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Author Spotlight: Beverly Cleary and Louis Darling

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No teacher has ever had to assign Beverly Cleary books; children sample a few sentences and they just know. Last fall, Cleary’s publisher gave her legions of fans a great gift by reissuing some of her classics in new editions that restore the illustrations by Louis Darling, who gave generations of readers their first look at Henry Huggins, Beezus, and Ribsy. They have been selling swiftly at Interabang and are currently featured in the kids’ display “New Year / Old Favorites."

The six hardcover reissues were inspired by a museum exhibition devoted to the work of Louis Darling, the illustrator who worked with Beverly Cleary from her 1950 debut, HENRY HUGGINS, through RUNAWAY RALPH in 1970, the year he died of cancer. Tony DiTerlizzi of SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES fame, who organized the show at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, made the case to the publisher that there was an audience ready to read Cleary’s books exactly as they first appeared, with Darling’s pen-and-ink drawings perfectly evoking the kids, pets, and parents around Klickitat Street.

They apparently met in person just once during their 20-year partnership, but Cleary and Darling were simpatico from the start. When she saw his first illustrations for HENRY HUGGINS, she wrote to Darling, “I want to tell you how delighted I am. You seem to know exactly what I had in mind.”

As a bonus, the new editions boast something the originals lack: Introductory appreciations by popular authors and illustrators of today, including Jeff Kinney (WIMPY KID), Newbery honoree Cece Bell (SOCK MONKEY, EL DEAFO), and two-time Caldecott honoree Marla Frazee (BOSS BABY). They sing the praises of the Beverly Clearly / Louis Darling duo in ways that will move the books to the top of the list of adult readers interested in revisiting the favorites of their youth. Even better, they may motivate those eager to share such favorites with young readers.

Cleary, who celebrated her 100th birthday in 2016, created the kind of timeless, amusing everyday adventures that seem far too much fun to call classic. Her young characters are like people we’ve known, and their sidewalks and schoolrooms feel as familiar as our own. That she is herself a Newbury winner feels beside the point. Ask a kid; they’ll just say they love Beverly Cleary. So will many adults:

“How could a woman born before the Great Depression write books that reached millions of kids around the world, books that are still being discovered by new readers today? Because Cleary knew a secret all good storytellers know: childhood is universal.” – Jeff Kinney, from his foreword to HENRY AND THE PAPER ROUTE

“Once upon a time there was a children’s librarian named Beverly Cleary who tried to find books with characters who were just like the kids at her library. She couldn’t find many, so she decided to write her own.” – Cece Bell, from her foreword to RIBSY

“A cowlick, a cuff, an untied sneaker, a determined walk, slouched shoulders, a proud tilt of the head, a humiliating tumble from a bike, a dog with fleas –– it sure isn’t a shiny world. But it is a familiar one.” – Marla Frazee on the art of Louis Darling, from her foreword to HENRY AND BEEZUS

No word yet on whether more new “old” Cleary books with Louis Darling illustrations will be published. There are 14 more titles to choose from. Here’s hoping that interest in the first batch reveals to HarperCollins that readers want more. Ready when you are, Ramona Quimby!

The six reissues are…

Henry Huggins Cover Image
By Beverly Cleary, Louis Darling (Illustrator)
$16.99
ISBN: 9780062652355
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: HarperCollins - November 7th, 2017

Ribsy (Henry Huggins #6) Cover Image
By Beverly Cleary, Louis Darling (Illustrator)
$16.99
ISBN: 9780062652409
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: HarperCollins - November 7th, 2017

Henry and Ribsy (Henry Huggins #3) Cover Image
By Beverly Cleary, Louis Darling (Illustrator)
$16.99
ISBN: 9780062652379
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: HarperCollins - November 7th, 2017

Henry and Beezus (Henry Huggins #2) Cover Image
By Beverly Cleary, Louis Darling (Illustrator)
$16.99
ISBN: 9780062652362
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: HarperCollins - November 7th, 2017

Henry and the Paper Route (Henry Huggins #4) Cover Image
By Beverly Cleary, Louis Darling (Illustrator)
$16.99
ISBN: 9780062652386
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: HarperCollins - November 7th, 2017

Henry and the Clubhouse (Henry Huggins #5) Cover Image
By Beverly Cleary, Louis Darling (Illustrator)
$16.99
ISBN: 9780062652393
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: HarperCollins - November 7th, 2017