Timeless childhood classics should be a part of every family’s library. One hallmark of a good author is the timelessness of the stories. Another hallmark is the range and scope of their works. Beverly Cleary has authored dozens of favorites for boys and girls of all ages. She primarily writes realistic fiction about childhood and the struggles of growing up that ring true for decades. She also has a few animal fantasies that are wonderfully written. You (and your parents) may remember some of her books from childhood because she has been writing since the 1950’s! Although there are a few books that address social issues, most are light-hearted and great for snuggling up. These snuggling books are appropriate for family read-alouds, even if the age listed is too old for some of your children.
Ramona and Her Father
A book list about Beverly Cleary novels should start with the ever funny, always heartwarming, Ramona. There are many in this series about Ramona and her older sister, Beezus, this is just one of my favorites. Younger and older sisters will relate well to this story, so it is perfect to share as a family!
Trouble in the Quimby house. When her father loses his job, Ramona decides to help out. Maybe she could earn a million dollars making a TV commercial, or get her father to stop smoking to save money (and his lungs)—she is full of ideas. Some work, some don’t. But when her father says he wouldn’t trade her for a million dollars, Ramona knows all is right in her world.
Appropriate ages: 8-12
Henry is the neighbor of Ramona and her sister, Beezus. His antics and foibles are a favorite of my 5 year old son. This is the first book in the series about him.
Henry Huggins feels that nothing very interesting ever happens to him. But from the moment a stray dog in the drugstore begs for a taste of his ice-cream cone and downs it in one gulp, everything is different. Henry names the dog Ribsy and decides to keep him. Before Henry even reaches home with Ribsy he spends all of his money, gets kicked off three buses, and enjoys a hair-raising ride in a police car. And that’s only the beginning of Henry’s exciting new life!
Appropriate ages: 8-12
Two Times the Fun
Beverly Cleary wrote another book about childhood adventures written for younger children. This book is perfect for children as young as preschool as a read-aloud or for children up to 7 as an independent reader.
Jimmy and Janet are twins, but that doesn’t mean they are just alike. When we first meet Jimmy, he wants to dig a real hole. He likes to use a real, grown-up shovel. While he’s working, his sister, Janet, pretends to be a bird! She likes to use her imagination. But the twins both like silly jokes, brand- new boots, and talking to Mr. Lemon, the mailman.
Appropriate ages: 4-7
The Mouse and the Motorcycle
“Boy!” said Ralph to himself, his whiskers quivering with excitement. “Boy, oh boy!” Feeling that this was an important moment in his life, he took hold of the handgrips. They felt good and solid beneath his paws. Yes, this motorcycle was a good machine all right.
Ralph the mouse ventures out from behind the piney knothole in the wall of his hotel-room home, scrambles up the telephone wire to the end table, and climbs aboard the toy motorcycle left there by a young guest. His thrill ride does not last long. The ringing telephone startles Ralph, and he and the motorcycle take a terrible fall – right to the bottom of a metal wastebasket. Luckily, Keith, the owner of the motorcycle, returns to find his toy. Keith rescues Ralph and teaches him how to ride the bike. Thus begins a great friendship and many awesome adventures. Once a mouse can ride a motorcyle … almost anything can happen!
The Ralph S. Mouse series mixes up the normal offerings of Beverly Cleary with this fun fantasy about a talking mouse. Another great one for family read-aloud! Both of my boys enjoyed it!
Appropriate ages: 8-11
Emily’s Runaway Imagination
Can imaginative Emily make her biggest dream come true? Spunky Emily Bartlett lives in an old farmhouse in Pitchfork, Oregon’at a time when automobiles are brand-new inventions and libraries are a luxury few small towns can afford. Her runaway imagination leads her to bleach a horse, hold a very scary sleepover, and feed the hogs an unusual treat. But can she use her lively mind to help bring a library to Pitchfork?
Emily shows that imaginative girls have always found a way to create fun!
Appropriate ages: 8-11
Ellen Tebbits has a secret that she’ll never share with anyone. That is, until she meets Austine—and discovers that Austine has the same secret! Soon the girls are best friends who do everything together—attending dance class, horseback riding, and dodging pesky Otis Spofford. But then Ellen does something terrible, and now Austine isn’t speaking to her. Will Ellen be able to prove how sorry she truly is?
Like the Ramona series, little girls will love her adventures and commiserate with her troubles. Younger girls will enjoy this as a read-aloud while older girls will be relate to the joys and troubles of Ellen’s life as they read independently.
Appropriate ages: 6-10
When it comes to stirring up a little excitement in class, Otis Spofford knows just what to do. He can turn a folk dance fiesta into a three-ring circus . . . or an arithmetic lesson into a spitball marathon. Best of all, Otis likes teasing neat, well-behaved Ellen Tebbits—until the day his teasing goes too far. Now Otis is nervous, because Ellen isn’t just mad . . . she’s planning something!
We all know an Otis Spofford. Young boys will delight in his creative energy…but be careful they don’t start taking notes! Read aloud for younger boys and very engaging independent book for reluctant readers.
Appropriate ages: 6-10
Dear Mr. Henshaw,
I wish somebody would stop stealing the good stuff out of my lunchbag. I guess I wish a lot of other things, too. I wish someday Dad and Bandit would pull up in front in the rig … Dad would yell out of the cab, “Come on, Leigh. Hop in and I’ll give you a lift to school.
Leigh Botts has been author Boyd Henshaw’s number one fan ever since he was in second grade. Now in sixth grade, Leigh lives with his mother and is the new kid at school. He’s lonely, troubled by the absence of his father, a cross-country trucker, and angry because a mysterious thief steals from his lunchbag. Then Leigh’s teacher assigns a letter-writing project. Naturally Leigh chooses to write to Mr. Henshaw, whose surprising answer changes Leigh’s life.
Beverly Cleary changed gears from the light-hearted books and wrote this book about adolescent changes.
Appropriate ages: 9-12
It seems too good to be true. The most popular boy in school has asked Jane out — and she’s never even dated before. Stan is tall and good-looking, friendly and hard-working — everything Jane ever dreamed of. But is she ready for this?
Suppose her parents won’t let her go? What if she’s nervous and makes a fool of herself? Maybe he’ll think she’s too young. If only she knew all the clever things to say. If only she were prettier. If only she were ready for this…
With her usual warmth, perceptiveness, and humor, Beverly Cleary creates the joys and worries of a young girl’s first crush.
Don’t let the title fool you. This book is perfect for pre-teen girls with a sweet poignancy of navigating first dates.
Appropriate ages: 11-14
A Girl from Yamhill
Generations of children have grown up with Henry Huggins, Ramona Quimby, and all of their friends, families, and assorted pets. For everyone who has enjoyed the pranks and schemes, embarrassing moments, and all of the other poignant and colorful images of childhood brought to life in Beverly Cleary books, here is the fascinating true story of the remarkable woman who created them.
Appropriate ages: 12-15