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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | Beverly Cleary

Kingfisher Treasuries

unknown-3There was a time—although it seems like it’s becom­ing a tiny dot in the rearview mirror—in which one birth­day child or the oth­er received the birth­day-appro­pri­ate book in the King­fish­er Trea­sury series of Sto­ries for Five/Six/Seven/Eight Year Olds. Those beloved paper­backs reside on my office shelves now, but it was not so long ago that they were opened on the appro­pri­ate birth­day to big smiles—there was some­thing sort of mile­stone-like about receiv­ing them. Near as I can tell from the inter­webs, we’re only miss­ing Sto­ries for Four Year Olds—I just might have to com­plete our col­lec­tion, because I’ve pret­ty well lost myself this morn­ing while look­ing at these books again.

They are hum­ble paperbacks—I don’t believe they were ever pub­lished as hard­backs, let alone with gild­ed pages and embossed cov­ers. But the sto­ries between the col­or­ful cov­ers are of that cal­iber, cer­tain­ly. Cho­sen by Edward and Nan­cy Blishen, these sto­ries are from the likes of Rud­yard Kipling, Bev­er­ly Cleary, Isaac Bashe­vis Singer, Arthur Ran­some, and Astrid Lind­gren. Oth­ers, too—in addi­tion to sev­er­al folk tales retold by the com­pil­ers.

What I loved about these sto­ries when we were read­ing them aloud was that they were from all over the world—many cul­tures and places rep­re­sent­ed. We often were look­ing at the globe after read­ing from these books. Some are tra­di­tion­al sto­ries, some contemporary—an excel­lent mix, real­ly. Short sto­ries for kids—loads bet­ter than the drea­ry ones in grade-spe­cif­ic read­ers.

What my kids loved, curi­ous­ly, was how the illus­tra­tions were tucked into the text. Every page has a clever black and white drawing—something drawn around the story’s title or run­ning along the bot­tom of the page, a char­ac­ter sketch set in the para­graph indent, a crowd scene span­ning the spread between the top and bot­tom para­graphs on both pages, a bor­der of leaves or animals—very detailed, even if small. You don’t see illus­tra­tion place­ment like these much. The books have a unique feel because of them.

unknown-4The illus­tra­tors for each book are dif­fer­ent, but all are won­der­ful, and because every­thing is print­ed sim­ply in black and white and cre­ative­ly spaced on the pages the books look like they go togeth­er. Some of the draw­ings are sweet, cute—some you can imag­ine as fine art. Which is what makes me wish these had been pro­duced in a larg­er hard-back ver­sion with col­or plates, etc.

But the fact is, the paper­back trim size made it easy to slip these in my purse, tuck in the glove com­part­ment, pack for the plane ride, etc. A lot of read­ing hap­pened on the fly dur­ing those ear­ly ele­men­tary years—these books were some of the eas­i­est to car­ry around and pull out at the doctor’s office, the sibling’s game, and the bus stop.

I thought about putting them out in our lit­tle free library in the front yard, but I’ve decid­ed to keep them on my shelf. Maybe tuck one in my purse for when I’m sit­ting out­side the high school wait­ing for my girl, or read­ing out­side the dress­ing room while she tries on clothes. The days are fly­ing by—I’m glad I have books to remem­ber the sweet ear­li­er days, too.

Per­haps I’ll buy anoth­er set to share in the library…..

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Beverly Cleary

Beverly Cleary, 1971

Bev­er­ly Cleary, 1971

For the last month I have been read­ing arti­cles, toasts, essays, and inter­views with one of my favorite authors of all time: Bev­er­ly Cleary. She turned 100 years old this week. Every­thing I read about her makes me misty-eyed—the birth­day plans in her home state of Ore­gon … her mem­o­ries of being in the low­est read­ing group, the Black­birds, in ele­men­tary school … that she writes while bak­ing bread … how she named her char­ac­ters … that she was a “well-behaved girl” but she often thought like Ramona (me, too!!!) … the fan mail she still receives in a steady stream … SIGH.

My sec­ond grade teacher, Mrs. Perkins, read us Ramona the Brave. It was a new book that year—she used it to show us how to open a brand-new book and “break in” the bind­ing so that the pages would turn eas­i­ly. She told us that it was part of a series and I remem­ber being out of sorts that she would start mid-series, but then I was so engrossed in the sto­ry that I dropped my grudge.

Reading Is FundamentalMy ele­men­tary school was a RIF (Read­ing Is Fun­da­men­tal) school. RIF day was eas­i­ly my favorite day of the year. I under­stood that RIF exist­ed to put books in the hands of kids who would not oth­er­wise own books. I had books at home, though many of my class­mates did not, and I was always a lit­tle ner­vous that some­how I would be excluded—what if some­one report­ed my lit­tle book­shelf, or the fact that I received a book every birth­day? What if I was pulled aside—not allowed to go pick a book?! But it nev­er hap­pened. No ques­tions asked—just encour­age­ment to pick a book of my very own. RIF Bliss!

Ramona the PestThat sec­ond-grade-year, when my class went down to the entrance lob­by of the school to vis­it the tables and tables piled with books (this remains my image of abun­dance), the very first book I saw was Ramona the Pest. I knew it had to be relat­ed to Ramona the Brave, and was proud to have the pres­ence of mind—my heart beat hard in the excite­ment of my discovery!—to con­firm that the author’s name, Bev­er­ly Cleary, was list­ed under the title. Mrs. Cleary lived in Ore­gon, Mrs. Perkins said. It was a place so far away from cen­tral Illi­nois that I was sur­prised one of her books could have made its way to our RIF tables. I scooped it up and car­ried it around with me as I perused all of the oth­er books. We were allowed to choose only one book, but none of the oth­ers even came close to tempt­ing me to put down Ramona the Pest.

illustration by Louis Darling

illus­tra­tion by Louis Dar­ling

I’m astound­ed when I look at lists of Bev­er­ly Cleary’s books and their pub­li­ca­tion dates. She start­ed the Ramona series in 1955. My moth­er was nine years old! The last in the series, Ramona’s World, was writ­ten when my son was two, in 1999. And that’s just the Ramona books! What a career! At least three gen­er­a­tions have read and loved Cleary’s books.

I still have that lit­tle trade-paper­back book. It’s well worn—I read it many times as a kid. And I read it to my kids, too, of course. It’s the only Ramona book I own—through all of the cov­er changes and box sets, I’ve just stuck with my one lit­tle RIF book.

I might change that this week, though. I think per­haps I’ll buy myself a boxed set of Ramona and make a dona­tion to RIF in Bev­er­ly Cleary’s hon­or.

Hap­py Birth­day, Bev­er­ly Cleary!

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Skinny Dip with Karen Blumenthal

Matzo ToffeeFavorite hol­i­day tra­di­tion?

Food! I love to bake and hol­i­days are the best excuse for bak­ing! Peach cob­bler for the Fourth of July, apple cake for the Jew­ish hol­i­days, dozens and dozens of cook­ies for friends and fam­i­ly in Decem­ber, and this killer can­dy that we call mat­zo tof­fee at Passover. I make a ton of it for friends and even send some to spe­cial edi­tors. It’s the most addic­tive thing ever and it proves that choco­late makes every­thing bet­ter.

Were you a teacher’s pet or teacher’s chal­lenge?

Most­ly a teacher’s pet. I had poor eye­sight and super-thick glass­es and had to sit up front. But I also have strong opin­ions, so I’m sure I was a chal­lenge as well.

Mexia TexasWhat’s the first book report you ever wrote?

This is embar­rass­ing, but I don’t remem­ber book reports in ele­men­tary school. I remem­ber reports on a town in Texas (I chose Mex­ia, pro­nounced Me-hay-a) and oth­er sub­jects, and even a report on Nixon’s trip to Chi­na, but no book reports. Maybe I blocked them out! We did do them in junior high and I got in trou­ble for choos­ing a 1934 nov­el by John O’Hara that the teacher deemed too old for me.

First BookDo you like to gift wrap presents?

That’s kind of a fun­ny ques­tion. Yes, and no. Here’s why: For the last 12 or 13 years, my fam­i­ly has gift-wrapped books at local book­stores dur­ing the Christ­mas sea­son to raise mon­ey for a lit­er­a­cy orga­ni­za­tion called First Book. Some years, we worked many shifts at sev­er­al book­stores and some years, we worked just a hand­ful of shifts. But near­ly all of those years, we gift-wrapped on Christ­mas Eve, which is a crazy day when all the last-minute or vis­it­ing-from-out-of-town shop­pers come in. By the mid­dle of the sea­son, I could hard­ly bear to wrap our family’s own gifts.

All togeth­er, our wrap­ping raised more than $20,000 for First Book. But we decid­ed 2014 would be our last year. Our daugh­ters, who were 12 and 14 when we start­ed, are now grown and live on oppo­site coasts and we don’t get to spend much time with them.  It was a great expe­ri­ence though, and I’m now an excel­lent wrap­per!

What do you wish you could tell your 10-year-old self?

Hmmm. I enjoyed writ­ing at that age, but was becom­ing self-con­scious about it, and I had classmates—including anoth­er Karen—who were more skilled. Prob­a­bly I would tell her that pas­sion and per­sis­tence are about as impor­tant as any­thing and to keep at it.

ph_dinner_300What 3 children’s book authors or illus­tra­tors or edi­tors would you like to invite to din­ner?

One of the real­ly great things about being an author is that you get to meet oth­er authors, and even have a meal with them. So I’ve got­ten to meet some of my heroes, like Rus­sell Freed­man, Steve Sheinkin, and Susan Bar­to­let­ti.

Oh, this is so hard! Bev­er­ly Cleary, for sure, because she was one of my ear­ly favorites and still is.  J.K. Rowl­ing, because that would be amaz­ing. And maybe John Green, because he’s so cool.

Where’s your favorite place to read?

Any­where! Real­ly! I’ll read just about any­where, though I pre­fer a chair. I read a lot at my break­fast table, but also in a com­fort­able chair in our den, on the bike at the gym, on planes, and when I’m wait­ing for an appoint­ment. 

 

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Fevered Reading

Let me be very clear. I do not ever want my kids to be sick. We’ve had run-o-the-mill child­hood sick­ness and we’ve had seri­ous sickness—I don’t like either kind. I would wish only good health, hap­pi­ness, sun­shine, and lol­lipops for my chil­dren and the chil­dren of the world. And we are for­tu­nate and grate­ful to […]

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Approaching the last day of kindergarten …

Kinder­garten. It’s not pecu­liar to the USA, but the States took up the move­ment toward ear­ly child­hood edu­ca­tion after Friedrich Froebel intro­duced the con­cept in Bad Blanken­burg, Ger­many, on June 28, 1840. “Chil­dren are like tiny flow­ers; they are var­ied and need care, but each is beau­ti­ful alone and glo­ri­ous when seen in the com­mu­ni­ty […]

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The Nature of Humor

I’ve been pon­der­ing the many ques­tions I have about the nature of humor as the Chap­ter & Verse Book Clubs pre­pare to dis­cuss next week the book Fun­ny Busi­ness: Con­ver­sa­tions with Writ­ers of Com­e­dy, com­piled and edit­ed by Leonard S. Mar­cus (Can­dlewick Press). Wher­ev­er we go, teach­ers and librarians—and parents—ask for more fun­ny and light-heart­ed […]

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Monday Morning Roundup

A CLN wel­come to author Cyn­thia Cot­ten, our newest mem­ber. Cyn­dy lives in Vir­ginia. Her books include Rain Play (illus by Java­ka Step­toe, Holt), Abbie in Stitch­es (illus by Beth Peck, FS&G), and Snow Ponies (illus by Jason Cock­croft, Holt). I’m look­ing for­ward to the Ramona and Beezus movie due to release on July 23rd. […]

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A Writing Tip

In Leonard Mar­cus’ inter­view with author Bev­er­ly Cleary, which you’ll find while read­ing one of this month’s Chap­ter & Verse Book Club selec­tions, Fun­ny Busi­ness: Con­ver­sa­tions with Writ­ers of Com­e­dy, she pass­es along a won­der­ful tip for prompt­ing kids (and oth­ers) to write. Q: In the Ramona books, Beezus wor­ries about not hav­ing enough imag­i­na­tion. […]

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