Beverly Cleary: Author Study & Mini Lesson by Lana Iskandarani

The Study of The Author Beverly Cleary

Written by Lana Iskandarani

A Summary of Cleary’s Life:

                On April 12, 1916, Beverly Atlee Bunn (Beverly Cleary) was born in McMinnville, Oregon. Her mom was a teacher and her dad was a farmer. Beverly lived her early childhood on her family’s farm in Yamhill, a small town with no library. Her mother convinced the State Library to send books to Yamhill and acted as librarian for the town, working in a room situated over a local bank. It was there that Beverly found her passion for books. Beverly moved with her family to Portland, Oregon, when she was six and ready for elementary school. In sixth grade, Beverly’s teacher suggested that she become a children’s book writer based on the quality of her written essays for class assignments. This advice would motivate her to write the books she wanted to read but could not find in the library while growing up; the funny storybooks about children similar to her friends and acquaintances .

                In 1940, after obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in English from California University in Berkley (1938)and graduating from the School of Library and Information Science at the University of Washington (1939), Beverly became Mrs. Cleary when she wed Clarence Cleary. After the end of World War II, the couple settled in Carmel, California.  Cleary’s baby twins, Malcolm and Marianne, were born in 1955. Her Husband later passed-away in the year of 2004. Cleary celebrated her 100th birthday on April 12, 2016 in the retirement home she lives.

A Summary of Cleary’s Career:

                After working as a children’s librarian in Yakima Washington and as a post librarian in the US Army hospital in Oakland, California, Cleary decided to be a full time children’s book writer. Her first book was Henry Huggins (1950) and was the first in a series of fictional chapter books about Henry, his dog Ribsy, and his neighborhood friends: Beezus and her little sister Ramona. Cleary’s first book on the Quimby’s Beezus and Ramona was published in 1955.As an author, Cleary has written around forty fiction children and early adult’s books. Her books have been published in over 25 languages and have been recognized for many awards. Cleary has sold more than 91 million copies of her books.

Cleary’s books that I have read:

            Dear Mr. Henshaw: This Newbery Medal-Winning book explores the thoughts and emotions of a sixth-grade boy, Leigh Botts, in letter form as he writes to his favorite writer, Boyd Henshaw.

                After his parents’ divorce, Leigh Botts moves to a new town with his mother. Struggling to make friends and deal with his frustration toward his absent father, Leigh loses himself in a class assignment in which he must write to his favorite author. When Mr. Henshaw responds, the two develop an unlikely friendship that will change Leigh’s life forever.

                Ramona Quimby, Age 8: In this Newbery Honor Book, Beverly Cleary fondly records Ramona’s experiences.

                Ramona is happy to be counted on because she is eight years old, but doesn’t enjoy having too many responsibilities. Mrs. Quimby embarks on a full time job to allow Mr. Quimby to return to school. Due to the circumstances, Ramona has to stay with Mrs. Kemp while her parents are away and takes care of Willa Jean. She has to be responsible and brave enough to ride the school bus by herself and deal with what is going on with her in the school. Ramona feels that being eight is not easy, but it is never boring!

                Henry and Beezus: This book was written and published in the 1952.  Henry Huggins comes up with many ways to earn money for the new red bicycle he wants, but they all appear to wind up with him in an altercation. Finally, his friend Beezus gives him an idea that actually works.

                Ramona the Pest: This book is the first book written by Cleary which focuses on Ramona Quimby as the main character. Ramona is very excited to be starting kindergarten. Although Ramona does not mean to be a pest, she still manages to create trouble without trying to. She loves her teacher, but is convinced her teacher doesn’t like her until she gets a letter from her signed “Love and kisses”.

Some of Cleary’s strategies I have found :

                Writing from the perspective of a character is one of the literary strategies this author uses in her writing.  For example, in Dear Mr. Henshaw, Cleary used the voice of Leigh to express the feelings of kids after their parents’ separation. A part of Leigh’s answer to Mr. Henshaw’s question “what bothers you?” is, “I am bothered when my dad telephones me and finishes by saying ‘Well, keep your nose clean kid.’ Why can’t he says he misses me, and why can’t he call me Leigh? I am bothered when he doesn’t call at all which is most of the time.” (pg. 28)

                My sample of writing is about an issue Syrian immigrant kids and parents might be annoyed with when they come to America. it is about the differences between cultures. I wrote it from the perspectives of my daughter Laila and mine:

                 “Oh Mom, why can’t I sleep over at Kate’s house? She invited me over for her sleep over birthday party, and all the girls in our class are going.” Laila said.

                “You can’t do it because Syrian girls can’t sleep over at strangers’ homes. That’s our rule,” Laila’s Mom replied. Upon hearing this, Laila inevitably becomes upset.

                Cleary decided to write funny stories about her neighborhood friends when she was a kid. She has been able to do it successfully. Writing with concrete language for concrete physical humor was one of the strategies Cleary used in Ramona Quimby, Age 8.” She took a firm hold on her egg, waited until everyone at her table was watching, and whack—she found herself with a hand full of crumbled shell and something cool and slimy running down her face.” ( pg. 60). Writing with this strategy is easy to understand for elementary school students.

                Writing with humor is not easy and I don’t think everyone is capable of doing it effectively and comfortably. So, I am not sure if I would be able to write with humor, using the concrete language strategy might help me. A scene still makes me laugh since the year of 2004 when I watched my kids acting for a movie they made with their neighborhood friend. My writing would be “Khaled dressed as a king and wore a very large robe; he had to fight an intruding dragon coming into his castle. The king was very clumsy and kept tripping and falling over his robe during the battle. It was quite funny and the king came out with a victory.”

                Cleary always uses small words to say big things. Writing good things doesn’t always need big vocabulary. I can name this strategy using small words with big meanings. In Henry and Beezus, Cleary describes the character of Scooter by using a few simple words asbig show-off” (pg. 5). The same is with Mary Jane when Henry called her ” tattletale!” (pg. 69). By reading these words the reader will understand who the characters are and their behaviors.

                For my writing I would use small words, like fishy instead of suspicious, or snoopy instead of inquisitive. I would say “I looked out the window to enjoy the spring and was shocked when I found our snoopy neighbor in the backyard looking at our walkout basement’s construction.”

                Using homonyms is another technique Cleary uses in her writing.  It is a great technique to teach kids the meanings of vocabularies and how to use them. In Ramona the Pest, the author used the word present to clarify the two different meanings of it. On page 9, Cleary wrote ” Then she took Ramona by the hand and led her to one of the little tables and chairs. “Sit here for the present,” she said with a smile. “A present!” thought Ramona, and knew at once she was going to like Miss Binney.” Ramona was thinking about the present she will get from the teacher until she found out on page 23 that for the present means for now.

                If I am writing a kids’ book, I would use the word fly to clarify the meanings of it. I would say “The chicken I have in my farm can fly, but not as fast and not as high as a fly.”.

                Finally, as an adult, reading Beverly Cleary’s books was very enjoyable to me, as it was relaxing with so many comedic moments.

Work Cited For Beverly Cleary Life and Career

Beverly Cleary. (2017, March 22). Retrieved March 22, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beverly_Cleary#Early_life

The World of Beverly Cleary. (n.d.). Retrieved March 22, 2017, from http://beverlycleary.com/about.aspx

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Mini Lesson Plan for The Craft of Writing From the Perspective of a Character

Studying the Writing of Beverly Cleary

Introduction/Hook:

                A PowerPoint will be shared with the students. It will include the learning objectives of the lesson, an example of Cleary’s writing, when and why writers should use the craft, and some more examples of Beverly Cleary’s and other writers’, including mine, to explain the craft. After that, students will be asked to give any examples of the craft that they remember from their previous readings of Beverly Cleary books.

Learning Objectives:

1- The students will be able to understand Beverly Cleary’s craft of writing from the perspective of the characters.

2- The students will be able to use the technique of writing from the perspective of the characters in their writing.

Examples of Beverly Cleary’s  writing from the perspective of her characters:

                Beverly Cleary wrote Dear Mr. Henshaw from the perspective of Leigh Marcus Botts to express the feelings of kids after their parents’ separation. A part of Leigh’s answer to Mr. Henshaw’s question, “What bothers you?”, was ” I am bothered when my dad telephones me and finishes by saying ‘Well, keep your nose clean kid.’ Why can’t he say he misses me, and why can’t he call me Leigh? I am bothered when he doesn’t call at all which is most of the time.”

                Beverly Cleary has chosen to write from the perspective of the character Leigh to express the real emotions that many children experience, but she does it in a way that is not overemotional. Cleary makes the reader think from the point of view of the character.

When and why writers should write from the perspective of a character:

                Authors Write from the perspective of a character when they use first- person and deep-third person point of views. This craft helps the reader see the story’s events from the body, the mind, and the heart of the character.  It also helps us see the character going through the events. By writing from the perspective of the character, readers don’t feel they are reading or watching but they are experiencing.

Some other examples of writing from the perspective of characters:

                In Ramona Quimby, Age 8, Beverly Cleary wrote describing Ramona feelings, thoughts, and desires “Ramona remained silent. She felt mean and unhappy because she wanted to forgive her mother, but something in that dark, deep-down place inside her wouldn’t let her” (pg. 65)

                Lois Lowry, in Number The Stars, wrote from the perspective of Annemarie “Annemarie squinted, forcing her eyes to understand, needing to understand, not wanting to understand.

                The shape moved. And she knew. It was her mother, lying on the earth.” (pg. 99)

                My sample of writing is about an issue Syrian immigrant kids and parents might be annoyed with when they come to America. it is about the differences between cultures. I wrote it from the perspectives of my daughter Laila and mine:

                 “Oh Mom, why can’t I sleep over at Kate’s house? She invited me over for her sleep over birthday party, and all the girls in our class are going.” Laila said.

                “You can’t do it because Syrian girls can’t sleep over at strangers’ homes. That’s our rule,” Laila’s Mom replied. Upon hearing this, Laila inevitably becomes upset.

Discussion Prompt:

                I will ask the students two questions:

1- How can you make the readers live the experience while they are reading your stories?

2- In what way will you use the technique of writing from the perspective of the characters?

                And then, I will say: students; I will divide you into pairs. You need to write your short stories from the perspective of your character, share your writing with your partner to read it. After reading your partner’s story, give your feedback on what you read. In the end of the class, I will collect your papers to read them and give you my feedback.

Facilitating the activity:

                To encourage my students to write and share their writing, I would be the first to share my writing. While split into pairs, I will roam around the classroom checking on the students; asking them about their progress and initiating conversation if I see that a pair seems hesitant about giving a feedback. I will also answer any questions and give help if a student needs help with vocabulary or sentence structure.

Link:

                Writing from the perspective of the characters will make the readers enjoy your story. They will feel like they live the experience more than just reading it. Give it another try and share it with your classmates.

 

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