I’m fairly certain that I was introduced to Beverly Cleary’s books the summer before third grade. My family was visiting my grandparents in Oregon and their neighbor came over with a few books for me to try. My siblings and I played with her sons and she must have seen me curled up on a lawn chair under the huge tree in the front yard.
OTIS SPOFFORD (1953 Edition)
With the exception of one book¸ I honestly don’t remember what she handed me. The book I remember is Otis Spofford. It took me a little while to get used to the book. I’d read chapter books before (and had a well-worn library card), but I’m not sure if I’d ever read anything that felt contemporary. Otis was older than me, but I still recognized him as someone I could possibly know. I understood his need to tease Ellen Tebbits and her exasperation at being teased. I loved watching bugs myself, so Otis’s plan to collect bugs for a high school student’s biology project to earn money made perfect sense. And the fact that the book was set in Oregon—where my family lived!—was almost magical.
OTIS SPOFFORD (later edition)
When I returned to school in the fall, I know I revisited some of my favorite books from the previous year, but I also remember looking for more Beverly Cleary books. Sometime during that school year I met Beezus and Ribsy and Henry Huggins and Ramona. I’ve read and re-read most of her books since that fateful summer, but I have yet to find anyone else whose first Beverly Cleary book was Otis Spofford.
You can find Otis’s first appearance in Ellen Tebbits online now.
For more information about summer reading and the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge, visit scholastic.com/summer.
book.box (bukboks) n. A cardboard receptacle, typically rectangular in shape
with lid, containing words, pictures, ideas and dreams, often
accompanied by excitement, anticipation and the love of reading.