newbery Medal and several Newbery Honors; and has been the American nominee for the international Hans Christian Andersen Award.

But perhaps the most significant honor to Beverly Cleary’s books is that they continue to be read by children.

At a bookstore recently, I watched as a parent discovered Cleary’s books anew. She asked the bookseller if she thought her daughter would like them, if the books held up. The bookseller, a young woman herself, answered with an emphatic yes before launching into a detailed synopsis of Beezus and Ramona (Harper).

Then parent and seller shared more about Cleary’s books and the impact that the books had on them as young readers. The parent left with several of Cleary’s books tucked under her arm, ready to share them with her daughter.

Beverly Cleary Books

What is it that has made this author and her books (the first of which was published in 1950) continue to be as fresh to contemporary readers as they were to children so long ago? Why do Cleary’s books still resonate?

Probably because they’re true. Not true in a literal sense, but emotionally true. Readers see themselves in what the characters — Henry, Ramona, Beezus, and Mr. and Mrs. Quimby — experience and how the characters respond to life. And this creates empathy, the truth in what we all experience on some level.

Beverly Cleary was born in McMinnville, Oregon on April 12, 1916. Next month she will celebrate her 100th birthday! We can join in the celebration by picking up one of her books and rediscovering the truths (and downright fun) found within.

Our audio interview with Beverly Cleary

Listen in as Mrs. Cleary talks about her favorite teddy bear, where the character Ralph came from, the pleasures of reading and writing, and much more. The questions came from our Reading Rockets audience! Then browse a selected list of books by Beverly Cleary.

 

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"To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark." — Victor Hugo, Les Miserables