D.E.A.R. Beverly Cleary


Beverly Cleary, renowned and award-winning children's author, started her career as a librarian who had trouble finding books for her patrons about "kids like them." From that inspiration, she drafted Henry Huggins, her first novel about a regular kid and his new dog. The dog would not be a noble creature that was common in fiction at that time, but a mutt found in the streets that Henry adopts. From there, Cleary found the subject she would always return to:  childhood; and she found her material:  the humor and the emotions of being young, which Cleary detailed vividly without ever venturing into condescension. 

The talent she brought to this scope has impacted the entire course of children's literature in America. The emphasis on finding humor and meaning in the mundane, the willingness to present the pains of youth empathetically without veering into melodrama, the ability to provide something of interest to readers of any age, are all intrinsic to Cleary's work. So many subsequent writers have imitated this style that it no longer even feels entirely like hers, but she was the innovator and the freshness and quality of her novels still hold up to this day. She showed the value in writing about the day-to-day life of her readers; and in so doing, showed them that they had value too. Another titan of children's literature, Judy Blume, wrote on Cleary's death:  "Beverly Cleary! My inspiration. I wanted to write books like yours. I so regret never having met you. You will not be forgotten."

April 12 is a significant date in children's literature for two reasons:  firstly, because Beverly Cleary was born that day in 1916, and secondly, because it was selected (in honor of Cleary) to be National Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R.) day, wherein Cleary's most famous protagonist, Ramona Quimby, is the program's official spokesperson. The practice is even featured in Ramona Quimby, Age 8. This program reminds people of all ages to make reading a priority in their lives. On this day, families are encouraged to drop all distractions and put at least 30 minutes aside to enjoy books together as a family. The National Council of Teachers of English and Reading Rockets both provide resources for how to celebrate this day, and to make literacy fun for children every day.

For multiple generations, Beverly Cleary novels have gotten new readers excited about reading. Children who read Beverly Cleary today are likely to be able to discuss the plots and characters with adults of all ages, as on average many of them had read the books growing up as well. Having characters that you can identify with, enjoy, and talk to others about is paramount to making reading engaging to new readers. Furthermore, Cleary novels reward revisiting as adult readers. The wryness and insight she casts on childhood are easier to appreciate, and the characters, both primary and background, are truly well-rounded and substantive.

Alachua County Library District offers almost all of Beverly Cleary's entire literary canon. Below we have provided summaries and links to the appropriate catalog page. You can read more about Beverly Cleary on our Biography in Context database, or in her two autobiographies. You can also find Readalikes for Beverly Cleary on our NoveList database.


illustration of Ramona Quimby reading a book while sitting on top of the D.E.A.R. acronym

The World of Ramona Quimby

The series concentrates on Ramona from nursery school to 4th grade, touching on social issues such as a parent losing their job, financial instability, the death of a family pet, school bullies, divorce, marriage, sibling relations and experiencing the addition of a new sibling, and more, all of which are set against the backdrop of growing up in middle-class America.

Ramona Quimby books

Beezus and Ramona (1955). Having a little sister like four-year-old Ramona isn’t always easy for Beezus Quimby. With a wild imagination, disregard for order, and an appetite for chaos, Ramona makes it hard for Beezus to be the responsible older sister she knows she ought to be…especially when Ramona threatens to ruin Beezus’s birthday party. Will Beezus find the patience to handle her little sister before Ramona turns her big day into a complete disaster? 

Ramona the Pest (1968). Ramona meets lots of interesting people in kindergarten class, like Davy whom she keeps trying to kiss and Susan whose springy curls seem to ask to be pulled.

Ramona the Brave (1975). In this touching and funny story, the ebullient Ramona, feeling brave and grown-up, enters first grade. Quickly she finds that her new teacher, Mrs. Griggs, appears perplexed by pupils who like to be different. Since Ramona cannot help being different, clearly the two are incompatible. Beverly Cleary draws here a portrait of a little girl discovering with astonishment that the way others see her is not always the way she sees herself. In the contrast lie moments of emerging self-knowledge for Ramona and of delicious hilarity for the reader.

Ramona and Her Father (1977). The family routine is upset during Ramona's year in second grade when her father unexpectedly loses his job.

Ramona and Her Mother (1979). Ramona at 7 1/2 sometimes feels discriminated against by being the youngest in the family.

Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (1981). Ramona likes that she's old enough to be counted on, but must everything depend on her? Mrs. Quimby has gone back to work so that Mr. Quimby can return to school, and Ramona is expected to be good for Mrs. Kemp while her parents are away, to be brave enough to ride the school bus by herself, and to put up with being teased by Danny the Yard Ape. In Ramona's world, being eight isn't easy, but it's never dull!

Ramona Forever (1984). Ramona's year in third grade is highlighted by the arrival of Howie's rich uncle, a change in her after-school situation, a surprise wedding, a death and a new arrival in the family, and her father's getting a job.

Ramona's World (1999). Follows the adventures of nine-year-old Ramona at home with big sister Beezus and baby sister Roberta and at school in Mrs. Meacham's class.

Ramona and Beezus (2010). Movie starring Selena Gomez and Joey King. Ramona is a little girl with a very big imagination and a nose for mischief. Her playful antics keep everyone in her loving family on their toes, including her older sister Beezus, who's just trying to survive her first year of high school. Through all the ups and downs of childhood, Ramona and Beezus learn that anything's possible when you believe in yourself and rely on each other.

The World of Henry Huggins

Henry is an ordinary, young boy who lives on Klickitat Street (along with his neighbor, Ramona Quimby). The books detail his generally comic adventures in the neighborhood and his interactions with his classmates and neighbors. While Henry tries to do well, his dog (named Ribsy) adds a lot of chaos to his life.

Cleary, originally a librarian, wrote the first Henry Huggins book in 1950, in response to the boys in her library searching for books "about boys like us."

Henry Huggins books

Henry Huggins (1950). When Henry adopts Ribsy, a dog of no particular breed, humorous adventures follow.

Henry and Beezus (1952). Well-meaning Henry Huggins would do anything to get the bike of his dreams. But every idea he has keeps falling flat. Selling bubble gum on the playground gets him in trouble with his teacher. There's the paper route, but Henry's dog Ribsy nearly ruins that with his nose for mischief. But it's with the help of his best friend Beezus that there may be a way. After all'with a friend by your side, anything is possible.

Henry and Ribsy (1954). From the first moment Henry found Ribsy, the curious mutt was poking his nose into things he shouldn't be. Whether terrorizing the garbage man, chasing cats, or gobbling Ramona Quimby's ice-cream cone, Henry's four-legged pal has walked himself into one problem too many. So when Henry asks his dad if he can go along on the big fishing trip, Mr. Huggins agrees, but on one condition: Ribsy must stay out of mischief for two whole months. Henry is confident in his loyal dog…until Ribsy goes overboard with his appetite for chaos—literally!

Henry and the Paper Route (1957). All the older kids work their own paper route, but because Henry is not eleven yet, Mr. Capper won't let him. Desperate to change his mind, Henry tries everything he can think of to show he's mature and responsible enough for the job. From offering free kittens to new subscribers, to hauling hundreds of pounds of old newspapers for his school's paper drive, there's nothing Henry won't try. But it might just be the irrepressible Ramona Quimby who shows Mr. Capper just how capable Henry is.

Henry and the Clubhouse (1962). Henry and his friends are building a no-girls-allowed clubhouse. With a private space of their own, and a top-secret password required for entry, the boys are relieved to finally have a hang-out spot they don't have to share. But Henry's about to find out that nothing--not even a sign--will keep gutsy Ramona out of their clubhouse...and her retaliation may just ruin Henry's newspaper career.

Ribsy (1964). Separated from his owner, Henry Huggins, in a shopping center parking lot, an ordinary city dog begins a string of bewildering adventures.

The World of Ralph S. Mouse

Ralph S. Mouse stars in a trilogy of novels. Ralph is a young mouse with the capability to speak to humans, but only with the few people who are similar to him and also a bit lonely. Ralph loves fun and cars, and discovers he is able to ride a toy motorcycle that has been brought to the hotel he lives at. He is adventurous and impulsive, which leads to lots of mini-adventures.

Ralph S. Mouse books

The Mouse and the Motorcycle (1965). A reckless young mouse named Ralph makes friends with a boy in room 215 of the Mountain View Inn and discovers the joys of motorcycling.

Runaway Ralph (1970). With a motorcycle to rev and the open road to see, Ralph S. Mouse is itching to run away from his overprotective family! But once he escapes to a summer campground nearby, the horrors of the wild make him doubt his plan. Angry cats, scary watchdogs, and grouchy gophers are only the half of it... But then he befriends Garf, a sad and friendless boy at the camp. Though he wants desperately to be back home with his relatives, Ralph realizes that he may need to help Garf before he can help himself.

Ralph S. Mouse (1982). Presents the further adventures of a motorcycle-riding mouse who goes to school and becomes the instigator of an investigation of rodents and the peacemaker for two lonely boys.

The First Romance books

Beverly Cleary, while famous for her novels for children, also wrote a series of Young Adult novels (before that was even an established genre). While these novels aren't interconnected, they do overlap thematically with coming-of-age stories about falling in love and the different kinds of problems that brings, as well as how heartbreak can help you to know yourself better and to grow.

First Romance books

Fifteen (1956). It seems too good to be true. The most popular boy in school has asked Jane out—and she's never even dated before. Stan is tall and good-looking, friendly and hard-working—everything Jane ever dreamed of. But is she ready for this? Suppose her parents won't let her go? What if she's nervous and makes a fool of herself? Maybe he'll think she's too young. If only she knew all the clever things to say. If only she were prettier. If only she were ready for this...

The Luckiest Girl (1958). Shelly fells as if she's living in a fantasyland. She's spending the school year in southern California, where flowers bloom in November, oranges grow on trees, and lawns are mowed in winter. When the star of the basketball team smiles at her, Shelly feels as if she's been touch by magic. Now she's about to discover the magic of falling in love! A bittersweet story of first love from one of America's most beloved children's authors.

Jean and Johnny (1959). Fifteen-year-old Jean is astonished when handsome Johnny whirls her around the dance floor. She's never given much thought to boys before; now Johnny is all that's on her mind. Finally she finds the courage to invite him to a dance. But the excitement of a new dress and a scheme to take Johnny's photograph cannot stop Jean's growing uneasiness that she likes Johnny a lot more than he likes her . . .

Emily's Runaway Imagination (1961). Spunky Emily Bartlett lives in an old farmhouse in Pitchfork, Oregon'at a time when automobiles are brand-new inventions and libraries are a luxury few small towns can afford. Her runaway imagination leads her to bleach a horse, hold a very scary sleepover, and feed the hogs an unusual treat. But can she use her lively mind to help bring a library to Pitchfork?

Sister of the Bride (1963). Barbara can hardly believe her older sister is getting married. With all the excitement of wedding plans going on, Barbara can't help dreaming of the day she will be the bride. She can't wait to fall in love. But as the big day gets closer, wedding planning often turns into family arguments. Even the bride and groom are bickering over details, and Barbara's fun-loving sister is turning into a very practical, grown-up person. Weddings are fun, but all this serious stuff is scary enough to make Barbara think she's not going to be rushing into a serious romance any time soon.

Further Reading

Beverly Cleary wrote many books that were not officially part of a series. Stand-alone chapter books, picture books, autobiographies, and even novelizations of a television shows. Click below to see what's on offer.

other novels by Beverly Cleary
  • Ellen Tebbits (1951). Ellen Tebbits has an embarrassing secret that she'll never share with anyone. That is, until she meets Austine—and discovers that Austine has the exact same secret! Soon the girls are best friends who do everything to­gether—attending dance class, riding horses, and dodging pesky Otis Spofford, the neighborhood troublemaker. But then Ellen does something terrible . . . and now Austine isn't speaking to her. Ellen desperately wants her best friend back. How can she show Austine how sorry she is?
  • Otis Spofford (1953). When it comes to stirring up a little excitement in class, Otis Spofford knows just what to do. He can turn a folk dance fiesta into a three-ring circus, or an arithmetic lesson into a spitball marathon. Even his friends George and Stewy can't keep up when it comes to Otis's mischief. Best of all, Otis likes teasing Ellen Tebbits. She's so neat and well-behaved—there's something irresistible about making Ellen mad! But when Otis's teasing goes too far, he feels sorry . . . and then nervous. For now Ellen isn't just mad . . . she's planning something!
  • The Hullabaloo ABC (1960). An alphabet book in which two children demonstrate all the fun that is to be had by making and hearing every kind of noise as they dash about on the farm.
  • Leave It To Beaver (1960). Further adventures of the television characters, re-envisioned with Beverly Cleary's humor and imagination. Not available in our catalog but available through interlibrary loan.
  • Beaver and Wally (1961). Further adventures of the television characters, re-envisioned with Beverly Cleary's humor and imagination. Not available in our catalog but available through interlibrary loan.
  • Here's Beaver! (1961). Further adventures of the television characters, re-envisioned with Beverly Cleary's humor and imagination. Not available in our catalog but available through interlibrary loan.
  • Mitch and Amy (1967). The adventures of a nine-year-old twin brother and sister who, despite constant bickering, support each other loyally at home and at school.
  • Socks (1973). The happy home life of Socks, the cat, is disrupted by the addition of a new baby to the household.
  • Dear Mr. Henshaw (1983). In his letters to his favorite author, ten-year-old Leigh reveals his problems in coping with his parents' divorce, being the new boy in school, and generally finding his own place in the world.
  • A Girl From Yamhill (1988). Follows the popular children's author from her childhood years in Oregon through high school and into young adulthood, highlighting her family life and her growing interest in writing.
  • Muggie Maggie (1990). In this humorous and relatable novel from Newbery Medal-winning author Beverly Cleary, a girl must overcome her rebellious attitude toward learning cursive.
  • Strider (1991). In a series of diary entries, Leigh tells how he comes to terms with his parents' divorce, acquires joint custody of an abandoned dog, and joins the track team at school.
  • Petey's Bedtime Story (1993). During his usual bedtime routine, a young boy comes up with his own version of the story about what happened the day he was born.
  • My Own Two Feet (1995). Follows the popular children's author through college years during the Depression; jobs including that of librarian; marriage; and writing and publication of her first book, "Henry Huggins."
  • Two Times The Fun (2005). Jimmy and Janet, four-year-old twins, share the adventures of digging a hole to China, finding a worthy recipient for their dog biscuits, shopping for new shoes, and getting real beds to replace their cribs.

Please enjoy this video of Beverly Cleary answer a grabbag of fan questions in honor of D.E.A.R. Day.



Descriptions adapted from the publisher.
By LaurelC on April 5, 2024