Just Like Beverly: A Biography of Beverly Cleary

Little Bigfoot. Aug. 2019. 48p. chron. photos. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781632172228.
K-Gr 4–Beverly Cleary always loved stories, but she struggled to learn to read and write. This compassionate narrative nonfiction account of Cleary overcoming challenges and following her dreams is full of inspirational messages and connections to her enduring classics. Following this narrative is a more factually detailed recounting of her life written in traditional nonfiction format, including photos and a time line. Though Cleary and readers are separated by nearly a century, many parts of the iconic author’s childhood will resonate with today’s young people: school struggles, the joy of playing with friends, and the importance of kind and supportive adults. Using a style and dynamism reminiscent of Louis Darling’s original drawings in many of Cleary’s books, Hohn’s depiction of the young author looks remarkably like Ramona. The setting of her childhood is fleshed out with details like horse-drawn plows and carts and historically accurate clothing and hairstyles. Observant readers will notice many subtle nods to the books starting on the title page, where Cleary’s legs are seen hanging from a tree branch above evidence of Ramona’s mantra that “the first bite of an apple tastes best.” Many are sure to be won over by the sheer nostalgia factor, but this book also contains a powerful message for young readers and dreamers: “Try! Anyone can talk about writing, but only those who sit down and do it will succeed.”
VERDICT A celebration of Cleary, literacy, and the pursuit of ambitious dreams, this charming picture book will enhance any biography collection

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