Beverly Atlee Cleary (April 12, 1916 March 25, 2021) was an American children's author.
Her largest and best-known collection of books (too loose-knit to be really a "series", although there is a chronological order) involves a group of children in Portland, Oregon (where Cleary herself grew up), including Henry Huggins and his dog Ribsy, Henry's friend Beatrice "Beezus" Quimby and her little sister Ramona, and Ramona's friend Howie Kemp. Ramona is the break-out star character of the series. They were adapted into a TV series in the 1980s (called Ramona), and a movie (called Ramona and Beezus) was released in 2010.
Another well-known series by Beverly Cleary begins with The Mouse and the Motorcycle, about a mouse who befriends a lonely boy and discovers a useful but never-quite-explained ability to drive toy vehicles as if they were real.
Part of what makes the books work so well is the portrayal of various events that are a huge deal to a child. Cleary's insight into the minds of children also creates a large cast of very realistic characters easy for both children and adults to relate to.
Her birthday, April 12th, is designated as "Drop Everything and Read Day" (DEAR, as introduced in Ramona Quimby, Age 8) in American elementary schools, in which lessons stop and the students simply read whatever they want silently.
Cleary lived to be 104 years old. When asked, on her 100th birthday, if she had any tips for such longevity, she simply said, I didnt do it on purpose.
Works by Beverly Cleary with their own trope pages include:
- Henry Huggins series
- Ramona Quimby series
- Ralph S. Mouse series
- Dear Mr. Henshaw (her only book to win the Newbery Medal)
- Emily's Runaway Imagination
- Mitch and Amy
Beverly Cleary's other works provide examples of:
- Arc Words: In Otis Spofford, various adults keep warning Otis that "[he'll] get his comeuppance."
- Armor-Piercing Slap: In Ellen Tebbits, Austine has been annoying Ellen all day by untying the sash of her dress, and when Ellen feels her sash get untied again, she decides it's The Last Straw, whirls around and slaps Austine across the face. Only it isn't Austine who untied the sash this time... it's Otis.
- Asshole Victim: Otis, in the final chapter of his own book, when Ellen and Austine finally get the better of him and when even his close friends, Stewy and George, side with the girls against him (of course, they have their own reasons to enjoy witnessing Otis's comeuppance). Even though Otis has it coming, one can't help feeling at least a little sorry for him.
- Brilliant, but Lazy: Otis gets in trouble during class because he finishes his schoolwork ahead of time.
- Big Brother Instinct: When Austine's older brother Bruce catches Otis bullying her and Ellen one day, he suggests that they turn the tables and bully him (the implication being that he would beat Otis up if he tried to retaliate).
- Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Averted in Otis Spofford since Otis does his best to get into trouble. Otis's class puts on a fake bullfight as part of a school performance, and Otis (as the front half of the bull) goes off script and causes the bull to win the fight. As the teacher is preparing to chew him out, several parents approach and tell her how hilarious the fight was and what a good idea it was to have the bull win. Otis doesn't get in trouble from the teacher, and outruns the two boys who played the toreador and the back half of the bull.
- Comedic Underwear Exposure: Pointed out by Otis in Ellen Tebbits in the "biennial beet" chapter when he notices that Ellen tore her dress.
- Coordinated Clothes: In Ellen Tebbits, Ellen and Austine decide to dress like twins for the first day of school and ask their mothers to make them matching dresses. It doesn't turn out the way they hoped, as Austine's mother isn't a particularly good seamstress and Austine's dress turns out badly.
- A Day in the Limelight: Otis Spofford, whose title character originally had a supporting role in Ellen Tebbits.
- Disappeared Dad: Otis Spofford's mom takes care of him and runs the dance school, but there isn't even a mention of his dad.
- Dude, Not Funny!: Invoked in Otis Spofford when Otis cuts Ellen's hair and, rather then laugh, the class just stares at Otis. Otis even realizes right before he does it that he's going way too far; however, when Ellen calls his bluff, pride prevents him from backing down and he does it.
- Gone Horribly Wrong: Ellen Tebbits's plan to bring in a biennial beet to class results in her making her clothes filthy from digging the beet up, and ruining her dress by getting it stained with beet juice. Plus she almost gets in a lot of trouble for taking the beet without permission, and does get written up for arriving to school late.
- Humiliation Conga: Happens to Otis Spofford at the end of his book. Ellen and Austine steal his shoes while he's ice skating in retaliation for Otis having cut Ellen's hair, making him walk home in his ice skates to the amusement of all the kids and irritation of all the adults he meets.
- Jerkass: Otis Spofford. Played straight in Ellen Tebbits and deconstructed in his own book.
- Lying Finger Cross: Invoked by both Ellen and Otis himself in Otis Spofford, or, in the terminology of the book, "having kings." Ellen invokes it when pretending to apologize for having called Otis "Big Chief Pink Underwear." At the end of the book, after Ellen and Austine return his boots to him on the promise that he won't tease Ellen anymore, Otis reveals to Ellen that he had his fingers crossed when he made that promise.
- My God, What Have I Done?: In Ellen Tebbits, Ellen has this reaction immediately after slapping Austine across the face for allegedly untying the sash of her dress, thus seemingly ending their friendship. It doesn't help later when she finds out that the culprit was Otis, and not Austine.
- She also has this reaction in the first chapter of the book, when she lashes out at Austine, who has just moved to Portland from California, for talking about California all the time. She apologizes afterward and the two become friends.
- Not So Different: In Otis Spofford, the class does a science experiment on two rats about a healthy diet, feeding one rat healthy food and the other white bread and soda pop. The rat with the unhealthy food looks so miserable that Otis and Ellen, independently, start sneaking him real food. They're both astonished when they realize - Otis thought Ellen wouldn't care about a rat, and Ellen thought Otis wouldn't care at all.
- Novelization: Cleary wrote three soft-cover novels based on Leave It to Beaver in the early '60s.
- Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: Between Ellen and Austine in Ellen Tebbits, due to the Armor-Piercing Slap the former gives the latter.
- Radish Cure: In Otis Spofford, the title character's teacher has him make spitballs exclusively as punishment for shooting them. Otis sees this as a Cool and Unusual Punishment at first, until he realizes that it prevents him from participating in class and also dries his mouth out once he's run out of spit.
- Cleary also included a story in her autobiography of some boys who chewed garlic in class. The principal finally bought a dollar's worth of garlicnote and had them chew it all. Although Otis chews garlic himself in his self-titled book (as a way to get rid of the taste in his mouth after the "spitball incident"), he does not face such a punishment.
- School Play: Ellen's class puts on a production of The Pied Piper of Hamelin with a Bowdlerised ending: in their version, the Pied Piper brings the children home and the kids get to do a maypole dance.
- Serious Business: The main characters tend to take a lot of things very seriously, even though their problems would seem very minor from an adult's point of view. Justified since the books are told from a child's perspective, in which things like paper routes and school art projects really are serious business.
- Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Ellen Tebbits and Otis Spofford, to each other. Otis got started antagonizing Ellen because his mother is Ellen's ballet teacher (and he likes to see Ellen get mad), and he's usually (but not always) the instigator.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: While her books portray the ups and downs of life, her books usually have a much lighter spirit, making it more on the idealistic end of the scale.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Ellen Tebbits (girly girl) and her best friend Austine Allen (tomboy).
- Took a Level in Badass / Took a Level in Jerkass: Ellen Tebbits gets both in Otis Spofford. It's hard to imagine the Ellen of Ellen Tebbits teasing Otis for his pink underwear, or literally shoving Otis to the ground, but she does both in Otis Spofford. Just before shoving him down, she tells Otis it's because she's not afraid of him anymore.
- Those Two Guys: In Otis Spofford, two boys named Stewart and George. They're friends with each other and sometimes friendly but sometimes antagonistic towards Otis.
- Traumatic Haircut: Otis gives Ellen one in Otis Spofford as revenge for humiliating him in class. At first he doesn't understand why she's so upset, until he remembers that Ellen has been letting her hair grow long enough to braid.
- Unmentionables: In Ellen Tebbits, Ellen is fearful that the other kids will find out her mother makes her wear long underwear, so she takes care to get to ballet class ahead of time so she can change early without her classmates noticing. One of the catalysts for her friendship with Austine is that Austine's mother also makes her daughter wear long underwear.
- Villain Protagonist: Otis Spofford in Otis Spofford.