Emily’s Runaway Imagination

By Beverly Cleary

I live on the opposite side of the country from my parents and my childhood home, and when I was visiting recently, I came across this gem.

I don’t necessarily remember reading Emily’s Runaway Imagination in 1983, but I tore through it again during my visit. It was published in 1961 and set in the 1920s, and I’m sure know-it-all-first-grader-me thought it was old-fashioned. But the beautiful charm of Beverly Cleary’s books is in their utter timelessness. She once said (and I love her dearly for this), “Quite often somebody will say, ‘What year do your books take place?’ and the only answer I can give is, in childhood.”

Ramona Quimby holds a huge chunk of my heart, and I think Emily and Ramona would be the best of friends. Emily is a bit more refined, but has just as many dashes of spunk. She receives letters from her city cousin Muriel about the wondrous book Black Beauty and how she has read it countless times. But there is no library in tiny Pitchfork, Oregon. Emily fiercely plots and plans for a library and rallies the entire town to help.

And she’s a wise little one. Pulling the wishbone from the church potluck …

“She would wish for Black Beauty, because that was a little, selfish wish. Faith was for big, unselfish things like a library for the whole town.” 

But just as the title suggests, she has moments of adorable kookiness that will instantly endear her to any reader. Because if Muriel can love Black Beauty so much, why can’t Emily dump Clorox all over her plow horse, Lady? Surely a snow white horse would be just as lovely? How was she supposed to know what would happen when she gave the hogs a smorgasboard of rotten apples? And at that church potluck, her imagination rescues her from the sheer embarrassment of sharing ugly, misshapen pies.

It’s a grand thing that someone in Pitchfork has a runaway imagination … thanks to Emily’s, they just might get that library after all.

I’m so glad I found this book again. Emily has my imagination and dreams running rampant. It’s definitely a must read if you need a little spark!

Carter Higgins was an early follower and enthusiastic cheerleader for our blog, and we’re excited that’s she’s agreed to write guest reviews for us when she feels inspired.

Carter is a motion graphics designer and a former elementary school librarian. When she is not creating graphics for TV or writing picture books, she teaches design courses in color, layout, and composition, as well as Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and After Effects. All of these interests combine in her Design of the Picture Book blog (it’s an excellent blog; you’ll be missing out if you don’t visit). You can find her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/carterhiggins.