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My Own Two Feet: A Memoir

by Beverly Cleary

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3631072,219 (4.18)22
Follows the popular children's author through college years during the Depression; jobs including that of librarian; marriage; and writing and publication of her first book, "Henry Huggins."
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» See also 22 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
Re-reading in honor of Beverly Cleary. All these years later, I appreciate her life story and personal challenges even more. ( )
  Salsabrarian | Jun 7, 2021 |
Sequel to A girl from Yamhill ( )
  ME_Dictionary | Mar 20, 2020 |
Perhaps, having fallen in love with Cleary's books as a child, my expectations were too high. I went into this expecting self-deprecating, witty vignettes, skillfully told, underpinned by a foundation of compassion and empathy for all the innocent things of the earth - children, animals, family values. Instead, what I got was a serviceably written but largely humorless memoir about a mostly unremarkable life.

Shall I blame my grandmother as well? A college graduate herself, she filled me with so many stories of her own life growing up in the Depression era, there wasn't a lot here that I hadn't heard before. Like my grandmom, Cleary grew up in a family that always had enough money for food, but not for much else. Like my grandmom, she longed to escape an uncomfortable relationship with her mother and managed to scrap enough money to attend college. Like my grandmom, she accumulated, in addition to a degree, a wealth of anecdotes about eccentric professors and even more eccentric roommates, beaus and balls and rooming houses and cooking meals on tiny hot plates. Like my grandmom, she fell in love and spent the next few decades following her husband from town to town. Like my grandmom, it took years for her to finally find enough confidence to begin living her own creative life.

Alas, however, we don't learn a lot about this creative life. To hear Cleary tell it, she spent her whole life knowing she wanted to write children's books, yet when the time came, she had no ideas waiting to be brought to life. Instead, she relied on bits and pieces of memory to pull together enough material for a single story, which became Henry Huggins. She didn't even have to struggle to get the work published: it was accepted by the first publishing house she sent it to. The only extraordinary thing she brought to the table was a general idea, patched together from a passing reference made by an English professor and her experiences as a librarian relating stories to children, that children's books ought to tell stories about real children living real lives and entangling themselves in real misadventures.

And that's where the book ends. No additional insights into her creative process. No additional insights into how writing altered her life, her marriage, her relationship with her mother, or her aspirations. If this is all being saved for a 3rd book, then Ms. Cleary had better start writing faster, because according to Wikipedia she's 103 years old.

I don't wish to discourage people from reading this book. It's authentic, inoffensive, and competently written. Just don't expect this to entertain in the way that Cleary's utterly charming childrens' book never fail to do. ( )
  Dorritt | Nov 23, 2019 |
Another great memoir, taking the reader through Beverly's college years through the publishing of her first book. A wonderful window into American life in the 1930s & 40s. ( )
  Zaiga | Sep 23, 2019 |
I loved this memoir!! So much rich detail, such fast-moving, lively prose! Cleary's wonderful sense of humor comes through. Cleary recounts her college years during the Depression, first at Chaffey College in southern California, then at the University of California (in Berkeley), and finally at the University of Washington. She then describes working as a librarian in Yakima, and at military installations in Oakland during World War 2. Finally she writes about how she wrote her first book. She describes her social life, family life, academics, and work in detail--what she studied in classes, how she went about writing her first book--but it never bogs down. ( )
  Beth3511 | Jun 4, 2018 |
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Follows the popular children's author through college years during the Depression; jobs including that of librarian; marriage; and writing and publication of her first book, "Henry Huggins."

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