You’ve most likely laughed at the troublemaking stray dog, Ribsy, and his hopeful owner, Henry. You’ve cheered the spitfire spirit of Ramona Quimby and rolled your eyes at her sister, Beezus. Beverly Cleary, the creator of these characters and author of three generations’ worth of beloved children’s books, passed away on March 25, 2021, at the amazing age of 104 years-old.
Cleary won young readers (and their parents) over with her witty and tender writing, perfectly encapsulating the big emotions and challenges of childhood. She wrote over 40 books in 50 years, winning almost every honor a children’s book author could win along the way. Though her most famous series (Henry Huggins and Ramona Quimby) should not be missed, there are some hidden treasures within her extensive collection that are just as essential. Basically, you’ve heard of Ramona, but do you know about a cat named Socks?
Here are eight overlooked Cleary books we think deserve classic status too.
8. Emily’s Runaway Imagination (2008)
One little girl must use her incredible imagination to help her rural town raise funds for its very first library. Set in the 1920s, this book has a nice change of scenery from Cleary’s usual books and is equally heartwarming and funny.
7. Dear Mr. Henshaw (2000)
A young boy writes to his favorite author, Mr. Henshaw, for a school letter-writing program. He confides in the author about his parent’s divorce, bullying, and his own insecurities. Cleary covers sensitive issues in a clear and relatable way that any child can find solace in.
6. The Hullabaloo ABC (1960)
This is definitely not your everyday alphabet book– it explores letters through the lens of funny sounds and sights around the farm. Get ready to read this book again and again, especially with younger children who are not quite ready for Ramona.
5. The Mouse & the Motorcycle (1965)
A young mouse in a motel gets the chance to live the life of speed and adventure he’s always dreamed of when a young boy rents a room with his family– and brings his toy motorcycle with him. Better get the hardcover version of this if you can– these pages will quickly wear from repeated use.
4. A Girl from Yamhill (1988)
Cleary's first memoir demonstrates that great non-fiction can be for kids, too.
3. Jean and Johnny (1959)
This is an excellent book for adolescent readers who are starting to think about dating– one important takeaway from Jean and Johnny is that not every relationship is meant to last forever.
2. Two Times the Fun (2005)
A collection of four short stories about an oh-so-different set of twins, Jimmy and Janet, who argue over just about everything. These books perfectly capture the love/hate relationship of siblings.
1. Socks (1973)
The family cat, Socks, is living the good life with plenty of attention, lap space, and treats. But when a new baby arrives, he has to adjust to some major changes. A sweet and funny Cleary book that’s especially great for any kid who’s about to become a big brother or sister.