Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Girl from Yamhill, and My Own Two Feet

A Girl From Yamhill
My Own Two Feet
two autobiographies by Beverly Cleary
My own introduction to Beverly Cleary was in the mid-50's at perhaps age 9 or 10, when at a weekly visit to the Emerson Stone Branch Library I came across Henry Huggins. I became an immediate fan and went back looking for more from this author. I read the few available Beverly Cleary books in our little library and re-read them from time to time.

When my friend passed these two autobiographies (published in 1988 and 1995, respectively) to me to read, I was not sure I was interested (and I wondered why two autobiographies). I did enjoy them, however. A Girl from Yamhill takes Beverly from her earliest memories only to junior high school. My Own Two Feet picks up from there, taking you through public school, the Depression, college, marriage, World War II, and finally the publication of her first book.

As you read of her life, you soon realize that her children's books are so successful because her stories come from real life experiences.

Beverly was an only child, born in 1919 and still living today. She was well cared for despite many financial struggles her family faced. She recalls a happy childhood filled with fun and adventure that kids are bound to find when left to their own devices. Her parents were not restrictive in her younger years while they lived on a large farm in Yamhill. Beverly enjoyed less freedom after they moved to Portland when the farm could no longer support them during the Depression. As Beverly grew older, her mother become more and more possessive and even jealous of her daughter's youth and friends and fun, but Beverly rarely rebelled until college age. Beverly was always eager to leave home and become independent, and in college studied to be a professional librarian. At an early age she discovered a desire to write, and found she had a knack for storytelling, especially to children. She was offended when teachers asked her if her stories were original, thinking a young girl could not have written so well. She was in her late 20s before she finally sat down and started her first novel, Henry Huggins.

If you are a fan of Beverly Cleary books, you will enjoy both of these well-written books, which also include pages of photographs of Beverly and the people in her life during those growing up years.

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