21 Timelessly Entertaining Beverly Cleary Books for the Classroom
Ramona Quimby. Henry Huggins. Ralph S. Mouse. Beverly Cleary created unforgettable characters who have continued to find new fans long after their books first hit shelves. Cleary died in 2021 at age 104, having sold more than 91 million copies of her books—and counting. In addition to winning several prestigious writing awards, Cleary also was named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress. When children asked Cleary how she got her ideas, she told them they were “from my own experience and the world around me.” There’s no question she knew exactly how to reach young readers on the page. The selection of her books here will no doubt find their way into your students’ hearts.
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Beverly Cleary Books
1. Henry Huggins
While Cleary’s first novel may not feature smartphones or Roblox, it remains eminently readable. The title character Henry Huggins befriends a dog, Ribsy, and the two become an inseparable pair, threatened only when Ribsy’s original owner resurfaces. The first of a six-book series, this one is perfect for readers moving up from shorter chapter books.
2. Henry and Beezus
Many of Cleary’s books take place in the same universe, and in this second Henry Huggins novel, characters Beezus and Ramona are introduced. Beezus appears as Henry’s best friend, helping him to get a bike when all his plans keep failing, and Ramona is—of course—the pesky little sister foiling their plans. Readers who’ve already breezed through the Ramona Quimby novels will love picking this one up.
3. Henry and Ribsy
From the start, Ribsy the dog has been Henry’s best friend, and a bit of a troublemaker. When Henry wants to go on a fishing trip, he’s told he can’t unless Ribsy can stay out of mischief. Cleary’s specialty is bighearted comedy, and this is no exception.
Leave it to Cleary to consider all perspectives. In this novel, she considers how Socks—a doted-on cat—handles the arrival of a new baby.
Buy it: Socks at Amazon | Socks at Bookshop
5. Beezus and Ramona
The first book in Cleary’s eight-book Ramona Quimby series hones in on Ramona and her older sister, Beezus. Featuring a four-year-old Ramona, she just can’t stop being a pain to her big sister. The novel remains a perfect read for anyone who’s ever had a sibling.
6. Ramona the Pest
Ramona is a singular character, and wherever she goes, she brings her full self with her. In the second volume of Cleary’s series, she’s off to kindergarten. Young readers will get a kick out of her hijinks and see plenty of themselves in Ramona’s energetic perspective.
7. Ramona the Brave
Childhood isn’t always easy, and Cleary was an author who understood that better than anyone. In the third Ramona volume, the titular heroine tackles first grade—complete with a teacher who doesn’t understand her and a walk to school that includes encounters with a scary dog.
8. Ramona and Her Father
A Newbery Honor winner, the fourth Ramona book tackles the real choices many middle-class families must face. When Ramona’s father loses his job and her mom starts working full-time, Ramona’s life seems turned upside down. She deals with it all in an age-appropriate way—by fantasizing about how she can become a TV commercial star and earn enough money to fix everything.
9. Ramona Quimby, Age 8
The paperback edition of this Newbery Honor book includes a foreword by Amy Poehler and an interview with Beverly Cleary. As Ramona turns eight in this book, she has to find the balance between new privileges and new responsibilities (in her unique Ramona way, naturally).
10. The Complete Ramona Collection
For kids hooked on all things Ramona (and what kid isn’t?), this boxed set collects all eight volumes of Cleary’s Ramona Quimby books. Any kid who lives a life guided by enthusiastic curiosity is sure to identify with this lively heroine, so why not stock up on the whole set?
For tweens too young for YA romances but who may be having their first “like like” feelings, Cleary delivers with the opening book of her First Love series (spanning four books). While dating has changed, even the texting generation will connect to the angst of a girl navigating her first date.
Buy it: Fifteen at Amazon | Fifteen at Bookshop
12. Jean and Johnny
The third book in the First Love series, this novel tackles the all-too-relatable feeling of worrying you like your date more than he or she likes you.
13. Sister of the Bride
Cleary reminds young readers that they needn’t rush to find the love of their lives. Barbara’s sister is getting married and, while the event and idea of eternal love seem exciting, they also seem like a lot of hard work to Barbara.
14. The Luckiest Girl
Though somewhat dated, this novel about a teen girl who moves from Oregon to California incorporates details of a coastal California town that may mirror some of Cleary’s own life (as she resided on the coast for most of her life).
15. Dear Mr. Henshaw
Winner of the Newbery Medal and a slew of other honors, Dear Mr. Henshaw continues to appear on lists of must-read children’s literature for a reason. It’s told in letters sent between Leigh Botts and his favorite author—whom he writes to in order to deal with his frustration at an absentee father and his own trials as a sixth-grader. As usual, Cleary’s work navigates the difficulties of growing up head-on.
16. The Mouse and the Motorcycle
Cleary’s adventurous friendship tale is a great book for shared reading or to give to a grade-schooler who’s advancing to chapter books. Funny and clever, this fast-paced story of Ralph S. Mouse and his quest to ride a boy’s toy motorcycle is an enduring kids’ classic.
17. Runaway Ralph
The second book of the Ralph S. Mouse trilogy finds Ralph eager to run away from his overprotective family. But he may get more than he bargained for when he winds up at a campground populated by all manner of mouse-threatening obstacles.
18. Ellen Tebbits
Cleary’s second-ever novel is a funny and real story of forging new friendships—and seeking forgiveness when one friend screws up. Ellen and her pal Austine connect perfectly with newly independent grade school readers.
19. Henry and the Paper Route
While today’s kids may not have any idea what a paper route is, they will relate to can-do hero Henry Huggins as he executes many plans to convince his would-be boss that eleven is plenty mature to handle the job.
20. Ralph S. Mouse
In the third book of his saga, Ralph S. Mouse has grown bored of his life at the Mountain View Inn and finds the solution in accompanying his human friend Ryan to school—with unforgettable results!
21. A Girl From Yamhill
The first of two memoirs (the second volume being My Own Two Feet), Cleary offers insights into her upbringing during the Great Depression and a candid look at the trials and tribulations she faced as she grew up in Oregon. This first volume carries readers to Cleary selling her first book, Henry Huggins, to a publisher.
Looking for more book recommendations? Check out our list of the best Judy Blume books for the classroom.
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