Author of Middle Grade novels about friendship, family, and figuring out where you fit in.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Middle Grade of the Past

It's been a while since I've blogged, but I'm back! A few weeks ago, I had surgery to have my gallbladder taken out, so I wasn't spending all that much time at my computer. Recovery was rough in the beginning, but I'm almost back to normal and definitely feeling much better than I was the first week post-surgery.

In my free time, I've been rereading old children's books that I'd collected from when I was a kid. Some of these books were published as early as 1950, some as late as 1985, but they're each charming in their own way. I've decided to occasionally feature one "old" middle grade book at a time, to share with you guys how fun, entertaining, and endearing these books are.

Today's post is about ELLEN TEBBITS by Beverly Cleary, published in 1951.

Here's the cover of the copy that I have, though several other covers exist:


And here's the back cover summary:

Ellen Tebbits thought she would die of embarrassment if any of the girls at school learned her secret. But then she met Austine Allen, a new girl in class who was hiding the very same secret. They became best friends immediately. Embarrassing secrets weren’t so bad when you had someone to share them with. Even being teased by pesky little troublemakers like Otis Spofford was almost fun when you had a friend who stuck up for you.

But then Ellen did something terrible that made Austine stop speaking to her. Ellen was really sorry, and somehow she had to find a way to say so. Because without a best friend, nothing was fun anymore.


Aww. I love friendship stories. I can't remember if I read this one as a kid, since I read and owned many Beverly Cleary books, and some of them blend together after 20+ years, so I was happy to read it now, as an adult. My review:

The Good: Despite how many years ago ELLEN TEBBITS was written and despite the dated language, Ellen and Austine are still very real and relatable characters. Their friendship was one I rooted for from the beginning.

The Old: The “big secret” that Ellen has in the first chapter of the book is that she’s wearing woolen underwear, which isn’t something you’d hear mentioned in a contemporary middle grade book in 2015 (none that I’ve read, anyway.) One of the other characters, Otis, repeatedly asks his mom for a dime. What can you buy with a dime? (I guess a number of things in 1951.) Also, they use the word “swell.” How cute.

The Funny: Ellen’s thoughts and musings were really entertaining. I particularly like her thought process after her best friend’s mom asks the girls, “How would you like to go on a picnic?” Ellen doesn’t answer, because she’s not sure if the word “you” refers to one person or multiple, so she might not actually be invited. Haven’t we all been there in awkward social situations?

Overall: I thought this book was really cute! I think even girls today would enjoy it if they like stories that revolve around friendship. I like Beverly Cleary as an author, more for nostalgic reasons than anything, and I look forward to rereading more of her books.

Have any of you read ELLEN TEBBITS or other Beverly Cleary books as a kid? Do you still have any of your childhood favorites, whether kept from childhood or purchased as an adult?

12 comments:

Anne Gallagher said...

I love Beverly Cleary. But you're right, she's very outdated. Woolen underwear. What a hoot! I wonder what the big secret would be today when there aren't really any secrets anymore. Social media being what it is.

I'm glad you're back and well on the road to recovery.

Tiana Smith said...

I only read a few Beverly Cleary books, and don't think this was one of them. How cute!

Jemi Fraser said...

Sounds so cute ... or swell! :)
I might have that one in my classroom - I have a whole box of Cleary books. I'll have to dig through and see - I know some kids would laugh at the wool underwear!

Cynthia said...

I remember reading Ellen Tibbits. It's the Ramona books I connected to the most because I related so much to Ramona, and I would imagine that my older sister was Beezus.

Heather R. Holden said...

I own that same exact copy of Ellen Tebbits! I can't seem to remember anything about it, though. There's a chance I never got around to reading it as a kid, haha. (Shame on past me.)

Anyway, glad to hear you've been feeling so much better lately! Gallbladder surgery doesn't sound fun in the slightest...

Shelley Sly said...

Anne - It's funny how many of these stories would be different if there were social media involved!

Tiana - I still can't remember if I read this one as a kid or if this was my first read through, but I did read the Ramona books when I was younger.

Jemi - Haha, I've since used the word "swell" myself! I think kids would laugh at the underwear part, too.

Cynthia - How funny, I loved the Ramona books too, but I related to Beezus more.

Heather - That might be the same thing that happened to me, since even after reading it, I can't remember if I'd read it as a kid. Funny that you own the same copy!

Christine Rains said...

That's so cute! I love all that character on the cover. I use the word swell. I didn't even grow up in that era!

Shelley Sly said...

Christine - I like the word swell! It takes a bit to get used to it, though.

Julie Dao said...

I am so glad you are recovering well from your surgery! My friend had gallbladder surgery years ago and it is NOT fun. Hope you're back to your old self by now :) Beverly Cleary was one of my FAVORITE authors growing up. I read all of her books, including that one! A personal favorite was The Mouse and the Motorcycle :)

Shelley Sly said...

Julie - Thanks! And I loved The Mouse and the Motorcycle, too. :)

Helen Keyes said...

It's the first time I read this story. It's a meaningful and beautiful tale of the friendship.

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