April 12 is the 100th birthday of Beverly Cleary, author of popular children’s books featuring classic characters like sisters Ramona and Beezus, Ralph the mouse, Socks the cat, and many more. Cleary’s stories are so beloved by kids across the world that her book “Ramona Quimby, Age 8” was the inspiration behind D.E.A.R., or “Drop Everything and Read,” a month-long celebration of reading.
Thinking back on our childhood memories of our favorite Beverly Cleary characters gave us a bit of the feels, so we decided to celebrate Cleary’s 100th birthday by remembering our favorite children’s books, starting off with Alicia’s favorite Beverly Cleary book.
So come take a little journey with us, dear readers. Crawl underneath this blanket with us while we shine a flashlight on the stories that lit up our little kid imaginations. Who knows; maybe you’ll catch a few good feels, too.
Alicia’s Pick: “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” by Beverly Cleary
“The Mouse and the Motorcycle” was the first “real” book I read without trouble. As a kid with dyslexia, trying to read was a nightmare, and reading out loud in front of the class induced panic. When I started reading about Ralph the mouse, I fell in love with this little guy and wanted to read more. Ralph the mouse was so much like me. He was the oldest sibling, cautious, curious and always looking for friends. I adored Ralph’s friendship with Keith, a little boy who happens to stay in the hotel Ralph lives in.
I think this book stuck with me for so long because it shows how you can lose something that means a lot to you, but if you do what’s right, you can fix it and even make the situation better. It also shows how if you help your friends, siblings, cousins or parents, they will forgive you. I really took this message to heart and credit it in shaping the way that I interact in my relationships.
Sam’s pick: “The Boxcar Children” by Gertrude Chandler Warner
There was nothing better than coming home from school to a new Boxcar Children book. (“Little House On The Prairie” was a very close second.) As soon as I tossed my backpack on the kitchen floor, I would snag my favorite crocheted blanket from the back of the couch, sneak over to the thermostat and tick it up one tiny notch (I almost always got busted). As soon as the glorious sound of the furnace kicking on came rustling through the vents, I would race to the dining room heat vent and cover myself with my blanket.
Remember the Boxcar Children? Henry, Jessie, Violet and Bennie were orphans who stumbled upon an abandoned train boxcar in the woods, and they did their best to make it into a home — all to avoid their “terrible” grandfather, who conveniently lived down the road. The kids eventually realized grandpa isn’t so bad, especially after he relocated their boxcar into his gardens. Points if you recall Bennie’s favorite cracked pink cup found in the dump, and their dog Watch. The rest of the books find the children solving mysteries, but I never gave up the dream of finding my very own boxcar in the woods to call my own.
Jes’ Pick: “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien
As a kid, I was always hype for the latest fantasy/sci-fi stuff out there, so when the Lord of the Rings movies were first announced, I, of course, went bonkers. My dad, always one to foster my love of reading, bought me the full box set of all the LotR books plus “The Hobbit,” requiring me to read at least “The Fellowship of the Ring” before I saw the movie. I devoured that book, reveling in Tolkien’s richly described fantasy world. The journey across Middle Earth was unlike anything I had ever read up until that point, and it sparked an obsession that has lasted 14 years. To this day, whenever I think of Middle Earth, I feel those butterflies of longing for that fantasy world.
Mika’s Pick: “Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein
I get the feels whenever I think about “Where the Sidewalk Ends.” It’s a book my mom spent countless hours reading to me, doing the voices of all of the characters so each poem took on a life of its own. I remember two in particular: “Santa and the Reindeer” and “Boa Constrictor.” Whenever she read “Santa and the Reindeer,” she did this wonderfully forlorn voice for the reindeer, who, after thousands of years pulling Santa’s sleigh, kept asking Santa, “but what do you have for me?” Mom asked over and over again in that sad reindeer voice until Santa finally reaches into his beard and pulls out a flea. He places it in the reindeer’s ear, who delightfully says (in mom-reindeer voice), “For me? Oh, gee!” I don’t remember much from “Boa Constrictor” except for the ending, when mom made sure to pronounce every syllable of the “upmmmmmmmmmmffffffffff” sound the narrator makes after the boa constrictor, which is eating the narrator starting at his toes, gets to the narrator’s mouth. When I pulled out my copy of the book to refresh myself on these poems, I didn’t even have to look at the table of contents to find them. The spine of the book was so stressed at all of my favorite poems that the book basically opened right to them!
Joe’s Pick: “The Adventures of Captain Underpants” by Dav Pilkey
Dav Pilkey will always be a hero of mine for writing this “epic novel” and all of its many sequels because they inspired so much of my creativity as a child. In case you didn’t know, “The Adventures of Captain Underpants” is the story of two kids name George and Harold who accidentally hypnotize their mean school principal and make him believe that he is the imaginary superhero they write comics about named Captain Underpants. This gets them into all sorts of trouble as all sorts of strange high jinks begin to ensue, including their school being attacked by a bunch of talking toilets, a hoard of evil lunch ladies and a deranged lunatic named Professor Pippy P. Poopypants. I enjoyed these books so much that they made me want to write and illustrate my own similar stories, so I started drawing silly comics featuring my own made up superheroes named Catman and Cool Kid, just like George and Harold do in the books. I still have some of those comics, and whenever I read them, I laugh at how blatantly I ripped off Pilkey’s style, right down to misspelling words that I knew how to spell because George and Harold would always misspell those same words in their comics. I’ll always treasure these stories for inspiring me to create.
What’s your favorite children’s book? Tell us in the comments!