Book Review: Strider by Beverly Cleary


Beverly Cleary

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(From Goodreads)

“Strider has a new habit. Whenever we stop, he places his paw on my foot. It isn’t an accident because he always does it. I like to think he doesn’t want to leave me.”

Can a stray dog change the life of a teenage boy? It looks as if Strider can. He’s a dog that loves to run; because of Strider, Leigh Botts finds himself running — well enough to join the school track team. Strider changes Leigh on the inside, too, as he finally begins to accept his parents’ divorce and gets to know a redheaded girl he’s been admiring. With Strider’s help, Leigh finds that the future he once hated to be asked about now holds something he never expected: hope.

I owned a copy of “Dear Mr. Henshaw”, as I mentioned in the review post of it, and when I was looking at Beverly Cleary books that were famous I recognized this was a two book series. I went to the local libraries website to see if they had a copy of the book. Luckily, they did. I went the next day and picked it up. This was one of the fastest reads, which makes sense because it is a middle grade book. I devoured this book within like 2 sittings of reading it.

When I look at “Strider” as its own entity, I rather enjoyed the book. When I compare it to the content of “Dear Mr. Henshaw”, I feel that it is a completely different series and completely different book. “Dear Mr. Henshaw” felt like an emotional read. It was full of trying to feel hope for the main character, Leigh, while he was dealing with the recent changes in his family. “Strider”, in my opinion, does not have that same type of emotional connectivity. This is largely because it is about Leigh getting a dog, a friendship deteriorating somewhat because of the dog’s joint ownership, and him learning that he likes to run. These aspects do not provide the same series feeling as from what I was expecting having read “Dear Mr. Henshaw.” I felt like I was reading any old children’s book, where I expected more from this particular series. That is not to say it was horrible, as a stand alone book it would have been awesome. This, however, did not seem to fit with the previous book enough. Ramona books, from what I have told, are all fun and light-hearted types of books. I thought Cleary was trying to go against that with this particular series by having a more emotional and deeper connection to ongoing children’s issues than she would be able to do in that other series. This book, however, disproved my thought process about it, which bummed me out a little bit.

If you are a parent of children, do not get discouraged by what I am saying here. Children need light-hearted reads. They need books that they read for enjoyment. As an adult though I expect different things from series books. I have developed my own sense of what they are supposed to feel like. For a child, they would probably not notice the difference between the two because they would simply be a book by an author that they enjoy that features the same characters. Also the book does discuss important themes, such as pet ownership and friendships. For children, these are important. The friendship points are extremely vital, as it points out that friendships can have rough spots and that even when you think you have no friends, you will be shocked to find new ones that you never considered. It handles these thematics very well.

While the book definitely isn’t a “Dear Mr. Henshaw”, it is still a worthwhile book to read at least once. I would have loved to read this growing up.  It would give a child reader, I imagine, a great sense of hope for their lives, especially if they live in a home with a single parent and are a product of divorce. I feel that this book would best be left for the children and I will probably avoid other Cleary books, due to my age, in the future.

Beverly Cleary is a pretty prolific children’s author. Some of her most famous works are the “Ramona Quimby” and “The Mouse and The Motorcycle” series. She has other books that are just as known though, but those are probably her most well-known by most people. Her other books are definitely worth a glance as well!

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