Socks Essay - Critical Context

Beverly Atlee Bunn

Critical Context

In more than forty years of writing, Beverly Cleary published more than forty titles and distinguished herself as a clear favorite among both children and adults. This success is evidenced by the sales of her books, the high circulation of her titles in libraries, and the numerous awards and honors attributed to her work, including recognition from at least seventeen different state library associations, frequent Young Reader’s Choice Awards from the Pacific Northwest Library Association, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award and the Newbery Medal from the American Library Association. She received the William Allen White Award and the Golden Archer Award from the University of Wisconsin for Socks.

Humans dominate Cleary’s writings; Ramona Quimby is undoubtedly the most memorable character in her realistic stories for young readers. Henry Huggins was her earliest creation, and Leigh Botts, an adolescent from a divorced family, is the protagonist in Dear Mr. Henshaw (1983) and Strider (1991), books for a slightly older audience. Ralph S. Mouse, a motorcycle-riding mouse and the friend of Keith Gridley, appeared in three Cleary fantasy books, and Ribsy, Henry Huggins’ dog, had a book of his own prior to the publication of Socks, Cleary’s second animal story.

Cleary writes from her childhood desire to read amusing books about children like herself. While some critics fault her lack of stories with a racial mix of characters or books that deal with serious childhood problems, Cleary has remained true to her personal goals and provided several generations of children with appealing, entertaining reading.