Book Review: Otis Spofford and Ellen Tebbits

WOTIS SPOFFORDe have continued to read as much Beverly Cleary as was in the boxed set we bought last year. I believe, in fact, I am down to the almost-last review. (I am back-logged and owe you a Mouse and the Motorcycle trilogy review.)

ELLEN TEBBITSI believe that these books are related on some level to the Ramona and Henry Huggins series, like in the same neighborhood, but I can not seem to verify that anywhere. At any rate, they take place in a similar time and place and have similar situations and deal with similar subject matter, especially kids who mean well but just can’t seem to stay out of trouble.

Even though both Otis Spofford and Ellen Tebbits are often listed among Cleary’s top books (with Ramon and Henry and Ralph S. Mouse), I do not think they translate to the modern reader nearly as much as the others. Ellen Tebbits, especially, is outdated. The main plot involves Ellen being afraid that everyone will find out that she wears woolen underwear in the winter. What? Doubt most of us even know to what she is referring, let alone can think of something that we wear that can make a parallel.

I also am not a fan of Otis, who is featured in both books. Ellen was a little flat, but Otis was just plain obnoxious to me. Whereas Ramona’s spunk and misbehavior is tempered by her charm, Otis did things that just seemed careless and–at times–real mean-spirited, and then didn’t seem to actually feel bad.

Still clear writing and fairly idyllic, gentle books. But I would not choose Ellen or Otis over Cleary’s more solid books, especially the Ramona series and Socks.


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