Monday, December 26, 2016

Beverly Clearly still rules YA fiction

RE-PRINT: Mazenglish, 2012

If you want to kick start a love of reading among young children, you can still do what parents, teachers, and librarians have been doing for sixty-two years now - hand the kids a copy of anything by Beverly Cleary.  The young adult/junior fiction raconteur has been weaving entertaining and readable stories for children for decades, and her stories still ring true with young people.  For narrative content to remain fresh and engaging for decades, it has to be something truly magical.  And magical - with deference to JK Rowling - is what Beverly Clearly has been for a long, long time.

My two children are ages seven and ten, and both are avid readers who are as entertained with the stories of Henry Huggins, Beezus and Ramona, Ellen Tebbits, and more as I was thirty-five years ago.  In fact, I am still amazed and amused by the staying power of these stories of children who lived in a truly different era.  How can such simple stories of growing up in an era before pop culture and technological explosion still resonate?  It's because they are stories of the "human condition" which makes them nearly timeless.  Cleary has said she sought to write the types of stories that she would want to read if she were scanning the library shelves.  And in her words, they were simply "funny stories about her neighborhood and the sort of children she knew."

If you are an educator - or a parent with an educational interest - Beverly Cleary's website is a great resource for ideas about how to use her books in the classroom.  Beyond that, the entire site can be a fun and safe source of online information for kids who are fans of the books.  Beverly Cleary's books represent childhood in all its splendor - from the struggle and uncertainty of coming of age to the magic and joy in simply being a child.

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