Today marks the 100th birthday of the children’s book author, and over 60 years of her witty, day dreaming, and wholly relatable characters. Cleary’s work spanned generations, and whether you, your parents, or your little niece read her novels, Cleary has become a household name synonymous with classic reads like Beezus and Ramona, Henry Huggins, and so many others.
While Cleary plans to spend the day kicked back at her home in Carmel – with a giant slice of carrot cake, according to CNN – we’re planning to indulge in our own sweet favorites, staff-picked from the massive library of Beverly Cleary books. That being said, these could all probably be enhanced by a slice of carrot cake. We might add the extra indulgence to our day too!
Cleary had a knack for bringing us a vast variety of protagonists – the goody-good, the adventurer, the misguided, and of course the pesty trouble maker. Enter Ramona Quimby, the four year old revved up and ready to begin kindergarten where she can finally join her sister, Beezus, on the bus to school. But once there, Ramona is scolded for pulling a girl’s hair, rejected and left blushing by her crush, and left trying desperately to heed her sister’s advice: stop being a pest.
In a narrative move from Ramona the Pest, Beezus and Ramona tells the story of the sibling duo from the perspective of nine-year-old Beezus, as she does her best to get along with four year old Ramona. It’s hard to not get frustrated with the imaginative theatrics and annoyances of a little sister, but even if Beezus can’t always like Ramona, she’ll always love her crazy little sister.
Shifting gears from a world of siblings, school, and growing up, Cleary also devoted much of her career to Ralph the mouse. In the first novel of the series, The Mouse and the Motorcycle introduces us to Ralph and his daredevil obsession with a red toy bike. But the wild rides on his new motorcycle comes with obstacles, including pets, people, and all the other mice begging to take his bike for a spin.
In the second novel in the Ralph series, our mouse protagonist sets out for the open road, where new obstacles and adventures await. Free of his home and out beyond the surrounding campground, Ralph meets a friendless boy named Garf. Ralph befriends the boy and devotes himself to helping Garf, despite his growing homesickness and an itch to return to his family.
The trilogy comes to an end with Ralph S. Mouse, who is now headed off to school to see what learning is all about. Accompanied by his friend Ryan, a boy who attends school, Ralph is whisked off into the world of academia in order to save himself from the threat of extermination back at the camp grounds. Safe at school, Ralph’s mind begins to expand and grow, leading him to finally discover the meaning of his middle initial.
Henry Huggins is the book that started it all, Cleary’s very first novel, and the launch of a career spanning more than half a century. The debut book follows protagonist Henry, whose life is turned upside down when he meets Ribsy, his loving canine companion and co-protagonist in Henry and Ribsy. From the moment Ribsy intrusively licks Henry’s ice cream cone right out of his hand, the friendship is a match made in heaven. But when Ribsy’s owner returns looking for his pet, Henry fears me might forever lose his new found best friend.
There’s no more classic tale than that of a boy and his dog. In this story we meet Henry Huggins and his curious mutt, Ribsy, as they set out on adventure after adventure – and with each adventure, trouble after trouble. The duo mix with characters from other books, like Ramona and Beezus, bringing Cleary’s fictional world full circle into a community of characters.
Socks takes us into the world of the Bricker family cat. Socks is an exceptionally pampered kitty, with treats abound and never without a cozy lap to nap on. But when the Bricker family announces there’s a baby on the way, Socks begins to fear his privileged life may soon be a thing of the past. When baby Charles arrives, Socks begins to feel left out, causing him to act out in rebellion and forget just how much the Bricker family loves him.
We hope this list helps you get started on your own celebrations. Our tops picks only begin to scratch the surface of Cleary’s massive literary contribution. Her collective works offer an endless supply of children’s stories, laughs, and insights beyond the scope of several books, and we encourage all Cleary lovers to dig deeper, find your favorite, and share it with us in the comments!