By Bailey Keimig-Gehrke, Youth Services
Drop Everything and Read Day is held every year on Beverly Cleary’s birthday, April 12, to celebrate the beloved author and encourage reading. The initiative encourages everyone to set aside all distractions for at least 30 minutes and read a book, alone or together as a family. I hope you are all able to participate in some way this year, on what would be her 105th birthday, and keep the playful, earnest spirit of Cleary and her characters alive.
Beverly Cleary’s books have decorated the shelves of children’s bookcases for decades, and with her knack for depicting childhood in all its magical, messy glory, her books are sure to remain relevant and beloved for decades to come. Cleary’s goal as a writer was to create books about relatable, average kids navigating life as best they could. After selling over 90 million copies of her 42 books worldwide, it is safe to say she was successful in doing so.
When you are finished revisiting the lives of Ramona Quimby, Ralph S. Mouse, and Henry Huggins, try out some of these more contemporary titles that keep the same joyful, honest spirit of childhood alive without shying away from its complications.
“Ways to Make Sunshine” by Renee Watson
Ryan, much like Ramona, is a girl with a lot on her mind. She is determined to find the bright side of things, even when life gets tough–like when her family has to move into a smaller house, or when her brother drives her bonkers, or when her parents just don’t seem to understand her. Ryan knows that there are plenty of ways to make sunshine.
“Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things” by Lenore Look
Alvin seems to live two lives. One is at home, where he pretends to be a superhero called Firecracker Man, plays baseball with his siblings, and does his best to be exactly like his dad. The other is at school, where Alvin is too afraid to say a word. Not being able to speak means he doesn’t exactly have any friends. What will it take for Alvin to find his voice and combine his two lives?
“Clementine” by Sara Pennypacker
Clementine marches to the beat of her own drum. She always ends up getting in trouble, even though she is never actually trying to break the rules. Just like Ramona, Clementine is trying her best to navigate a world she doesn’t quite understand but is more than ready to tackle with everything she’s got.
“Lola Levine is Not Mean!” by Monica Brown
Lola is many things—competitive, artistic, confident—but she is NOT mean. But when she accidentally hurts one of her classmates during a soccer game, that doesn’t stop people from calling her Mean Lola Levine. How will Lola convince everyone that she isn’t a mean person?
“Lety Out Loud” by Angela Cervantes
Lety is spending her summer volunteering at a local animal shelter, and even though English is her second language, and she isn’t super confident in her writing skills, she wants to be the shelter scribe who writes the profiles for animals that need homes. When another volunteer decides he also wants to be the shelter scribe, a secret competition is devised–they split the profiles, and whoever gets the most pets adopted wins. Will Lety win the competition? Or will she get kicked out of the volunteer program for participating in the first place?
“Akissi: Tales of Mischief” by Marguerite Abouet
This graphic novel collects the mischievous adventures of Akissi, a girl who lives in a West African village with her parents, her brother, and her pet monkey, Boubou. Akissi is fearless, fun, and hilarious, and her hijinks will inspire laughter from children from all walks of life.
“Merci Suarez Changes Gears” by Meg Medina
Merci doesn’t quite fit in at school, especially now that she is in sixth grade and her classmates seem to have changed overnight. On top of feeling so different from her classmates, Merci’s family is keeping a big secret from her. Will Merci ever figure out the best way to be herself?
“El Deafo” by Cece Bell
This graphic novel chronicles Cece’s journey from losing her hearing, learning to read lips, and coming to love herself and all her quirks. Cece never lets life’s challenges get her down for too long, and the bright, cartoonish style of this autobiographical graphic novel is sure to help readers fall in love with her story.
“A Whole New Ballgame” by Phil Bildner
Rip and Red are best friends, and fifth grade is nothing like what they were expecting. They have a new teacher, Mr. Acevedo, who is nothing like any teacher they’ve ever seen. When the boys find out that he is also their new basketball coach, Rip and Red are both thrown out of their comfort zone–Rip is so easygoing, that he has no idea how to react to all of these changes, and Red is autistic and hates when things don’t go a certain way. Luckily, Rip and Red have each other’s backs, and together they are sure they can tackle the fifth grade.
“Word of Mouse” by James Patterson & Chris Grabenstein
Isaiah is not like other mice–for one thing, he is bright, electric blue; for another, he can read, write, and even communicate with humans. When Isaiah escapes from the laboratory, he is separated from his “mischief,” or mouse family. He embarks on a new adventure surviving in the wild, making friends with a human girl, and finding a new mischief. All the while, he has to dodge attacks from hungry predators and figure out how he can save the rest of his family from the lab.
“The Best At It” by Maulik Pancholy
Written by an actor (and based on his real-life experiences) this book follows Rahul as he tries to figure out the thing he is best at. Should he audition for a role in a commercial and become so famous that the school bully will leave him alone? Should he try out for the football team to get a chance to be closer to his crush, Justin? Nothing Rahul tries works out the way he plans, and as things start to get more and more complicated, Rahul will need the support of his friends and family to help him figure out what path he wants to take.
“Raymie Nightingale” by Kate DiCamillo
Raymie has a plan. First, she will learn to twirl a baton. Then, she will win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition. And finally, she will convince her father to come back home. Unfortunately, even the best laid plans don’t always work out. Raymie meets an interesting array of characters on her journey and ends up learning that life is meant to be a little complicated.