Showing posts with label Beverly Cleary. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Beverly Cleary. Show all posts

Jean and Johnny by Beverly Cleary (1959)

Until Johnny asked her to dance, Jean had not thought much about real boys at all. Boys were people who lived in the same neighborhood and went to the same school. Some of them were agreeable to talk to once in a while, and some were noisy nuisances. Certainly she had not thought of any of them as dancing partners . . .

It had been so much easier to dream about a boy on the television screen. With that boy she would be dancing lightly, gracefully. But with this boy, this real, live boy . . . well, it was all so different from her dreams. (from the inside flap)

Sister of the Bride - Beverly Cleary (1963)

"Don't tell!" said Rosemary. "I'll come home and tell them myself. But I'm sure Dad will be furious anyway." Barbara hung up the phone in a daze. How could Rosemary possibly get married? She was only nineteen--why, she still had braces on her teeth! And Greg was still in school--he couldn't support a wife. Dad certainly would be furious. "In fact," Barbara told herself, "we can get ready for a first-class fight!" (from the back cover)

The Luckiest Girl by Beverly Cleary (1958)

Shelley looked out into the soft night and smiled. I am the luckiest girl in San Sebastian, she thought, because I am sixteen and Philip likes me.

At home in Oregon, Shelley had not been in this blissful state. She had grown tired of going steady with her friend Jack, and tired of having everything decided for her: especially that she must wear the pink raincoat with the black velveteen collar that her mother had bought for her, instead of the yellow slicker she wanted. So when she was invited to spend the coming school year in southern California, Shelley's parents decided the change would be good for her. And now, just as she had been sure she would, she had found the boy she had always wanted to meet.

Their romance, however, is only one part of this funny and tender and wonderful book. What follows it is even more enchantingly gilded with a lovely light--the very shine of youth. (from the inside flap)

Fifteen by Beverly Cleary (1956)

"Jane Purdy is fifteen and a sophomore in high school. No one has ever asked her for a date except George, an unromantic boy who is an inch shorter than she is and talks of nothing but his rock collection. Then she meets Stan: tall, good-looking, resourceful, and sixteen years old--all she ever dreamed of. The circumstances are trying. Jane is baby-sitting with Sandra Norton, the toughest assignment in town. Stan appears just in time to prevent Sandra, by a skillful use of pig Latin, from emptying a bottle of ink on the Nortons' blond living-room carpet. But I'll never see him again, Jane tells herself despairingly the next day. I'm just not the type to interest an older man. And then one evening the telephone rings . . . " (dust jacket copy)

Finally!  A fifties teen romance actually written in the 1950s!  And possibly one of the most charming teenage novels ever written.  Beverly Cleary is mostly known for her children's books starring such memorable characters as Ramona, Henry Huggins, and Ralph S. Mouse, but she also wrote several heartfelt and funny teenage romance novels, the first of which is this one.  As the dust jacket copy on my copy reads, "It is hard to think of any other American writer who has so successfully put on paper the sorrows and joys and absurdities of girlhood."

The novel starts with these lines:
"Today I'm going to meet a boy, Jane Purdy told herself, as she walked up Blossom Street toward her baby-sitting job.  Today I'm going to meet a boy.  If she thought it often enough as if she really believed it, maybe she actually would meet a boy even though she was headed for Sandra Norton's house and the worst baby-sitting job in Woodmont."

And believe it or not--she does!  And not just any boy, but Stan Crandall, who is "at least sixteen, because he had a driver's license.  He had a nice smile and merry eyes--greenish-gray eyes.  He had brown hair with a dip in it.  He was not really tall, but he was tall enough so a medium-sized girl could wear heels and not feel she had to scrooch down when she walked beside him."  And he's a nice boy, which is apparently what girls were looking for in the 1950s.  I think I still have a little crush on Stan Crandall and his tan arms and silver identification bracelet.  Dreamy!

So we go through Jane's trials and tribulations when dating a boy seriously for the first time.  How to behave on her first real date, what to order at Nibley's ice cream shop, how to stop her parents from alternately teasing her and worrying about her, how to get through dinner at a real Chinese restaurant in the city, and what happens when he doesn't invite her to the big dance.

The charms of this book are many.  Not only does the book explore the heartfelt issues behind dating and really liking someone for the first time, but Jane also learns about who she is as a person.  But it's not all earnest -- there's quite a bit of subtle humor in the book, especially in Jane's interactions with her parents, who just don't understand, as well her babysitting adventures.  Jane has a sense of humor about herself as well.  In a scene where she orders flowers for Stan after an operation and receives a massive gladiola arrangement she has to hand-deliver to him:
"Since she had made up her mind to be herself and since she was the kind of person who always did the wrong thing, Jane decided she might as wll make the best of it and start out by delivering the flowers to Stan." 
The book also has a marvelous sense of place.  It's set in a suburb of a West Coast city (probably San Francisco), which has all the advantages of a small town (in the 50s, that is), which means walking to the movies and ice cream shop from home.  Everyone has lovely golden tans, and gracious old redwood homes abound, as well as the "nodownpaymenttoveterans" houses owned by Jane's babysitting clients.  The line drawings, by Joe and Beth Krush, beautifully capture the time period, from Jane's clothes to the decor at her house when Stan comes to pick her up.  It's also an evocative look at (sheltered, middle class) teenage life in the 1950s.  Before their first date, Jane starts to worry about Stan:  "What if he came in a T shirt and jeans?  Or one of those gaudy sport shirts with the tail hanging out?  . . . Or maybe he would chew gum and snap it and guffaw at the love scenes in the movie."  As for dinner in the city?  Jane wears a suit and white gloves, but makes the major decision to go hatless.  At the end of the book, Stan gives Jane his identification bracelet, which means they're going steady. 
"Jane's wrist felt small and feminine in the circle of heavy silver links.  Tenderly she caressed the letters of Stan's name with her finger tips.  Stanley Crandall.  The nicest boy in the whole world."
Sigh!  Even though the trappings are charmingly dated, certain truths about young love always ring true.  Beverly Cleary had an amazing gift of insight into the minds of children with her books for audiences, and her teenage novels are no different.  I only wish she'd written more than four.  They are still in print and hopefully, they still speak to a contemporary audience. 

Despite the incidences of angst and drama, these novels are still like riding in a powder-blue convertible on a sunny day with a nice boy who has a dip in his hair, and golden-brown hairs on his tanned arms.