Otis Spofford

( 12 )


When it comes to stirring up a little excitement in class, Otis Spofford knows just what to do. He can turn a folk dance fiesta into a three-ring circus . . . or an arithmetic lesson into a spitball marathon. Best of all, Otis likes teasing neat, well-behaved Ellen Tebbits?until the day his teasing goes too far. Now Otis is nervous, because Ellen isn't just mad . . . she's planning something!

Another lovable story from Newbery Medal-winner Beverly Cleary. Otis is ...

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When it comes to stirring up a little excitement in class, Otis Spofford knows just what to do. He can turn a folk dance fiesta into a three-ring circus . . . or an arithmetic lesson into a spitball marathon. Best of all, Otis likes teasing neat, well-behaved Ellen Tebbits—until the day his teasing goes too far. Now Otis is nervous, because Ellen isn't just mad . . . she's planning something!

Another lovable story from Newbery Medal-winner Beverly Cleary. Otis is the most irritating--and irresistible--troublemaker in school, and his string of misadventures will delight readers of ages.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
“Mrs. Cleary writes from a sure knowledge of the third grader’s world. It all rings true.”
The New York Times
Mrs. Cleary writes from a sure knowledge of the third grader's world. It all rings true.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780380709199
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/28/1993
  • Series: Cleary Reissue Series
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 203,896
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 720L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.48 (w) x 7.14 (h) x 0.46 (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.

Tracy Dockray is a fine artist and illustrator who has contributed to more than twenty illustrated books, including the bestselling Grimm's Grimmest, Delia at the Delano, and all of Beverly Cleary's highly popular children's books, most notably Ramona. A member of the Society of Illustrators, she holds an MFA from Pratt and lives in New York City.


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

Otis Spofford MSR

Chapter One

There was nothing Otis Spofford liked better than stirring up a little excitement. Otis was a medium-sized boy with reddish-brown hair, freckles, and ears that stuck out. He often wore a leather jacket with a rabbit's foot tied to the zipper, and be always laced his shoes with the kind of laces that glow in the dark-pink for the right shoe and green for the left.

Otis found it hard to stir up any excitement around home. He was sure it would be easier if he lived in a house with a yard to play in, like the other boys and girls in Room Eleven at Rosemont School. Instead, he lived with his mother, Valerie Todd Spofford, in an apartment. Mrs. Spofford was away from home most of the time teaching ballet and tap-dancing lessons at the Spofford School of the Dance over the Payless Drugstore.

Otis wished his mother had more time to spend at home, so that Mrs. Brewster, the manager of the apartment house, would not have to keep her eye on him. Mrs. Spofford was never very cross with Otis for wanting to stir up a little excitement, but Mrs. Brewster made it plain that she did not like dirt, dogs, or noise, and that she stood for no nonsense from boys.

School, however, was different. Except for learning things, Otis liked school. He could find so many ways to stir up excitement.

Once a week Otis's teacher, Mrs. Gitler, took her class to the auditorium for folk dancing. Otis was the only member of the class who did not like this period.

I'd rather play dodge ball any day, he always thought as they marched down the hall. I see enough dancing at the Spofford School of the Dance.

The class had learnedseveral dances, like "Stupid One Hopping on One Foot"' and "I Lost My Way in the Gooseberry Bushes," but for the past few weeks they had been practicing a Mexican folk dance for the fiesta Rosemont School was planning for a Parent Teacher Association meeting. Each class in the school was to give a Mexican dance. Afterwards, the mothers in the P.T.A. would sell cookies and punch to raise money for visual aids for the school.

Otis was not the least bit excited about the fiesta. He was sure the P.T.A. would rather see a good ball game.

There were three more boys than girls in the class. This meant that two boys had to dance together, one of them, against his wishes, taking the part of a girl. The third boy danced alone. Otis was usually the third boy. No one wanted him for a partner, because he liked to hop on his right foot when he was supposed to hop on his left. This was hard on his partner's toes. He didn't care if no one wanted to dance with him, and today as he went through the steps alone, he amused himself by dancing stiff-legged.

Mrs. Gitler stopped the phonograph. "'Otis, be a gentleman," she said.

"Mrs. Gitler, I don't see why I have to be in the old fiesta", complained Otis. "There are too many boys in the class anyway."

"Me, too," said Stewy Hicks promptly.

Leave it to old Stewy, thought Otis. That was the trouble with Stewy. He liked to get in on whatever excitement Otis was stirring up.

To Otis's surprise, Mrs. Gitler smiled and said, "I have a different plan for the three extra boys."

Now what? wondered Otis, thinking he might get into something worse than folk dancing.

"We are going to have a bullfight in the center of the circle of dancers. One boy will be a toreador and the other two will wear a bull costume." Mrs. Gitler paused while the class laughed at the thought of two boys dressed up like a bull. "At the end of the dance, when the toreador wins and the bull falls down, the girls will all take flowers out of their hair and toss them at the toreador."

Otis was pleased with this idea. He could see himself dressed up like a bullfighter, waving his red cape in front of the bull and stepping nimbly aside when the bull charged at him. He would bow to the crowd while the girls showered him with flowers and the audience cheered. Maybe he was going to like the fiesta after all.

Mrs. Gitler spoiled his daydream by saying, "Otis, since you do not care about folk dancing, you may be half the bull."

The class laughed. "The front half or the back half?" Otis wanted to know.

"The front half," answered Mrs. Gider. "Stewart, you may be the other half. George, you may be the toreador."

Otis could see that George felt pretty good about being the toreador. Oh, well, thought Otis, being the front half of the bull was not so bad. It was better than folk dancing, and he and Stewy ought to have fun.

Then Mrs. Gitler had the three boys practice bullfighting. Stewy put his hands on Otis's hips and the two boys charged at George, who twirled an imaginary cape in front of them. When George pretended to stab the bull with a sword, Otis and Stewy fell to the floor.

"All right, Otis," said Mrs. Gitler. I don't think it is necessary for the bull to die with his front feet in the air. Falling to the floor is enough."

Otis lay on the floor and watched George bow, as the girls pretended to throw flowers at him. He thought George looked very pleased with himself.

When the bell rang for recess, Otis followed George around, singing: "Toreador-a, Don't spit on the floor-a, Use the cuspidor-a, That's what its for-a."

Of course Stewy joined in. Otis was a little disappointed when George only grinned and said, "Aw, keep quiet."

Otis Spofford MSR
. 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
( 12 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2012

    Good book

    I recommend this to kids from 3-5 grade. Very funny.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2012


    Anyone should read this awesome book!"

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2011

    Great Book

    This book was great. Who ever hasnt read it should.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2013



    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2012

    Otis spofford


    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2012


    "If you like to stir up exitment, get in trouble, or watch people make mischief, I recommend this book to you! It's about Otis Spofford, a boy who likes to stir up exitment (while getting into trouble!)
    Beverly Cleary has put in her wonderful talent of story-telling in the world once more."

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2012

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    Posted January 10, 2011

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    Posted January 2, 2012

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    Posted December 27, 2009

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    Posted May 11, 2011

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    Posted December 16, 2011

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