My Own Two Feet

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Overview

The New Yorker called Beverly Cleary's first volume of memoirs, A Girl From Yamhill, a warm, honest book, as interesting as any novel. Now the creator of the classic children's stories millions grew up with continues her own fascination story. Here is Beverly Cleary, from college years to the publication of her first book. It is a fascinating look at her life and a writing career that spans three generations, continuing to capture the hearts and imaginations of children of all ...

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My Own Two Feet

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Overview

The New Yorker called Beverly Cleary's first volume of memoirs, A Girl From Yamhill, a warm, honest book, as interesting as any novel. Now the creator of the classic children's stories millions grew up with continues her own fascination story. Here is Beverly Cleary, from college years to the publication of her first book. It is a fascinating look at her life and a writing career that spans three generations, continuing to capture the hearts and imaginations of children of all ages throughout the world.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780380727469
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/28/1996
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 590,233
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 1110L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Beverly Cleary

Beverly Cleary is one of America's most popular authors. Born in McMinnville, Oregon, she lived on a farm in Yamhill until she was six and then moved to Portland. After college, as the children's librarian in Yakima, Washington, she was challenged to find stories for non-readers. She wrote her first book, Henry Huggins, inresponse to a boy's question, "Where are the books about kids like us?"

Mrs. Cleary's books have earned her many prestigious awards, including the Amercan Library Association's Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, presented in recognition of her lasting contribution to children's literature.

Her Dear Mr. Henshaw was awarded the 1984 John Newbery Medal, and both Ramona Quimby, Age 8 and Ramona and Her Father have been named Newbery Honor Books. In addition, her books have won more than thirty-five statewide awards based on the votes of her young readers. Her characters, including Henry Huggins, Ellen Tebbits, Otis Spofford, and Beezus and Ramona Quimby, as well as Ribsy, Socks, and Ralph S. Mouse, have delighted children for generations. Mrs. Cleary lives in coastal California.

Biography

Beverly Cleary was inadvertently doing market research for her books before she wrote them, as a young children’s librarian in Yakima, Washington. Cleary heard a lot about what kids were and weren’t responding to in literature, and she thought of her library patrons when she later sat down to write her first book.

Henry Huggins, published in 1950, was an effort to represent kids like the ones in Yakima and like the ones in her childhood neighborhood in Oregon. The bunch from Klickitat Street live in modest houses in a quiet neighborhood, but they’re busy: busy with rambunctious dogs (one Ribsy, to be precise), paper routes, robot building, school, bicycle acquisitions, and other projects. Cleary was particularly sensitive to the boys from her library days who complained that they could find nothing of interest to read – and Ralph and the Motorcycle was inspired by her son, who in fourth grade said he wanted to read about motorcycles. Fifteen years after her Henry books, Cleary would concoct the delightful story of a boy who teaches Ralph to ride his red toy motorcycle.

Cleary’s best known character, however, is a girl: Ramona Quimby, the sometimes difficult but always entertaining little sister whom Cleary follows from kindergarten to fourth grade in a series of books. Ramona is a Henry Huggins neighbor who, with her sister, got her first proper introduction in Beezus and Ramona, adding a dimension of sibling dynamics to the adventures on Klickitat Street. Cleary’s stories, so simple and so true, deftly portrayed the exasperation and exuberance of being a kid. Finally, an author seemed to understand perfectly about bossy/pesty siblings, unfair teachers, playmate politics, the joys of clubhouses and the perils of sub-mattress monsters.

Cleary is one of the rare children’s authors who has been able to engage both boys and girls on their own terms, mostly through either Henry Huggins or Ramona and Beezus. She has not limited herself to those characters, though. In 1983, she won the Newbery Medal with Dear Mr. Henshaw, the story of a boy coping with his parents’ divorce, as told through his journal entries and correspondence with his favorite author. She has also written a few books for older girls (Fifteen, The Luckiest Girl, Sister of the Bride, and Jean and Johnny) mostly focusing on first love and family relationships. A set of books for beginning readers stars four-year-old twins Jimmy and Janet.

Some of Cleary’s books – particularly her titles for young adults – may seem somewhat alien to kids whose daily lives don’t feature soda fountains, bottles of ink, or even learning cursive. Still, the author’s stories and characters stand the test of time; and she nails the basic concerns of childhood and adolescence. Her books (particularly the more modern Ramona series, which touches on the repercussions of a father’s job loss and a mother’s return to work) remain relevant classics.

Cleary has said in an essay that she wrote her two autobiographical books, A Girl from Yamhill and My Own Two Feet, "because I wanted to tell young readers what life was like in safer, simpler, less-prosperous times, so different from today." She has conveyed that safer, simpler era -- still fraught with its own timeless concerns -- to children in her fiction as well, more than half a century after her first books were released.

Good To Know

Word processing is not Cleary's style. She writes, "I write in longhand on yellow legal pads. Some pages turn out right the first time (hooray!), some pages I revise once or twice and some I revise half-a-dozen times. I then attack my enemy the typewriter and produce a badly typed manuscript which I take to a typist whose fingers somehow hit the right keys. No, I do not use a computer. Everybody asks."

Cleary usually starts her books on January 2.

Up until she was six, Cleary lived in Yamhill, Oregon -- a town so small it had no library. Cleary's mother took up the job of librarian, asking for books to be sent from the state branch and lending them out from a lodge room over a bank. It was, Clearly remembers, "a dingy room filled with shabby leather-covered chairs and smelling of stale cigar smoke. The books were shelved in a donated china cabinet. It was there I made the most magical discovery: There were books written especially for children!"

Cleary authored a series of tie-in books in the early 1960s for classic TV show Leave It to Beaver.

Cleary's books appear in over 20 countries in 14 languages.

Cleary's book The Luckiest Girl is based in part on her own young adulthood, when a cousin of her mother's offered to take Beverly for the summer and have her attend Chaffey Junior College in Ontario, California. Cleary went from there to the University of California at Berkeley.

The actress Sarah Polley got her start playing Ramona in the late ‘80s TV series. Says Cleary in a Q & A on her web site: “I won’t let go of the rights for television productions unless I have script approval. There have been companies that have wanted the movie rights to Ramona, but they won’t let me have script approval, and so I say no. I did have script approval for the television productions of the Ramona series…. I thought Sarah Polley was a good little actress, a real little professional.”

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    1. Also Known As:
      Beverly Atlee Bunn (birth name)
    2. Hometown:
      Carmel, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      April 12, 1916
    2. Place of Birth:
      McMinnville, Oregon
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of California-Berkeley, 1938; B.A. in librarianship, University of Washington (Seattle), 1939

Read an Excerpt

My Own Two Feet

Chapter One

Bus Trip to a New Life

The three of us, Mother, Dad, and I, stood on the sidewalk outside the Greyhound bus station in Portland, Oregon, searching for words we could not find or holding back words we could not speak. The sun, bronze from the smoke of September forest fires, cast an illusory light. Nothing seemed real, but it was. I was leaving, actually leaving, for California, the Golden State, land of poppies, big red geraniums, trees heavy with oranges, palm trees beneath cloudless skies, and best of all, no Depression. I had seen it all on postcards and in the movies, and so had the rest of my class at Grant High School. California was the goal of many. John Steinbeck had not yet, in 1934, revised our thinking.

And now I was one of the lucky ones going to this glorious place where people made movies all day and danced the night away. I was escaping the clatter of typewriters in business school and going instead to college. As I stood there in the smoky light in my neat navy blue dress, which Mother had measured a fashionable twelve inches from the floor when I made it, and with a five-dollar bill given to me by my father for emergencies rolled in my stocking, I tried to hide my elation from my parents.

Dad, I know, was sad to see his only child leave home, but the decision had been his. He had thoughtfully smoked his pipe for several evenings, mulling over the unexpected letter from Mother's cousin Verna Clapp inviting me to spend the winter with her family in Ontario in Southern California. I could attend tuition free Chaffey Junior College, where she was the librarian.

Mother had dismissedthe letter, saying, "Isn't that just like Verna, so impractical." The Depression had made Oregonians relentlessly practical. Dad, however, did not dismiss the letter. Finally, after he rapped his pipe against his ashtray, he said, "Beverly is going." Dad, a quiet man, had watched tension build between Mother and me as I resisted her struggles to mold me into her ideal of a perfect daughter. He had also observed my increasing unhappiness over an obsessive young man I shall call Gerhart, six years older than I, whom I had come to dislike but who was unshakable because Mother encouraged him. "Now, you be nice to Gerhart," Mother often said. "He's a good boy, and he's lonely." Mother longed to have me popular with boys. Although I liked boys and was friendly with them at school, I was not concerned with popularity. As the months wore on, I wasn't at all nice to Gerhart. I was horrid.

At first Mother thought Dad's pronouncement was preposterous-a young girl traveling all that distance alone, she couldn't think of such a thing. Even though I was eighteen, Mother always referred to me as a young girl. Eventually she relented. She was anxious for me somehow to go to college so I would have a profession to fall back on. "We can't leave you a lot of money," she often said, "but we want to leave you prepared to take care of yourself and any children you might have. Widows so often have to run boardinghouses."

Now, beside the Greyhound bus, Mother fretted. Fearful dangers lurked in California: earthquakes, infantile paralysis, evil strangers. Heaven only knew what might happen to a young, inexperienced girl. "If she doesn't have any sense now, she never will have," my father said.

"Maybe we should have packed your galoshes," fussed Mother. "It must rain down there sometime."

Because Dad was present, I did not say, "Oh, Mother." Instead I said, "I might not need them," and then, to soothe her, "and you can always mail them if I do." I had no intention of wearing galoshes in California, not ever, no matter how much it rained, if it ever did rain. Postcards did not show rain in California, and the only rain in movies seemed to be raging storms at sea with sails ripping, masts broken, and sailors washed overboard.

What I really wanted at that moment was to tell my father how grateful I was to him for insisting I should leave, but I could not, not in front of Mother, who worked so hard, who made such sacrifices for me. The Greyhound driver, jaunty in his uniform, bounded out of the station and onto the bus. "Well, I guess I'd better get on," I said. Beneath my hidden elation I was nervous about such a long journey even though Mother had written to former neighbors and arranged for them to meet me and put me up overnight in San Francisco and in Los Angeles.

Dad kissed me. Mother said, "Be a good girl and don't forget to write."

"I won't," I promised. None of us noticed that Mother's requests required two different answers, but of course I always had been, mostly, a good girl. A lovely girl, people said, pleasing Mother and annoying me, for I did not feel lovely, not one bit. I felt restless, angry, rebellious, disloyal, and guilty.

In the bus, I looked down at my parents, who suddenly seemed older. I felt as if I had aged them. We exchanged waves and weak smiles, the driver started the motor and shifted gears, and the bus lumbered out of the station, heading south and away from, I hoped, the Depression and all the grief it had brought to my family and to Oregon. I was limp from the emotion of departure, but I was free!

My Own Two Feet. Copyright © by Beverly Cleary. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 10 of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2012

    Ummmmmm......

    Its not the hole book wich really pisted me off but on the up side its a really good book

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2004

    Excellent Read!

    Excellent book for those who loved reading Beverly Cleary¿s books as children!! Her story is honest, simply-told and well-written. The history that comes with it is interesting too. As a young librarian, I found it awesome that she wrote about being one in a good way --- without all the corny, outdated stereotypes, as is usually the case. I admired her spunk, wisdom and independence. Loved the photos! Ironically, I think young Beverly looks a little like the Ramona character in her books ;-) Overall, this book left me feeling very nostalgic as I spent so much time reading her books as a child. Good job Mrs. Cleary!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2002

    A Memorable Memoir!

    Generally, I shy away from anything with "Memoir" in the title. They're so dry! But one would expect no less than an honest, amusing, highly readable memoir from this author...and she delivers! Written with the same insight and humor that went into childhood favorites such as The Mouse and the Motorcycle and the Ramona books, *this* memoir pulls you in and keeps you hooked! Very charming.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2014

    I would like to be an author like Beverly Cleary when l grow up!

    Beverly is an AWESOME writer! My name is Emilia Arabbo, and I wish that someday I will become an author like Beverly Cleary. I am nine years old. I have been thinking about writing a book about my life as a kid. I hope it is published and is famous like Beverly Cleary's books!!!

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    Posted July 31, 2010

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