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?