10 Lesser-Known Beverly Cleary Books

You’ve probably heard of Henry Huggins, Ramona Quimby, and The Mouse and the Motorcycle, but what about Otis Spofford and Leigh Botts? Beverly Cleary wrote over 30 books for children in her career. Here are some of the more obscure, but equally delightful, offerings.


In Cleary’s second book, 8-year-old Ellen Tebbits bonds with a girl named Austine when she discovers they’re both wearing woolen underwear. Ellen and Austine become best friends until they fight over a misunderstanding caused by rascally classmate Otis Spofford. The book is a sharp look into the ups and downs of little girl friendships. Cleary soon followed up with a sequel, Otis Spofford.

2. MITCH AND AMY (1967)

Cleary based the twins Mitch and Amy on her own children, Malcolm and Marianne. While Amy is good at reading, Mitch is good at math, and they bicker about their differences. But they soon learn that they have something in common when a bully starts picking on both of them. The book demonstrated how even siblings who squabble still love and defend each other.

3. FIFTEEN (1956)

Jane Purdy sees herself as an ordinary high school sophomore until handsome and popular Stan Crandall asks her on a date. With her usual observational style, Cleary depicts the emotional life of a teenager experiencing first love. She went on to write three other books about teenagers: The Luckiest Girl, Jean and Johnny, and Sister of the Bride.


One day, a TV executive called Cleary out of the blue. The network was looking for someone to adapt Leave It To Beaver into books to sell as companion products for the TV show. She agreed, and although she said “it was boring work,” she wrote three books: Leave It To Beaver, Here’s Beaver, and Beaver and Wally.

5. DEAR MR. HENSHAW (1983)

In this book, which won Cleary the Newbery Medal, sixth-grader Leigh Botts writes a letter to his favorite author, Boyd Henshaw. Through the letters, and eventually a diary, Leigh writes his feelings about being the new kid in town, having his lunch stolen, and his parents’ divorce. The book has a sequel, Strider.


It’s not surprising that Cleary also wrote picture books for young children. Some of those books are about twins Jimmy and Janet, and this omnibus collects four Cleary picture books about the twins in one place: The Real Hole, Two Dog Biscuits, The Growing-Up Feet, and Janet's Thingamajigs.


This is Cleary’s one foray into historical fiction. Emily lives in rural Oregon in the early 20th century, when the automobile is still a new-fangled invention. Her imagination causes all kinds of shenanigans—she gets the pigs drunk by feeding them rotten apples, bleaches a horse white, and terrifies herself into believing she saw a ghost. She also helps a public library open in town.


Cleary even managed to write an entertaining story about cursive writing. When a teacher tells Maggie that her attempt to write her name looked like “Muggie,” Maggie vows never to learn cursive. But when she’s appointed class mail messenger, she has to carry notes to the office that she suspects are about her—only she can’t read them because they’re in cursive. The only way to find out, it seems, is to learn the dreaded handwriting after all.

9. SOCKS (1973)

Cleary wrote Ribsy about Henry Huggins' dog in the 1960s. In the 1970s, she wrote Socks from the point of view of a tabby cat who belongs to a young couple, Bill and Marilyn Bricker. When Marilyn gives birth to a son, Socks must learn that the Brickers still love him, and then that the baby isn’t so bad after all.


A Girl From Yamhill is Cleary’s memoir about her childhood in Oregon during Prohibition and the Great Depression. It covers growing up on a farm, her struggles in school, and her difficult relationship with her mother. In 1995, she published a sequel, My Own Two Feet, which follows her from college to marriage and finally, to writing her first book and becoming an author.

SP Books
A Limited Edition, Handwritten Manuscript of The Great Gatsby Can Be Yours for $249
SP Books
SP Books

Fans of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic The Great Gatsby need to put this on their holiday wish list: The French manuscript publisher SP Books is releasing a deluxe, limited-edition version of Fitzgerald’s handwritten Gatsby manuscript.

A handwritten manuscript of 'The Great Gatsby' open to a page
SP Books

The 328-page, large-format edition is cloth-bound and features an ornamental, iron-gilded cover. The facsimile of Fitzgerald’s original manuscript shows how the author reworked, rewrote, and otherwise altered the book throughout his writing process, changing character’s names (Nick was named “Dud” at one point), cutting down scenes, and moving around where certain information was introduced to the plot, like where the reader finds out how Gatsby became wealthy, which in the original manuscript wasn’t revealed until the end of the book. For Fitzgerald superfans, it's also signed.

A page of the handwritten manuscript with a pen on it
SP Books

The publisher is only selling 1800 copies of the manuscript, so if you’re a lover of literary history, you’d better act fast.

It’s available from SP Books for $249.

Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
Pop Culture
An AI Program Wrote Harry Potter Fan Fiction—and the Results Are Hilarious
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

“The castle ground snarled with a wave of magically magnified wind.”

So begins the 13th chapter of the latest Harry Potter installment, a text called Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash. OK, so it’s not a J.K. Rowling original—it was written by artificial intelligence. As The Verge explains, the computer-science whizzes at Botnik Studios created this three-page work of fan fiction after training an algorithm on the text of all seven Harry Potter books.

The short chapter was made with the help of a predictive text algorithm designed to churn out phrases similar in style and content to what you’d find in one of the Harry Potter novels it "read." The story isn’t totally nonsensical, though. Twenty human editors chose which AI-generated suggestions to put into the chapter, wrangling the predictive text into a linear(ish) tale.

While magnified wind doesn’t seem so crazy for the Harry Potter universe, the text immediately takes a turn for the absurd after that first sentence. Ron starts doing a “frenzied tap dance,” and then he eats Hermione’s family. And that’s just on the first page. Harry and his friends spy on Death Eaters and tussle with Voldemort—all very spot-on Rowling plot points—but then Harry dips Hermione in hot sauce, and “several long pumpkins” fall out of Professor McGonagall.

Some parts are far more simplistic than Rowling would write them, but aren’t exactly wrong with regards to the Harry Potter universe. Like: “Magic: it was something Harry Potter thought was very good.” Indeed he does!

It ends with another bit of prose that’s not exactly Rowling’s style, but it’s certainly an accurate analysis of the main current that runs throughout all the Harry Potter books. It reads: “‘I’m Harry Potter,’ Harry began yelling. ‘The dark arts better be worried, oh boy!’”

Harry Potter isn’t the only work of fiction that Jamie Brew—a former head writer for ClickHole and the creator of Botnik’s predictive keyboard—and other Botnik writers have turned their attention to. Botnik has previously created AI-generated scripts for TV shows like The X-Files and Scrubs, among other ridiculous machine-written parodies.

To delve into all the magical fiction that Botnik users have dreamed up, follow the studio on Twitter.

[h/t The Verge]


More from mental floss studios