Have you ever wanted to know what Beverly Cleary's own childhood was like? Was it anything like that of any of the kids she wrote about so vividly, like Ramona Quimby and Henry Huggins and Ellen Tebbits? Well, this book is your chance to find out!
In fact, bits of Cleary's own childhood, as related here, did make it into her books. Playing "brick factory," getting called a "nuisance" by a teacher, making stilts from tin cans, and other little details like that are here. But Cleary's own childhood was not so carefree and innocent as the ones she wrote about. She grew up during the Great Depression, and her family struggled like most in America in those days. Her mother was something of a cipher, and tried to live vicariously through her teenage daughter. An uncle tried to molest her. Cleary made friends her mother didn't approve of, had to move several times, and gradually discovered she had a talent for writing stories other people wanted to read.
This book follows Cleary from toddlerhood through the end of high school. She published a second volume of memoirs that I suppose picked up where this left off. I might try to read that one, but I didn't particularly love this book, even though it was a fast, engrossing read. I mean, I did enjoy it, but not enough to want to reread it, you know? I'd rather reread one of her fiction books for kids. Though maybe her weird mom would not be in the other memoir so much? She bothered me, to be honest.
Particularly Good Bits:
To this day, I cannot outline fiction. I find that an outline limits the flights of imagination which are the joy of writing. I write and then rewrite, bringing order to the second draft (p. 263).
If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-16. Cleary talks about things like never having sex explained to her, dating a man in his twenties when she was in high school, and her uncle's attempts to molest her -- things that are NOT something I would read to kids, tweens, or younger teens. Don't think this is a book you can read aloud to your kids.
This is the 18th book I've read off my TBR shelves this year for #TheUnreadShelfProject2021.