Author Beverly Cleary, a former librarian, turned out a library’s worth of stories over a writing career that spanned more than 50 years.
Cleary, who died in March at age 104, introduced beloved characters to generations of school-age children, with more than three dozen books, starting in 1950 with the novel “Henry Huggins.”
Here are eight picks for essential Beverly Cleary reads.
Beverly Cleary books
'Dear Mr. Henshaw'
A sixth-grader struggles with his parents' divorce and his subsequent move to a new town in this book, which won the 1984 Newbery Medal, the top prize for American children's literature.
‘Ramona and Her Father’
Part of Cleary’s popular Ramona Quimby series, this Newbery Honor Book depicts 7-year-old Ramona dealing with her father’s job loss and its effects on the Quimby family.
‘Ramona and Her Mother’
At “seven and a half right now,” Ramona is in that in-between stage – no longer a little kid, but not yet a big kid. To complicate matters further, both her parents are working. A National Book Award winner.
‘Ramona Quimby, Age 8’
Ramona enters third grade with trepidation: Her father has gone back to school, her mother is working full time and she must spend her afternoons at a neighbor’s house.
‘The Mouse and the Motorcycle’
A mouse living in a quiet motel meets a boy with a special toy.
Part of the Henry Huggins series. Henry’s dog, Ribsy, winds up in another family’s vehicle and must find his way home.
Life is good for Socks the white-footed tabby cat until his owners bring home a new pet ... their newborn baby.
Cleary also wrote several novels for teens; in this one, 15-year-old Jane deals with her first crush.
This story includes reporting by Brian O’Shea of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
8 book recommendations for kids of all ages
‘When Pencil Met Eraser’
Written by Karen Kilpatrick and Luis O. Ramos Jr.
Illustrated by German Blanco
This hilariously illustrated book is about a pencil who “likes to work alone” and an eraser who has all sorts of ideas for improvement for pencil’s drawings. At first, pencil is annoyed by eraser’s changes, but by the end of the book, he recognizes that the white space, blending effects and mistake correction that eraser offers makes his drawings better. Chosen by Parents magazine as one of the best kids’ book of the year.
By Ximo Abadia
Along with “Small in the City” (below), this story won a place in the New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Book of the Year. It’s the simple tale of a farmer, Paul, hard at work planting and tending his crops, when a drought comes along and threatens to destroy everything he’s worked so hard to nurture. The boldly colored illustrations are charming and full of whimsy, with little “easter egg” surprises here and there that will delight children in their discovery.
‘Room on Our Rock’
Written by Kate and Jol Temple
Illustrated by Terri Rose Baynton
Named winner of the 2020 Charlotte Huck Award, this clever book is actually two in one — it can be read forward and backward. In the “forward” story, an adult and child seal must find another rock to live on when theirs is overtaken by water, but the seals on the rock they approach don’t want to make room. Read the pages backward, though, and the same collection of phrases and sentences tell another story: We see your plight and welcome you to our rock, where we have plenty of room. A great look at differing attitudes toward refugees and a learning moment for empathy and sharing.
‘Small in the City’
By Sydney Smith
This delicately wrought tale about a child’s search for a missing “friend” through the snowy city is a masterpiece of art and storytelling. But just who is the narrator? The city is seen in evocative glimpses and atmospheric impressions, and the story’s narrative takes a surprising and poignant turn that will leave you rereading the whole thing with tears in your eyes.
‘Citlali and the Day of the Dead — Citlali y el Dia de Muertos’
Written by Berta De Llano
Illustrated by Jamie Rivera Contreras
If you are a member of a bilingual Spanish-speaking family or simply want to learn Spanish vocabulary, the Keepsake Stories Collection offers several engaging stories in dual-language format. Many of the titles retell traditional Latin American folktales, but “Citlali and the Day of the Dead” is an original story that follows Citlali as she and her community prepare for Dia de los Muertos.
‘Mosi Musa: A True Tale About a Baby Monkey Raised by His Grandma’
By Georgeanne Irvine
The fourth book in the San Diego Zoo’s Hope and Inspiration Collection, “Mosi Musa” is the true story of a baby vervet monkey whose start in life was a complicated birth and a mother who showed no interest in caring for him. Although his human caretakers need to bottle feed him, Mosi’s Grandma Thelma steps in to cuddle, groom and protect him. Together, Mosi and Grandma Thelma show how special — and important — grandmas truly are.
‘Trevor Lee and the Big Uh-Oh’
Written by Wiley Blevins
Illustrated by Marta Kissi
This cute, clever and funny children’s book is about a mischievous third-grader doing all he can to avoid reading in front of a large audience on his school’s Parents Night, driven by the insecurity that he is not a great reader. To make matters worse, he is soon assigned an additional passage when another student falls ill. Beneath the quirky “kid’s eye” view of the world lies the message that learning to read is a process that takes persistence.
‘I Can Make This Promise’
By Christine Day
Inspired by the author’s personal family history, this powerful children’s book is about a mixed-race 12-year-old Native American girl searching for the truth behind her family’s complicated legacy and a connection to the culture from which she has been raised apart.