Friday, May 7, 2021

Beverly Cleary Author Study: The Art of Ramona Quimby

This is an involved look at the various illustrations that have been used in the Ramona Quimby series. Louis Darling is who I started with, so his illustrations are my favorite. He illustrated many of Cleary's books, including Henry's series and the first two Ralph books. In fact, he only illustrated the first two Ramona books before he died. There are some interesting letters between Darling and Cleary at the end of this book. I like getting a glimpse of their partnership, especially considering they only met in person once!

Alan Tiegreen took over after Darling's death; I remember him for Pee Wee Scouts just as much as Ramona. I'm not as familiar with the two later illustrators because I already had my copies of the books, but I liked comparing and contrasting their styles and reading about their approaches. There was also some interesting information about JoAnn Scribner's covers; I had wondered why they had unique cover art for many of the books instead of just picking an interior illustration for the cover!

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Beverly Cleary Author Study: Just Like Beverly

Written by Vicki Conrad, illustrated by David Hohn

This is a picture book biography of Beverly Cleary. I read this soon after reading Cleary's two autobiographies, so I remembered the information and could tell the picture book pulled from those books while making that information accessible for younger children.

The illustrations are so bright and engaging! I love the idea of using this book as a jumping-off point for a unit on biographies in general or Beverly Cleary herself. It's a great introduction to both. It's also a great choice for Cleary fans to read on their own after they have read some of her books. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

COVER REVEAL: Leah Angstman's OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA



I’m thrilled to be participating in the cover reveal for Leah Angstman’s debut novel, OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA, coming January 2022 from Regal House Publishing.



OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA:
A Novel of King William’s War in 17th-Century New England
BY LEAH ANGSTMAN

Publication Date: January 11, 2022
Regal House Publishing
Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audiobook; 334 pages

Genre: Historical / Literary / Epic

**Shortlisted for the Chaucer Book Award**



OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is a historical epic of one woman’s survival in a time when the wilderness is still wild, heresy is publicly punishable, and being independent is worse than scorned—it is a death sentence.

At the onset of King William’s War between French and English settlers in 1689 New England, Ruth Miner is accused of witchcraft for the murder of her parents and must flee the brutality of her town. She stows away on the ship of the only other person who knows her innocence: an audacious sailor — Owen — bound to her by years of attraction, friendship, and shared secrets. But when Owen’s French ancestry finds him at odds with a violent English commander, the turmoil becomes life-or-death for the sailor, the headstrong Ruth, and the cast of Quakers, Pequot Indians, soldiers, highwaymen, and townsfolk dragged into the fray. Now Ruth must choose between sending Owen to the gallows or keeping her own neck from the noose.

Steeped in historical events and culminating in a little-known war on pre-American soil, OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is a story of early feminism, misogyny, arbitrary rulings, persecution, and the treatment of outcasts, with parallels still mirrored and echoed in today’s society. The debut novel will appeal to readers of Paulette Jiles, Alexander Chee, Hilary Mantel, James Clavell, Bernard Cornwell, TaraShea Nesbit, Geraldine Brooks, Stephanie Dray, Patrick O’Brian, and E. L. Doctorow.

AVAILABLE FOR PREORDER
REGAL HOUSE PRINT | AMAZON KINDLE

AVAILABLE FOR ARC REQUEST
TNBBC PUBLICITY





Praise


“With OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA, Leah Angstman reveals herself as a brave new voice in historical fiction. With staggering authenticity, Angstman gives us a story of America before it was America — an era rife with witch hunts and colonial intrigue and New World battles all but forgotten in our history books and popular culture. This is historical fiction that speaks to the present, recalling the bold spirits and cultural upheavals of a nation yet to be born.”
—Taylor Brown, author of PRIDE OF EDEN, GODS OF HOWL MOUNTAIN, and THE RIVER OF KINGS

“Steeped in lush prose, authentic period detail, and edge-of-your-seat action, OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is a rollicking good read. Leah Angstman keeps the story moving at a breathtaking pace, and she knows more 17th-century seafaring language and items of everyday use than you can shake a stick at. The result is a compelling work of romance, adventure, and historical illumination that pulls the reader straight in.”
—Rilla Askew, author of FIRE IN BEULAH, THE MERCY SEAT, and KIND OF KIN

“Lapidary in its research and lively in its voice, OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA by Leah Angstman is a rollicking story, racing along with wind in its sails. Though her tale unfolds hundreds of years in America’s past, Ruth Miner is the kind of high-spirited heroine whose high adventures haul you in and hold you fast.”
—Kathleen Rooney, author of LILLIAN BOXFISH TAKES A WALK and CHER AMI AND MAJOR WHITTLESEY

“Leah Angstman has written the historical novel that I didn’t know I needed to read. OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is set in an oft-forgotten time in the brutal wilds of pre-America that is so vividly and authentically drawn, with characters that are so alive and relevant, and a narrative so masterfully paced and plotted, that Angstman has performed the miracle of layering the tumultuous past over our troubled present to gift us a sparkling new reality.”
—Kevin Catalano, author of WHERE THE SUN SHINES OUT and DELETED SCENES AND OTHER STORIES

“OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is a fascinating book, the kind of historical novel that evokes its time and place so vividly that the effect is just shy of hallucinogenic. I enjoyed it immensely.”
—Scott Phillips, author of THE ICE HARVEST, THE WALKAWAY, COTTONWOOD, and HOP ALLEY

“OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is a meticulously researched novel that mixes history, love story, and suspense. Watching Angstman’s willful protagonist, Ruth Miner, openly challenge the brutal world of 17th-century New England, with its limiting ideas about gender, race, and science, was a delight.”
—Aline Ohanesian, author of ORHAN’S INHERITANCE

“Leah Angstman is a gifted storyteller with a poet’s sense of both beauty and darkness, and her stunning historical novel, OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA, establishes her as one of the most exciting young novelists in the country. Angstman plunges the reader into a brilliantly realized historical milieu peopled by characters real enough to touch. And in Ruth Miner, we are introduced to one of the most compelling protagonists in contemporary literature, a penetratingly intelligent, headstrong woman who is trying to survive on her wits alone in a Colonial America that you won’t find in the history books. A compulsive, vivid read that will change the way you look at the origins of our country, Leah Angstman’s OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA announces the arrival of a preternatural talent.”
—Ashley Shelby, author of MURI and SOUTH POLE STATION

“Rich, lyrical, and atmospheric, with a poet’s hand and a historian’s attention to detail. In OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA, Leah Angstman creates an immersive world for readers to get lost in and a fascinating story to propel them through it. A thoroughly engaging and compelling tale.”
—Steph Post, author of HOLDING SMOKE, MIRACULUM, and WALK IN THE FIRE

“It’s a rare story that makes you thankful for having read and experienced it. It’s rarer still for a story to evoke so wholly, so powerfully, another place and time as to make you thankful for the gifts that exist around you, which you take for granted. OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is a book rich with misery, yet its characters are indefatigable; they yearn, despite their troubles, for victories personal and societal. Leah Angstman’s eye is keen, and her ability to transport you into America’s beginnings is powerful. With the raw ingredients of history, she creates a story both dashing and pensive, robust yet believable. From an unforgiving time, Angstman draws out a tale of all things inhuman, but one that reminds us of that which is best in all of us.”
—Eric Shonkwiler, author of ABOVE ALL MEN and 8TH STREET POWER AND LIGHT


About the Author


Leah Angstman author photo Leah Angstman is a historian and transplanted Michigander living in Boulder. OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA, her debut novel of King William’s War in 17th-century New England, is forthcoming from Regal House in January 2022. Her writing has been a finalist for the Saluda River Prize, Cowles Book Prize, Able Muse Book Award, Bevel Summers Fiction Prize, and Chaucer Book Award, and has appeared in Publishers Weekly, L.A. Review of Books, Nashville Review, Slice, and elsewhere. She serves as editor-in-chief for Alternating Current and The Coil magazine and copyeditor for Underscore News, which has included editing partnerships with ProPublica. She is an appointed vice chair of a Colorado historical commission and liaison to a Colorado historic preservation committee.




Monday, May 3, 2021

Beverly Cleary Author Study: The Ramona Quimby Diary and Two Times the Fun

Illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers 

I'm not sure if these two diaries are different, or if the one I have (2013) was just repackaged with new illustrations. The descriptions online make it sound similar, but I can't find images of the interior. The 1984 version was illustrated by Alan Tiegreen. It's an engaging journal with prompts and questions for the child to fill out. There are also stickers in the back. I really like the prompts on the pages and think it would be interesting for any Cleary fan.

- - -

Illustrated by Carol Thompson

I read and reviewed this book as originally published as the four separate stories. They were initially picture books or easy readers. I like the stories but am not too sure of the audience when they're published together as a chapter book. My dust jacket says ages 3-7 so I guess parents can read each chapter aloud as if it were a standalone book, and a 7-year-old who can read on their own might still be interested in the antics of 4-year-olds.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Beverly Cleary Author Study: Ramona's World

Illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers, cover by Ramona Kaulitzki

The last Ramona book, and the last new/original book ever published by Beverly Cleary. She was 83 when she wrote this, and it was published 15 years after Ramona Forever!

Ramona is in the 4th grade, Beezus is in high school, and Roberta (born at the end of Ramona Forever) is teething and learning to walk. This is kind of a feel-good book with no big drama, just everyday Ramona problems. It's a nice ending note for the series.

I know an author can't always wrap up all of their work, but I do wonder what Cleary envisioned for her characters' futures. Not just the Quimbys, but everyone in the Cleary universe. It's something nice to daydream about...

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Beverly Cleary Author Study: My Own Two Feet

This is the second installment of Cleary's autobiography, from college to the publication of Henry Huggins. Her life was so interesting. After working her way through junior college and college during the Depression, she puts herself through graduate school studying library science. Cleary works for a year as a children's librarian, then works for several years as an Army librarian during World War II. She wrote Henry Huggins when she was 33!

I would have loved a third installment all about her writing, fame, motherhood, and awards because she's so fascinating. Her writing style was always matter-of-fact and humorous, which gave great insight into her personality while making every book a joy to read. What a treasure.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Beverly Cleary Author Study: Petey's Bedtime Story

 Illustrated by David Small

I had never heard of this book so I was looking forward to reading it. Beverly Cleary has a magic touch with picture books, just as she does with chapter books. She makes characters that are overflowing with personality, even if they're just one-off characters instead of developed over a series.

Petey is a toddler who doesn't mind getting ready for bed. He knows he'll get to hear bedtime stories, so he's always good in the bath and putting on his pjs. His mom reads him one bedtime story, but Petey isn't tired yet. His dad reads him another, but Petey still isn't tired. He decides to tell his sleepy parents his favorite bedtime story - the one about the night he was born! Except the way Petey tells it makes it way more adventurous than it actually was.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Beverly Cleary Author Study: Strider

 Illustrations by Paul O. Zelinsky. 

This book is the sequel to Dear Mr. Henshaw. I don't think I read this when I was younger. Honestly, Dear Mr. Henshaw was pretty dark for me as a sheltered kid. I don't think I was drawn to the character himself. I also had bad luck with dog books (see: Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows) so I didn't try this one based on the cover alone.

It was nice to have a "new" Cleary book to read in adulthood. I love Leigh Botts now, so I was glad to read more about him and see how he's grown. I especially think the sequel was necessary because Leigh seemed really torn up about his dad in the first book, and now he's come to accept his life. I think that could be helpful to a lot of kids going through something similar.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Beverly Cleary Author Study: Muggie Maggie

Illustrations by Kay Life, though the
cover artist is the "Rubes" signature again.

I say this about every other Cleary book, but I remember this so vividly from my own childhood. I think my mom bought it for me when I was struggling with my own handwriting. This book was written in response to a third-grader who wanted a book about cursive writing. It's a quick read but I do think it's a necessary subject. Cleary addresses it with her signature natural and fun style. Maggie is only a character for this one short book, but she feels as real and well-developed as the kids from Klickitat Street.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Beverly Cleary Author Study: A Girl From Yamhill

 

Beverly Cleary shares her childhood up through high school graduation in the first installment of her autobiography. She includes a lot of historical information about her pioneer ancestors. When she wrote about her early childhood on the farm, I could see where a lot of Emily's Runaway Imagination came from. 

These memories reminded me a lot of my maternal grandmother, too. She grew up on a farm and was close to the same age as Cleary. We had read some Cleary books together, including Emily's Runaway Imagination, so I had my grandmother's memories going through my head as I read this book. It made for a very cozy experience.

Cleary's story is touching and real and interesting. She is very honest about her childhood and her relationship with her mother. As she grew into a teenager, I could see where some of the subject matter for her YA books came from as well. Her writing style in this book is just as natural as it is in her fiction books. 

Friday, April 16, 2021

Beverly Cleary Author Study: Janet's Thingamajigs

Original illustrations by DyAnne DiSalvo, though my copy
is a re-release with illustrations redone by Carol Thompson.

Janet loves how her mother calls stuff "thingamajigs" when she can't remember the word for them. Janet wants thingamajigs of her own, so she starts collecting small items she sees every day. 

Jimmy wants to play with Janet's thingamajigs, so Janet wraps them up in brown paper bags and keeps them on her bed to prevent him from messing with them. The bags rustle every time Janet moves on her bed, and her mother says she sounds like a mouse in a wastepaper basket.

This short story was funny to me because my kid also likes to collect anything and everything. I think it's a perfect example of how kids like what they like, and if you give them the space to get it out of their system, they'll come through it on their own and save a lot of disagreements!

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Beverly Cleary Author Study: Lucky Chuck

 Illustrations by J. Winslow Higginbottom

Chuck has a job and a motorcycle license and bought a used bike. He knows the rules of the road and usually follows them, but sometimes he just wants to have fun while he rides.

I felt bad that I wanted him to learn a lesson, but I was initially projecting because motorcycle drivers around here are completely awful. However, he does learn a lesson the hard way, and I love Cleary even more for writing it that way! She did a lot of research into motorcycles and it comes through in how she explains the bike parts and the driving laws so it's a very interesting picture book.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Beverly Cleary Author Study: Happy Birthday!

Beverly Cleary
April 12, 1916 to March 25, 2021

In 2012, a friend and I visited Portland and I made sure we stopped to see Klickitat Street and Grant Park. I knew there were statues of Henry Huggins and Ramona Quimby there, and Cleary was one of my favorite authors from childhood. At the time, I was just a big book nerd; I wasn't a librarian yet. Though we visited other libraries on this trip, including a tiny one-room library in Scio, Oregon, we didn't visit the Beverly Cleary Children's Library at the Central Branch of the Portland library. We also didn't visit the Beverly Cleary School, but I guess that just gives me good reasons to go back!

When I visited these statues, I had fond memories of the books I had read as a child. There were some lines and scenes I remembered vividly, and I've enjoyed reading them again as an adult. But above all, it's really impressed me how wonderful Cleary's writing is. I understand why children love it, because she's truly writing on their level. But as an adult, I'm still drawn in to each story because the characters are so well-developed and the problems are so real. Some of it is nostalgia, true, but there are several books of hers that I hadn't read as a kid and still really enjoyed this time around.




Grant Park was the setting for many scenes in children's books by Beverly Cleary. In 1991, a group of teachers, librarians, and business people formed the Friends of Henry & Ramona, and began to raise funds for the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden for Children. Portland artist Lee Hunt created life-sized bronze statues of three of Cleary's best-loved characters - Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins, and Henry's dog Ribsy. Scattered around the concrete slab are granite plaques engraved with the titles of the Cleary books that take place in Portland - and a map of the neighborhood showing where events in the books "really happened." The Sculpture Garden was dedicated on October 13, 1995. 

Friday, April 9, 2021

Beverly Cleary Author Study: Ramona Forever

Illustrations by Alan Tiegreen, though my copy 
has a revised cover by JoAnn Scribner.

This book encompasses everything you could want from a chapter book! Ramona fights with her sister, gets a bit of after-school freedom, has to bury her cat, learns her mom is pregnant, and plays a part in her aunt's wedding! So much excitement, and I never had that in my childhood so I loved living vicariously through Ramona.

I think this might be the Ramona book I read most as a kid; I remember so much about it, so vividly. I remember thinking recently while reading Ramona and Her Mother: doesn't Ramona's family have a baby? I just couldn't remember when! I do kind of remember watching some episodes on TV as well because my original book had a yellow cover with a photograph of a real girl on the front.

Just an aside: I had Beverly Cleary's books arranged on my shelf in publication order, and also have a list of titles and publication dates in a notebook I'm using for this project. The copyright page of my book says 1979! There's nothing wrong with reading them out of order, but I want to see the progression of the stories and her writing. Everything I can find online verifies the 1984 publication date, but I thought it was strange and worth noting.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Beverly Cleary Author Study: Dear Mr. Henshaw

 Illustrations by Paul O. Zelinsky. 

I read this as a kid and it’s always stuck out in my mind as the first book I read written in epistolary form, but it wasn’t until re-reading it as an adult that the gravity of the overall book really hit me. 

I had remembered Leigh as being a kid writing to an author, but I forgot how much you learn about him through the letters. It’s interesting to see what he thinks of his life and how he portrays that to Mr. Henshaw. I especially love that we never see Mr. Henshaw’s letters to Leigh, but can still fill in the blanks by what’s written.

This book is really deep, and I think it was ahead of its time. I think Cleary is touching on so many interesting aspects of family life and divorced parents, especially considering this was published in 1983.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Zara Hossain is Here by Sabina Khan

Thanks to @kidlitexchange and @sabina_writer for sharing the ARC of this book with me. It’s out TODAY from @scholasticinc!


Zara was born in Pakistan and moved to Texas with her parents when she was three. Now she’s seventeen, with college on the horizon. But she has to make it through her senior year first, and it seems like one classmate, in particular, has it out for her. Tyler keeps leaving racist notes and saying racist remarks when she walks by. When he graffitis Zara’s house, her dad stands up for his family. Things get twisted around and her dad ends up hurt and charged with a crime, leaving Zara’s family’s green card in the balance.

This is an interesting book based on the subject matter alone, and I especially love that it goes into detail about how the family has been waiting for their green cards for years, even though Zara’s father’s employer sponsored them. I didn’t know a lot of the ins and outs of the process, so it was very eye-opening. I think it’s easy for teens to empathize with Zara because she’s on the cusp of being “free” for college, but this stands in her way to completely throw her life off track. I especially like how it’s framed as being the only country Zara has really known, while her mother is missing her own home country, so there’s this complex pull for both of them.

This might be nit-picky, but I think the LGBTQIA aspect of the book was a little over the top. It’s fine that Zara is bi, and I know some of the focus was that her parents were more accepting of it than other parents, but all of the scenes with her girlfriend seemed rushed. I don’t think the relationship was as well-developed as it could have been. I would either prefer the relationship to step up and balance the story more, or be taken out and those words used more for the injustice behind green cards, racism, etc.


Monday, April 5, 2021

Beverly Cleary Author Study: Ralph S. Mouse

 Illustrations by Paul O. Zelinsky, who might have also done the cover art? 
I can't see a signature and there's no additional credit. 

Once again, Ralph is unhappy about the rules where he lives. He's feeling suffocated by his extended family so he asks the son of the inn's housekeeper to take him to school. Ralph has never imagined what school would be like, so he loves exploring the new building. He can't stay out of sight though, so he inspires a classroom to do a mouse study. The students write poems and essays about Ralph, and one boy makes a maze for him to run. Ralph is nervous about this task.

I like the progression of meeting Ralph in the inn, seeing him go to camp, and now seeing him go to school. In my opinion, The Mouse and the Motorcycle is the best of this series.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Beverly Cleary Author Study: Ramona Quimby, Age 8

Illustrations by Alan Tiegreen, though my copy
has a revised cover by JoAnn Scribner.

Ramona starts third grade at a new school when her neighborhood is rezoned. Beezus is in junior high, and even their dad is back in school! He's finishing his college degree to become an art teacher. Again, Ramona spends a lot of this book wondering if her teacher likes her and worrying that her family isn't happy. 

Willa Jean is becoming a bigger character, reminiscent of a young Ramona in the early Henry Huggins books. In fact, the adventures Ramona has in this book remind me a lot of Cleary's earlier works.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

An Emotional Menagerie: Feelings from A to Z

Happy National Poetry Month!

I always loved calling attention to Poetry Month in both the public and school libraries because there's no much potential for sharing poems and interacting with an often-overlooked form of literature. I had fun choosing lesson plans relating to poetry for different ages, and An Emotional Menagerie: Feelings from A to Z is brimming with wonderful potential lessons.


Before sharing my lesson ideas, it's important to establish the quality of this book just as a read-aloud. Even if you don't tie lessons into it, these poems are meant to be read to a classroom of students. The book is listed as being for ages 5+, but coming from a Montessori background had me envisioning reading these poems to Early Childhood students (as young as 3).

The book has an emotion assigned to each letter of the alphabet, and each emotion is described with animal qualities. These animals are amazing choices for each emotion; even as an adult reading it on my own, I was impressed with how the animal qualities truly described each emotion. A monkey is naughty, a chameleon changing its colors is uncertain, just for a teaser.

Each poem is six stanzas long, but each emotion gets its own spread, so you can hold the book up as you're reading and the children can take in the vivid illustrations. (I love that each emotion gets its own spread because there's no reading ahead to the next emotion!)

When you use this book with younger students, you can show them the picture of the animal, have them name it, and ask students to share what they know about the animal. After reading the poem aloud, you can ask the students to share what they know about the emotion, or if they've felt it. Then you can discuss how the emotion and the animal relate to each other.

I think this book would be great to use when discussing emotions with younger children. It could also be incorporated into lesson plans if you have a letter of the week since there's an emotion for every letter of the alphabet. The book could also be used as a tie-in when you're studying animals since the emotions and animals match so well.

With older elementary students, I feel like there are several ways to approach this book. You could plan lessons and storytime based on the letter, emotion, or animal. A, for example, is Anger, with a roaring lion. You could read the A poem with Lion Lessons by Jon Agee and compare and contrast the lions. Or you could read it with My No No No Day by Rebecca Patterson and talk about anger.

You could also open the floor up for discussion about emotions before you even open the book. Go through the letters and see what emotions students can name for each letter. Once they guess the emotion that is used in the book, you can then have them brainstorm what animal they think would be associated with that emotion and why. 

I also had a creative writing club with older elementary and middle school students, and I think this book provides great jumping-off points even for that age. You could ask students to think of an emotion for a certain letter and have them write a poem about it. After reading some of the examples from this book aloud, you could ask them to think of an animal, and write a poem about emotions they associate with the animal. For an extra challenge, you could ask them to choose an emotion and write a poem using only words that express that emotion, or only words that start with the same letter as that emotion!

This book is one of those gems that not only gives you a great read-aloud for the classroom or storytime, but also is full of potential lessons for a variety of ages. It's enjoyable to read and will be even more fun to share with students to help activation their imaginations while cultivating emotional awareness.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Beverly Cleary Author Study: Ramona and Her Mother

  Illustrations by Alan Tiegreen, though my copy 
has a revised cover by JoAnn Scribner.

From the earlier Ramona books, I thought she was closer to her mother; I guess because that's who she spent time with on her half days of kindergarten. Now her mother has gone back to work and Ramona misses the time they spent together. She feels like her mother prefers Beezus. After not getting along with her new teachers, Ramona starts to think that no one likes her!

This book accurately captures the highs and lows of childhood, as Cleary always does. It seemed more light-hearted than Ramona and Her Father. I don't know if that was done on purpose - a more emotionally involved book followed by something lighter, or if it's just how I'm perceiving things since Ramona and Her Father was the first book I read after Cleary's death. Either way, it's a fun story that captures Ramona's personality in an engaging way for readers.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Beverly Cleary Author Study: Ramona and Her Father

 Illustrations by Alan Tiegreen, though my copy 
has a revised cover by JoAnn Scribner.

The first Beverly Cleary book I've read and reviewed since her death, so it felt extra special. It also doesn't hurt that Ramona is becoming a more developed character. I feel like Cleary's early books were entertaining stories, and while the characters faced problems, they were more... sitcom-y - and I mean that in the best way possible! I think her writing changed as she wrote more, which I can see when reading her books in order. I also think it's nice it works that way because children can enjoy her early books when they're starting to read chapter books, and then as they're ready to read more emotional and deep books, they'll have these, like they can grow along with the series.

Ramona thinks a lot about whether her family is happy or not, and after her dad loses his job, it seems like "not." He's grumpy and is around more than Ramona is used to. When Beezus comments on their father's smoking habit, in relation to the family finances as well as his health, Ramona takes up the cause.

I remember so much of this book vividly: Nosmo King, run between the raindrops, french fries "crisp on the outside and mealy inside." But I didn't remember the weight of Ramona's worries. When I was a kid, I often worried about people around me regarding their health and death; I'm not sure if I picked up on it then in these books, but I'm sure it registered with me and made me feel understood.

I appreciate it now as an adult because I think we're too quick to brush off children's concerns as frivolous or unfounded when the worries seem important to them, and very often are just as serious as adults' worries. I think the way Cleary shows her understanding of children's thoughts is why she's still so widely read these days.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Beverly Cleary Author Study: Ramona the Brave

Illustrations by Alan Tiegreen, though my copy
has a revised cover by JoAnn Scribner.

Ramona is back for her second solo book. She's starting first grade and getting her own bedroom! I loved reading about her relationship with her teacher, which was so different than her kindergarten teacher. There's also more about her friendships in this book. But most of all, we get more of a look inside of Ramona's mind. While before she was just mischievous, now she's being fleshed out into a deeper character. 

Her family interactions were especially wonderful, and I remember feeling the same way about my sibling and parents when I was younger. I really love getting inside her mind as she grows, and it's nice to feel understood, even all these years later. I think this honesty is why Ramona is still so popular with kids today.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Beverly Cleary Author Study: Socks

Illustrated by Beatrice Darwin, though the cover is by
another artist (uncredited, but signature looks like Ribes)

I read this book (this copy!) when I was young and it only fueled my love for cats. I was desperate for a kitten, and the way Cleary brought Socks to life made me want a cat friend more than ever. I finally got my cat when I was an adult - and I have the kid, too! Re-reading this book now made me glad I didn't have a kitten and a baby at the same time. My cat is definitely as playful as Socks and has a very similar personality, so reading about the reasons why litter is scattered over the floor made me laugh.

Though I read this as a kid, it almost seems like a book for any age. The Brickers, who adopt Socks, are a young married couple having their first child, so I think the book could resonate with readers of that age as well. Even as an adult past that stage, I genuinely enjoyed the book for the story it told more than for nostalgia's sake, so I think this is one that could appeal to a broad audience. I feel like it's often overlooked in the scope of Cleary's catalog, though.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Allergic by Megan Wagner Lloyd and Michelle Mee Nutter

Thanks to Scholastic and @kidlitexchange for the ARC of this book, which is out now! All opinions are my own.


Maggie has wanted a puppy for so long, and her parents finally say she can get one! Her parents are preoccupied with the baby that's on the way, and her younger twin brothers have each other, so Maggie is ready to have her own friend in the family.

When Maggie is meeting different puppies at the shelter, she starts to itch. After a visit to the allergy center, Maggie learns she's allergic to animal dander, so no puppy for her. She can't even be around the class pet, so all of her classmates blame her for her allergies! Maggie starts a list of other pets she could get, but nothing seems quite right. Luckily she makes friends with her neighbor, so she has someone to play with, but friendships can be hard to manage...

I love graphic novels for kids because they're engaging, regardless of the reader's level or "reluctance." I especially love when they tackle tougher topics, and allergies are one I've never thought much about. I liked Peanut by Ayun Halliday, but it's about a girl faking an allergy to be interesting. Allergic deals with how allergies can distance you from others and it's an important topic that is often overlooked. 

Monday, March 22, 2021

Beverly Cleary Author Study: Runaway Ralph

Illustrations by Louis Darling, though my copy 
has a revised cover with no (discernable) artist credit. 


I wanted to make more of a note about the illustrations and cover this time. I can't find a name (or decipher the signature) for the cover illustrator, but this is the last book of Cleary's that was illustrated by Louis Darling. He died in 1970, the year this book was published, and it is dedicated to him.

Ralph is one of the most unique characters in Cleary's books and he's back for another adventure. This time he wants to be independent and leave his family behind. He's tired of being told what to do and when he can ride his motorcycle, and he doesn't like giving his younger relatives rides on HIS motorcycle.

He learns there is a summer camp nearby so he decides to run away. Trying to live on his own around so many children is difficult, especially since the camp also has a dog and several cats roaming around.

This book was a fun read because Ralph is clever and gets into interesting situations, but I liked The Mouse and the Motorcycle more.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Beverly Cleary Author Study: Ramona the Pest

 Illustrations by Louis Darling, though my copy
has a revised cover by JoAnn Scribner.


Ramona's first solo book! After always being the "baby" on the sidelines, Ramona is finally starting kindergarten! She loves her kind teacher, Miss Binney, and has a crush on a classmate, Davy. Ramona gets to participate in a Halloween parade, walk to school on her own, and learns to write her name with a cute cat Q.

I remembered so much of this book, and I wonder if other Ramona fans feel the same. My kindergarten experience was totally different but this one is also part of my memory in a unique way. My favorite parts have always been when Ramona hides behind the garbage cans because she has a substitute teacher and when she loses her new boots in the mud.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Beverly Cleary Author Study: Mitch and Amy

 Illustrations by George Porter, though the cover is by a different artist.
I can't find credit anywhere though the signature on the front looks like
Robes or Rubes.


I remember reading this when I was young and wishing I had a twin. Later, as I grew up, I half hoped I'd have twins that I could name Mitch and Molly (after my favorite American Girl doll). 

I liked the sibling interactions in this book since we haven't seen that much. Beezus and Ramona are the only siblings we've seen (besides the older ones in Cleary's young adult books), and they had a different dynamic due to the age gap.

Mitch and Amy don't seem to get along much, but after they face the same bully alone and then together, they start to realize how important they are to each other. I really liked seeing how the bully issue was handled in the 60s. 

Each situation the twins found themselves in was interesting and often amusing. For a standalone book, the depth of character development is outstanding.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Beverly Cleary Author Study: The Growing-Up Feet

 Original illustrations by DyAnne DiSalvo, though my copy is a re-release with illustrations redone by Carol Thompson.

I have this story in Two Times the Fun, a collection of the Janet and Jimmy stories. Janet and Jimmy's mother thinks they've outgrown their shoes, so they all go on an adventure to the shoe store.

Janet and Jimmy are excited to get something new. They can't wait to surprise their friend, the mailman, with new shoes. But the salesman measures their feet and finds the twins don't need new shoes after all. How can they surprise the mailman now?

Friday, March 12, 2021

Beverly Cleary Author Study: The Mouse and the Motorcycle

Illustrations by Louis Darling, though my copy
has a revised cover by JoAnn Scribner.

I can't tell you how many times I watched this movie in my childhood; I'm pretty sure my mom still has the VHS. I read the book as a kid but I didn't remember much of the written story, however, when I read it, I could vividly picture the movie scenes!

I absolutely love the creativity and imagination in this book. It's fun to think of a boy being able to talk to a mouse anyway, but the way Ralph has to use his own imagination to make the motorcycle move is such a nice touch. I also like how Ralph gets in trouble just like any other boy because it makes him so easy to relate to.

I can't wait to read this with my son because I think it's timeless and he'll love it too.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Alice Across America by Sarah Glenn Marsh


This book made me miss taking road trips with my friends! But it also made me laugh, thinking of how my friend and I used to worry about being “two ladies” while driving down the California coast. 

Alice Ramsey and three friends drove across the country in 1909, when hardly any women drove cars. In fact, only a few men had driven across the country at that time. Ramsey made thirty more cross-country drives after this one. She knew how to take care of her car, crank it, change tires, and more.

I know how to do all of those things, in theory... but actually doing it? I haven't practiced. So it was admirable to see this woman learn when she didn't have to. She traveled without a phone or help line, and often didn't stop in cities. They camped in the car some nights. It's really interesting to compare and contrast that with how things are now.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Beverly Cleary Author Study: Ribsy

Illustrations by Louis Darling, though my copy
has a revised cover by JoAnn Scribner.

This is my original copy of the book but I didn't remember the story at all, so it was a nice read. I loved (and fondly remember many random details about) Socks (1973), so I knew Cleary had a great way of writing animals, but I was especially drawn to Ribsy after being with him so much in the Henry Huggins books.

Ribsy gets lost from the Huggins family on a rainy day so he has trouble picking up their scent to find his way home. Another family takes him home, further away from Henry's house than Ribsy has ever been before. It seems like it'll be impossible for Ribsy to find his way back because different people keep taking him in. Every chapter has a lot of adventure and suspense.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson


Joshilyn Jackson has been one of my favorite authors since I read
gods in Alabama in 2006 as a creative writing student. I can’t count how many times I’ve gone to see her on book tours, and I can’t count how many giveaways I entered to get an ARC of this book. I was so excited to win an ARC from William Morrow and started reading as soon as I got it.

Jackson always had some Southern gothic vibes layered on top of quality literary fiction, and she successfully pivoted to domestic suspense with her last release, Never Have I Ever. The Southern gothic still applies to this genre as well, as she’s as good as ever with Mother May I. The suspense is well done, and it’s impossible to know what’s going to happen because there are so many options. The loose ends all get wrapped up in the conclusion, though, and the payoff is worth it. I can’t recommend this one enough.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Beverly Cleary Author Study: Sister of the Bride


No illustrations because this is a young adult book. This novel has less of a "first love" plot than the previous three.

Barbara finds out that her sister Rosemary is getting married after her first year of college. Barbara gets swept up in planning her sister's wedding since Rosemary doesn't seem to care much about it. There are some issues with Barbara wondering who her wedding date will be, which groomsmen might be single, and which neighborhood boy she might marry when she's her sister's age. But these crushes aren't really explored like Cleary did in previous books, so the focus is mostly on wedding preparation.

That wedding spotlight made this book a bit lackluster for me because it felt very surface-level, and I didn't relate much to any character. That being said, it was an interesting read just to learn about the wedding and shower traditions back then compared to how they are now.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Beverly Cleary Author Study: Henry and the Clubhouse

Illustrations by Louis Darling, though my copy
has a revised cover by JoAnn Scribner.


Henry finally got his paper route in the last book, but now he feels the pressure of selling subscriptions. He's waiting for someone to move into the empty house in his neighborhood so he'll have a new customer. In the meantime, he and his friends build their own clubhouse.

Ramona is very prevalent in this book, and she's quite the character. (She won't have her first solo book for six more years.) Henry is growing up though, so his interactions with Ramona are more brotherly than kids bugging each other, as it was in the earlier books. The ending of this book has a very touching scene between the two of them.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Library on Wheels by Sharlee Glenn

After reading about Emily getting a library for her town, I wanted to keep that library love going with Mary Lemist Titcomb, who created America’s first bookmobile. 


Not much is known about her early life, but Sharlee Glenn did amazing research on her work and the times to compile an inspirational book. The images of the bookmobile’s progression over the years were especially interesting to me. I've never actually been inside a bookmobile, but had dreams of starting one a few years ago. It's a lot to manage so I really loved seeing how Titcomb did it so long ago.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Beverly Cleary Author Study: Emily's Runaway Imagination

Illustrations by Beth and Joe Krush, though the cover is a different artist.
I can't find the cover artist's name, but the inside illustrations are much more classic.


This is my favorite Beverly Cleary book, mostly because of my own memories around it. My maternal grandmother grew up on a farm around the same time this book is set, so a lot of the stories she told me about her childhood make me think of Emily. I took this book to my grandmother's house when I was younger and we took turns reading pages aloud to each other. The backdrop for this book photo is actually a patchwork pillow my grandmother made to really channel her spirit.

Emily is a more relatable character for me as well. Her imagination runs wild, yes, but she's not as mischievous as Ramona. As much as I love Ramona, she's much bolder than I am, so I liked seeing myself in Emily. Plus, Emily helps her small town start a library, so that's obviously something I'd love to read about.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Follow Your Arrow by Jessica Verdi

Follow Your Arrow by Jessica Verdi is out TODAY from Scholastic, so grab your copy! I was able to read an ARC thanks to @kidlitexchange, @jessverdi, and @scholasticinc, but all opinions are mine.


Cece and her girlfriend Silvie practically live their lives online, earning money from sponsorships and doing livestreams together. When Silvie breaks up with Cece, Cece is stunned. Silvie was such a good actress that she didn’t know anything was wrong.

In the wake of her heartbreak, Cece tries to find herself while still posting regularly and keeping her follower count on the rise. She’s always tried to show her best side online, but that’s not the real Cece. She has to decide how to show that part of herself before someone gets hurt.

I love books about social media because I have such a love/hate relationship with it, as I think many of us do. It was especially interesting to read about how it affects what influencers post and how free they feel to be themselves...or not. This book is amazing, a must-read for ages 12 and up.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Beverly Cleary Author Study: Two Dog Biscuits

Original illustrations by DyAnne DiSalvo, though my copy
is a re-release with illustrations redone by Carol Thompson.


I have this story in Two Times the Fun, a collection of the Janet and Jimmy stories. This was a cute Janet and Jimmy story. A neighbor hives them each a dog biscuit (though... why?) and their mother is worried they'll eat them. Then she gets sick of seeing the dog biscuits everywhere around the house and finding them in pockets. Their mother takes them on a walk so the twins can give their biscuits to dogs they meet along the way. But one dog is too big, one is too mean, one too loud... Will the twins ever find a critter to enjoy their biscuits?

Sunday, February 28, 2021

The Power of Her Pen by Lesa Cline-Ransome

Ethel L. Payne was born in 1911. She went to school with white people, even though she was harassed and beaten for it. The school paper wouldn’t let her work for them because she was black, but they published her first story. Payne went to college and studied writing. She went to Japan and wrote about how Black American soldiers were treated.

When she returned to the United States, Payne worked for the Chicago Defender, one of two Black daily newspapers at the time. After 3 years of covering politics, Payne became one of three Black journalists to be given a White House press pass. She was outspoken and became known as the “First Lady of the Black Press.” Payne died in 1991 and has since been honored on a US stamp - one of only four female journalists to be featured.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Beverly Cleary Author Study: Here's Beaver!


This is Beverly Cleary's third and final Leave It to Beaver book. I liked this one more than Leave It to Beaver but not quite as much as Beaver and Wally. Cleary wrote more about Wally in this book, even if it was mostly how Beaver looked up to him. But I find Wally, and the way Cleary writes about him, to be more interesting than the situations Beaver himself gets into.

That being said, I'm definitely biased and prefer Henry Huggins and Ramona as Cleary's mischief-makers, but Wally could fit in nicely with Cleary's "first love" young adult books.

Again, this book has illustrations but I can't find the artist's name anywhere. Credit is given to Beverly Cleary and the show's creators, and the copyright is held by Gomalco Productions.