Thursday, March 14, 2019

Book Review: A Girl from Yamhill by Beverly Cleary (1988)

A Girl from Yamhill is the first of two memoirs children's author Beverly Cleary wrote about her early life. It was my nonfiction pick for #MiddleGradeMarch over on Instagram. Interestingly though, after reading it, I'm questioning whether it's middle grade after all! Compared with her humorous tales of everyday life with Henry, Beezus, and Ramona on Klickitat Street, Cleary's childhood during the Great Depression is darker and sadder. There is still humor, of course, but her memoir is more realistic than idealistic in its worldview. Despite subject headings on the copyright page labeling it "juvenile nonfiction" it's as though the memoir is really written for those who loved her fiction books as kids to read once they've grown up.

The most fascinating thing for me was learning how many of the events and relationships in Cleary's novels were drawn from real life experiences. Though Cleary rarely comes out and states how a real life event influenced a fictional one, many of the connections are very obvious. I also found it interesting that Cleary had neither the supportive, loving mother nor the exasperating older sister which appear in the Ramona books.

I would definitely exercise caution in sharing this book with kids under 12. There are quite a few topics covered that require a bit or maturity to handle, including a miscarriage, an uncle who makes sexual advances, and a much older boyfriend whose unsettling presence is encouraged by Cleary's mother. Beverly Clearly handles these things tastefully, but she also doesn't shy away from the truth of the impact of these events on her well-being.

For me, though, this was a clear five-star read. I'm eagerly anticipating reading the follow-up memoir, My Own Two Feet (1995).

1 comment:

  1. A Girl from Yamhill and My Own Two Feet are some of my favorite reads from my childhood, and a few of the only books I'll reread. I find her life fascinating, living through the depression, her descriptions of the things she studied in grade and high school and what she and her friends did for fun, the trips to camp. (Gerhart creeped me out even as a kid, and I felt terrible for her for how her mother treated her.)

    You'll enjoy My Own Two Feet just as much if you enjoyed this. :)