A Girl from Yamhill: Beverly Cleary Memoir, a review from Di

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A Girl from Yamhill
Beverly Cleary

Harper Collins, October 1, 1996
352 pages

Many of us (of a certain age) remember reading Beverly Cleary books at a young age. This wonderful author is hugely responsible for my love of books and reading. A very astute librarian started me on Ramona and Beezus books when I was about 7. Late 1950s! I read the whole series and then started all over again. And maybe again after that.

I never knew much about this wonderful lady until recently when I discovered that she had written her memoirs. Her book starts way back with her homesteading ancestors making their way west to Oregon. The first few chapters are about this, and honestly, I found it a little boring. I was waiting to hear about Beverly, herself, as a little girl.

And, then it began. Beverly was a very intelligent, opinionated (even at a young age) and stubborn little girl. This is not meant to be negative, this is just who she was. Her family life was not loving or affectionate. It was adequate. I think her parents really did love her but did not know how to express themselves. When Beverly showed and interest in writing while in grade school, her teacher encouraged her. Then, the next year with a different teacher, she was told her writing was too descriptive. So, young Beverly chose to never be overly descriptive again.

At some point, her mother tells her funny writing is best. And, so it was. That fact is evident in this book and the children’s books. The best advice Beverly’s mother gave her, as a teenager was: Never play leapfrog with boys, they might look up.

The book was written in simple language. No flowery words or phrases or descriptions. I loved hearing about Beverly’s childhood and teen years. I love the fact that she nurtured her writing talent from an early age. And, even more, I loved the fact that she decided to write children’s books.

Beverly Cleary was born in 1916 and celebrated her 116 birthday this year. I wish this dear lady all the best. She provided joy in my childhood and set the bar high for reading good books for the rest of my life.

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