A Girl from Yamhill Critical Context - Essay

Beverly Atlee Bunn

Critical Context

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

A Girl from Yamhill, although written for a general rather than a specifically young adult audience, nevertheless proves particularly valuable for the young reader. Those who have grown up reading Cleary’s fiction will find it fascinating to trace the origins of many of her characters, most of whom live in the vicinity of Klickitat Street in Portland and frequent the public library, as she did. Her struggle with braces and long, woolen winter underwear, her plump best friend, her love of roller skating, and her ballet lessons—all reappear in the character of Ellen Tebbits. Even Cleary’s doll, named Fordson-Lafayette after her neighbor’s tractor, reappears as Ramona Quimby’s doll, Chevrolet, named after her aunt’s car.

Cleary’s purpose in writing these memoirs, however, is to validate the experience of childhood and young adulthood, as well as to examine the life and development of a child with as much seriousness as they deserve. Although not yet a regular part of high-school curriculum, or even an accepted classic in the field, A Girl from Yamhill offers a valuable reading experience on so many different levels, both personal and historical, that it would make an excellent addition to any young person’s library.