November Reading Recommendations: Elementary Readers

The Scholastic Holiday Catalog you all received today is designed for all levels and interests, and as a result, it can take a little digging to find those books that are well-suited to readers over the age of five and under the age of ten: complexity without an overabundance of raw emotion, dynamism without the frantic “quick cuts” that sometime predominate popular children’s literature.

In the heart of the catalog, however, there is a true gem: The Beverly Cleary Collection. Beverly Cleary’s work continues to draw children (and their parents) into a world that is simultaneously charming and realistic. Her characters have difficulties, yes, but her books offer a safe landing after any conflict. Cleary recognizes that the emotional journey of childhood isn’t simple, and her works were considered radical at the time of their writing.

In 1950, when Henry Huggins was published, children’s literature was in a post-war aspirational phase of relentless positivity. The vast majority of literature available to children was designed to assure parents, weary from years of war, that childhood could be a walled garden, shielding young ones from the wild swings of feeling and circumstance that had marked the previous decade. What many publishers didn’t understand was the natural emotional whirl of childhood, and the pleasure children find in discovering characters that reflect that.

Cleary, a children’s librarian, heard children longing for the sort of books that she sought when she was young, stories in which characters felt deeply, laughed a little too loudly sometimes, and, most importantly, made mistakes.

Cleary’s books have lasted because she understands her audience. She knows they’re sometimes confused or frightened by the world around them, and that they feel deeply about things that adults can dismiss.
Pat Pflieger, professor of children’s literature at West Chester University

Here’s a glimpse of the changing covers of one of Cleary’s classics, Bezus and Ramona, over the nearly sixty years since its publication. The Beverly Cleary Collection, consisting of thirteen titles, is available this month for 41.99.

 

tmsNovember Reading Recommendations: Elementary Readers