Let's not forget that Beverly Clearly wrote Leave It to Beaver books, too
The beloved American author passed away at the age of 104.
Because of characters like Ramona, Beezus, and Ralph S. Mouse, children have gravitated to Beverly Cleary's books for decades because they can easily relate. Those novels we loved as children have stood the test of time and continue to delight young readers across the world, solidifying Cleary's status as one of the most successful children's authors in literary history.
Recently, the acclaimed author passed away at the age of 104. While her obituaries rightly focused on classics like The Mouse and the Motorcycle and Ramona the Pest, we wanted to highlight some of her overlooked earlier work that ties into a MeTV favorite.
At the start of the 1960s, Cleary wrote three children's books based on the television series Leave It to Beaver. Published in quick succession in 1960–61, they were Leave It To Beaver, Beaver and Wally and Here's Beaver! By that point in her career, Cleary had been publishing books for a decade, following her debut Henry Huggins in 1950.
Who better to capture the growing pains of Theodor Cleaver in written form? The backs of the books teased content like, "Girls are strange creatures and Wally's interest in them is the most fantastic thing that has ever happened to either of the boys." The books were episodic or anecdotal in nature, closer to short stories in some instances, with chapters like "Beaver and the School Sweater."
Considering the show was in black-and-white, these stories gave Beaver fans a chance to picture the world of Mayfield in color.
"Wally was pretty pleased to own that blue sweater with the yellow M and the yellow stripe around the sleeve," Cleary wrote in "The School Sweater," part of her final collection of Beaver tales. In that third book, Beaver also "finds his baby picture," which will remind viewers of "Baby Picture," a memorable 1959 episode of the sitcom. In fact, much of the books were adapted from TV episodes. "School Sweater" was season three, episode 23. Beaver and Wally included stories such as "Wally, the Lifeguard" (season four, episode four), "Beaver's Accordion" (season four, episode 13), "The Horse Named Nick" (season two, episode 27), and "Wally's Glamour Girl" (season four, episode 10). Remember, without reruns, VHS tapes and DVRs in 1961, this was the best way to relive your favorite episodes.
Because the ideas were not wholly hers, Cleary was not particularly fond of this work.
"One morning, the telephone rang and it was this man in New York saying would I consider turning Leave It to Beaver scripts into fiction," Cleary recalled in a 2011 interview with The Los Angeles Times. "In my exhaustion [I said], 'Well yes, I’ll consider it.' And he said, 'Good, I'll fly out and see you.' That rather stunned me. But I met him."
Clearly met this fellow in a hotel room — the gentleman left the door open, this being 1960, but did ask the married woman out for a drink. She "fled" but wrote the books.
"It was boring work," Cleary confessed. "They wanted a certain number of words and I'm not used to writing prose by the yard… I cut out dear old Dad's philosophizing."
She did note that several fans told her that her Beaver adaptations were better than the 1997 movie reboot.
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"The books were episodic or anecdotal in nature, closer to short stories in some instances..."
It's been a long time since I read Beverly Cleary, but it seems like I recall that being her style with her better known books. At any rate, RIP Beverly Cleary, and thank you for all the hours of reading enjoyment.