I don't know a single person who doesn't love a great children's book. Whether it's diving into the world of monsters and imagination with Maurice Sendak or reading about how kids can change the world with Roald Dahl, everyone loves them. Despite some of the classics being over 50 years old, children's books also seem to stand the test of time, and that's no clearer than when you read through some favorite Beverly Cleary books.
Beverly Cleary's name has been synonymous with growing pains since her first book, Henry Huggins, was published in 1950. That's 68 years of children falling in love with her books, feeling as if they were truly heard, and believing her when her characters turned out alright, despite annoying sisters, parents who lose their jobs, and divorce. Because that's the thing about Cleary's work — she writes in a way that children can relate to. Everyone loves a good fantasy or adventure novel about a boy with magical powers, but to read a story about a kid just like you, one who's struggling in school or one who misses their dad, is real magic. In fact, Cleary's career launched when she was working as a librarian and had a young patron tell her that there weren't any books for "kids like us." She set out to write just those books.
And today, on her 102nd birthday, kids are still falling in love with Cleary's books. It doesn't matter how style has changed or how tablets have taken the place of jacks or how kids can't just ride their bicycles into town anymore — kids are still the same. "In 50 years, the world has changed, especially for kids, but kids' needs haven't changed," Cleary said. Her books are still relatable, they are still needed, and more than ever, they need to be lining your kids' shelves. So here are nine Beverly Cleary books that have clearly stood the test of time.
1. 'Beezus And Ramona'
If there's one thing that's still relevant to kids no matter what year it is, it's having a sibling. In Beezus and Ramona, the first in a long line of books following these sisters' antics, Beezus has to learn how to deal with 4-year-old Ramona and all the energy she seems to need. From her overactive imagination to the worry that she'll ruin Beezus' birthday, it's a lot for a big sister to handle and Cleary writes it up beautifully.
2. 'Dear Mr. Henshaw'
Divorce has always been an issue that affects kids and in Dear Mr. Henshaw, Cleary manages to create a character that every child struggling with separated parents can feel inside themselves. In this particular story, the main character, Leigh, writes to his favorite author while dealing with his parents' divorce and manages to create a friendship, helping him to navigate and heal.
3. 'Henry Huggins'
Henry Huggins was Cleary's first book, and knowing that she was inspired by a little boy asking her where the books with "kids like us" were, she totally nailed it. The story is all about a "normal" ordinary kid who's life is flipped when he meets the world's sweetest puppy, Ribsy. Ribsy's pretty mischievous though and takes Henry's so-called boring life and ups the ante in some big ways.
4. 'Ramona Quimby, Age 8'
Switching the sister perspective, Ramona Quimby, Age 8, is all about Beezus' younger sister. But now she's four years older and has a lot to handle in her daily 8-year-old life. From dealing with new babysitters as her mom goes back to work and big changes as her dad goes back to school, Ramona has to find her spot in the family — and her responsibilities, too.
5. 'Muggie Maggie'
Oh Muggie Maggie. For some kids, their rebellious attitude can make them spite themselves just to prove a point and that's almost what happens to Maggie. When she refuses to write in cursive, everyone is on her about doing it, but it's not until she gets to be the class messenger that she wants to actually read what everyone's writing — in cursive.
6. 'Sister Of The Bride'
For a little bit of an older audience, there's Sister of the Bride. In this classic novel, Barbara is pretty overwhelmed with her older sister's wedding planning. From family arguments to Barbara wondering if she'll ever find love, there's a lot to unpack. It's the perfect story of sisterhood, family, and how scary big changes can be, no matter how happy they are.
7. 'The Real Hole'
For a younger group of readers, The Real Hole is a great choice. 4-year-old twins Janet and Jimmy are pretty different; Janet loves make believe and Jimmy loves "real" things. So when Jimmy sets out to dig a giant hole in his family's backyard, the two have to figure out exactly what to do with it. It's a sweet story that perfectly captures that in-between stage of being a toddler and being a big kid.
8. 'Ramona The Brave'
Another Ramona book, I know. But trust me on this. In Ramona the Brave, Ramona is heading into first grade and learning to be brave about a lot of things — the dog who follows her home, a tattletale in her class, a teacher she doesn't get. But in true Ramona fashion, she won't make it easy on herself, which is relatable all on its own.
Let's be honest here, 15 is a loaded age. And no one writes it up better than Cleary. In Fifteen, Jane is experiencing her first crush which, of course, brings up all the feelings. Will her parents let her go on a date? What if her date thinks she's too young? What if she's not pretty enough? Every grown woman has been there and now every teen can relate to it with Cleary's novel.
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