As long as I can remember, Beverly Cleary has been in my life. When this challenge began, I thought I owned more of her books than I actually did because I’d read them so often. Long before I started shipping fictional people. Beezus and Henry, in my mind, have always been future couple material. Can’t you imagine? They get married out of high school, Henry works at some trade and Beezus might become a teacher. Ribsy will be gone, but they’ll have one or two more dogs to entertain Ramona when she visits.
I have yet to see the movie Ramona and Beezus. To be honest, I’m hesitant to be fed a Hollywood reincarnation, but if Selena Gomez is a pretty good actor by Disney sitcom standards, she could be decent in a film based on a childhood classic. Will the plot be consistent with the book it’s based off of? Given the ages of the main actresses, there must have been a few changes. This is a treat I’ll save for after this summer’s challenge along with Charlotte’s Web and Charlotte’s Web 2.0.
It’s nice to see that the new publications of Beverly Cleary’s novels on Henry, Beezus, and Ramona haven’t changed much. The biggest evidence with this is money. Fifty years ago, $2.50 was a lot of money to a kid and $20 was a lot to an adult.
One thing I’ve always noticed in Cleary’s novels about Henry, Beezus, and Ramona is that even if the whole book has one goal in mind, each chapter is a tale of a specific shenanigan that keeps referring back to the original goal. I’ve also noticed that everything works out in the end.
Although Henry puts up with a lot, his need to acquire a bicycle pushes him to act accordingly in each chapter.
Beezus is no different with her plot, but she has to put up with a lot worse: Ramona. At times, though, it always seemed like Ramona was constantly being told she couldn’t do things. By her sister, mother, and father, she wasn’t supposed to do things because “you aren’t supposed to.” That’s a fine defence. Jelly on mashed potatoes might actually be very good, and Beezus even admits to herself that Ramona is right about the first bite of an apple being the best.
On second thought, never mind. Ramona gets herself into a lot of trouble with barely any punishment except “go to your room until you tell us you can be good.”
Ironically, there’s a pen scratch on the page in which Ramona gets in trouble for coloring on a library book.
The new illustrations for these novels are better than the Louis Darling ones I grew up with (see above picture), but the original style has its charm! Ramona is more endearing in these new illustrations. Of course she’s always a pest, but once Henry and Beezus are grown up, she will have matured at least a little.
Beverly Cleary introduced me to the concept of featuring a repeating world and characters without having to publish them all in one series. Each main character here has his or her own series featuring characters from other series.
I’m certainly not done with reading Beverly Cleary, and perhaps never will be, but I must move on to other books for this challenge. At some point in time in the far future, I will reread Socks!
24 titles down, 28 to go.
Days left: 9.
In Beverly Cleary’s Dear Mr. Henshaw, I came across some advice that made me ponder the validity of how I started writing.
“But I couldn’t make it into a story,” I said, feeling a whole lot braver.
“Who cares?” said Mrs. Badger with a wave of her hand. She’s the kind of person who wears rings on her forefingers. “What do you expect? The ability to write stories comes later, when you have lived longer and have more understanding.”
Here, we see the main character, Leigh, who is determined to become a famous or at least mildly successful author. I’m sure lots of us here empathize with this desire. He constantly writes to one author named Mr. Henshaw, who responds and tells him the best way to learn to write well is to keep a journal. Leigh takes this advice to heart and eventually has the privilege of meeting a successful author after writing a well-liked story for school. He’s ashamed about having written a personal narrative rather than a fictional short story, and the author, Mrs. Badger, tells him what I quoted above.
I don’t necessarily agree with this. While one does write better with age, keeping a journal may not be the best practice for fiction. Journalling allows one to become familiar with descriptions, but these are typically descriptions of the self. Creating a life, a world, and complicated situation takes more than the “Dear Diary, Today I did such-and-such” approach.
Everyone is different with their writing practices and origins, and I understand that. Perhaps my experience is more different than I’d thought. Not counting preschool letter scribbles, I began journalling in first grade simply because I’d won a diary as a prize. I began writing fiction only one year later in one of my old school notebooks, although that notebook had been almost completely filled with copied information on dinosaurs and tigers. I don’t connect my fiction with the diaries I’ve kept since then because the diaries are about feelings and people and all that muck. Fiction has always been so much richer to me.
Leigh’s entry for school was likely more descriptive than I’m letting on. After all, Mrs. Badger liked it! She told him, “I happened to like A Day on Dad’s Rig because it was written by a boy who wrote honestly about something he knew he had strong feelings about. You made me feel what it was like to ride down a steep grade…” Leigh was going to write about a wax man who drove a truck and melted a little every time he made a stop. That I would rather read! It’s both tragic and imaginative—two things many of us want to experience when we read.
The best way to hone your skills at any age are to write descriptions and to write all the time. Whether you’re sending a personal narrative to—I don’t know—a magazine, or developing an alien world, I doubt that a journal can get you to the level of sophistication of where you want to be. Sure, it worked in Dear Mr. Henshaw because it wouldn’t have been much of a story without that development. I could be wrong about my assumptions, though. Everyone is different.
Thoughts, anyone? When did you first begin fiction or journalling?