Cleary, Beverly (Atlee Bunn) 1916-

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CLEARY, Beverly (Atlee Bunn) 1916-

PERSONAL: Born 1916, in McMinnville, OR; daughter of Chester Lloyd and Mable (Atlee) Bunn; married Clarence T. Cleary, October 6, 1940; children: Marianne Elisabeth, Malcolm James (twins). Education: University of California—Berkeley, B.A., 1938; University of Washington, Seattle, B.A., 1939. Hobbies and other interests: Travel, needlework.

ADDRESSES: Home—CA. Agent—c/o Author Mail, William Morrow/HarperCollins, 10 East 53rd St., 7th Floor, New York, NY 10022.

CAREER: Public Library, Yakima, WA, children's librarian, 1939-40; U.S. Army Hospital, Oakland, CA, post librarian, 1942-45; writer for young people, 1950—.

MEMBER: Authors Guild, Authors League of America.

AWARDS, HONORS: Young Readers' Choice Award, Pacific Northwest Library Association, 1957, for Henry and Ribsy, 1960, for Henry and the Paper Route, 1968, for The Mouse and the Motorcycle, 1971, for Ramona the Pest, and 1980, for Ramona and Her Father; Dorothy Canfield Fisher Memorial Children's Book Award, 1958, for Fifteen, 1961, for Ribsy, and 1985, for Dear Mr. Henshaw; Notable Book citation, American Library Association, 1961, for Jean and Johnny, 1966, for The Mouse and the Motorcycle, 1978, for Ramona and Her Father, and 1984, for Dear Mr. Henshaw; South Central Iowa Association of Classroom Teachers' Youth Award, 1968, Hawaii Association of School Librarians/Hawaii Library Association Nene Award, 1971, New England Round Table of Children's Librarians Honor Book Award, 1972, Sue Hefley Award from Louisiana Association of School Librarians, 1972, and Surrey School Book Award from Surrey School District, 1974, all for The Mouse and the Motorcycle; Nene Award from Hawaii Association of School Librarians and Hawaii Library Association, 1968, for Ribsy, 1969, for Ramona the Pest, 1972, for Runaway Ralph, and 1980, for Ramona and Her Father; William Allen White Award, Kansas Association of School Libraries and Kansas Teachers' Association, 1968, for The Mouse and the Motorcycle, and 1975, for Socks; Georgia Children's Book Award, College of Education, University of Georgia, 1970, Sequoyah

Children's Book Award, Oklahoma Library Association, 1971, and Massachusetts Children's Book Award nomination, 1977, all for Ramona the Pest; New England Round Table of Children's Librarians Honor Book Award, 1972, for Henry Huggins; Charlie Mae Simon Award, Arkansas Elementary School Council, 1973, for Runaway Ralph, and 1984, for Ramona Quimby, Age Eight; Distinguished Alumna Award, University of Washington, 1975; Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, American Library Association (ALA), 1975, for substantial and lasting contributions to children's literature; Golden Archer Award, University of Wisconsin, 1977, for Socks and Ramona the Brave; Children's Choice Election Award, second place, 1978; Ramona and Her Father appeared on Horn Book's honor list, 1978; Mark Twain Award, Missouri Library Association and Missouri Association of School Librarians, 1978, for Ramona the Brave; Newbery Honor Book Award from ALA and Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Award, both 1978, both for Ramona and Her Father; People Honor Book Award, International Board on Books for Young People, Tennessee Children's Book Award, Tennessee Library Association, Utah Children's Book Award, Children's Library Association of Utah, and Garden State Award, New Jersey Library Association, all 1980, for Ramona and Her Father; Regina Medal from Catholic Library Association, 1980, for "continued distinguished contributions to literature"; Land of Enchantment Children's Award and Texas Bluebonnet Award, both 1981, for Ramona and Her Father; American Book Award, 1981, for Ramona and Her Mother; Ramona Quimby, Age Eight was included on School Library Journal's "Best Books 1981" list; de Grummond Award, University of Mississippi and medallion, University of Southern Mississippi, both 1982, for distinguished contributions to children's literature; Ralph S. Mouse was included on School Library Journal's "Best Books 1982" list; Newbery Honor Book Award, ALA and American Book Award nomination, both 1982, for Ramona Quimby, Age Eight; Garden State Children's Choice Award, New Jersey Library Association, 1982, for Ramona and Her Mother, 1984, for Ramona Quimby, Age Eight, and 1985, for Ralph S. Mouse; Dear Mr. Henshaw was included on School Library Journal's "Best Books of 1983" list, named New York Times Notable Book of 1983, and noted on Horn Book's honor list, 1984; English Award, California Association of Teachers of English, and Golden Kite Award, Society of Children's Book Writers, both 1983, for Ralph S. Mouse; Christopher Award, 1983, for Dear Mr. Henshaw; Charles Near Simon Award from Arkansas Elementary School Council, Michigan Young Readers Award, and Buckeye Children's Book Award, all 1984, for Ramona Quimby, Age Eight; Iowa Children's Choice Award, Iowa Educational Media Association, 1984, for Ralph S. Mouse; Newbery Medal, ALA, Commonwealth Silver Medal, Commonwealth Club of California, Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award, and New York Times notable book citation, all 1984, for Dear Mr. Henshaw;U.S. author nominee for Hans Christian Andersen award, 1984; Buckeye Children's Book Award, 1985, for Ramona and Her Mother; Everychild honor citation, 1985, for thirty-five year contribution to children's literature; Ludington Award, Educational Paperback Association, 1987; honor book citation, Hawaii Association of School Librarians and the Children and Youth Section of Hawaii Library Association, 1988; honorary doctorate, Cornell College, 1993; National Medal of Arts, 2003. Cleary's books have received more than thirty-five state awards based on the direct votes of her young readers.


Henry Huggins, Morrow (New York, NY), 1950, fiftieth anniversary edition, with foreword by Cleary, Harper Collins (New York, NY), 1999.

Ellen Tebbits, Morrow (New York, NY), 1951.

Henry and Beezus, Morrow (New York, NY), 1952.

Otis Spofford, Morrow (New York, NY), 1953.

Henry and Ribsy, Morrow (New York, NY), 1954.

Beezus and Ramona, Morrow (New York, NY), 1955.

Fifteen (teen), Morrow (New York, NY), 1956.

Henry and the Paper Route, Morrow (New York, NY), 1957.

The Luckiest Girl, Morrow (New York, NY), 1958.

Jean and Johnny (teen), Morrow (New York, NY), 1959.

The Real Hole (preschool), Morrow (New York, NY), 1960, revised edition, 1986.

Hullabaloo ABC (preschool), Parnassus (New York, NY), 1960, new edition, with new illustrations, Morrow (New York, NY), 1998.

Two Dog Biscuits (preschool), Morrow (New York, NY), 1961, revised edition, 1986.

Emily's Runaway Imagination, Morrow (New York, NY), 1961.

Henry and the Clubhouse, Morrow (New York, NY), 1962.

Sister of the Bride, Morrow (New York, NY), 1963.

Ribsy, Morrow (New York, NY), 1964.

The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Morrow (New York, NY), 1965.

Mitch and Amy, Morrow, 1967, new edition, illustrated by Bob Marstall, Morrow (New York, NY), 1991.

Ramona the Pest (also see below), Morrow (New York, NY), 1968.

Runaway Ralph, Morrow (New York, NY), 1970.

Socks, Morrow (New York, NY), 1973.

The Sausage at the End of the Nose (play), Children's Book Council, 1974.

Ramona the Brave, Morrow (New York, NY), 1975.

Ramona and Her Father (also see below), Morrow (New York, NY), 1977.

Ramona and Her Mother (also see below), Morrow (New York, NY), 1979.

Ramona Quimby, Age Eight (also see below), Morrow (New York, NY), 1981.

Ralph S. Mouse, Morrow (New York, NY), 1982.

Dear Mr. Henshaw, Morrow (New York, NY), 1983.

Cutting Up with Ramona!, Dell (New York, NY), 1983.

Ramona Forever (also see below), Morrow (New York, NY), 1984.

The Ramona Quimby Diary, Morrow (New York, NY), 1984.

Lucky Chuck, Morrow (New York, NY), 1984.

Beezus and Ramona Diary, Morrow (New York, NY), 1986.

The Growing-Up Feet, Morrow (New York, NY), 1987.

Janet's Thingamajigs, Morrow (New York, NY), 1987.

A Girl from Yamhill: A Memoir, Morrow (New York, NY), 1988.

Meet Ramona Quimby (includes Ramona and Her Father, Ramona and Her Mother, Ramona Forever, Ramona Quimby, Age Eight, and Ramona the Pest), Dell (New York, NY), 1989.

Muggie Maggie, Morrow (New York, NY), 1990.

Strider, Morrow (New York, NY), 1991.

Petey's Bedtime Story, illustrated by David Small, Morrow (New York, NY), 1993.

My Own Two Feet: A Memoir, Morrow (New York, NY), 1995.

Ramona's World, illustrated by Alan Tiegreen, Morrow (New York, NY), 1999.

Lucky Chuck, illustrated by J. Winslow Higginbottom, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.

Also author of Ramona and Her Friends (an omnibus edition), and Leave It to Beaver (adapted from television scripts). Contributor to periodicals, including Woman's Day.

ADAPTATIONS: Pied Piper produced recordings and filmstrips of Henry and the Clubhouse, 1962, and Ribsy, 1964. Miller-Brody produced recordings, some with accompanying filmstrips, of Ramona and Her Father, 1979, Beezus and Ramona, 1980, Henry Huggins, 1980, Henry and Ribsy, 1980, Ramona and Her Mother, 1980, Ramona the Brave, 1980, Ramona Quimby, Age Eight, 1981, Henry and Beezus, 1981, Ralph S. Mouse, 1983, and Dear Mr. Henshaw, 1984. A six-episode series based on The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Runaway Mouse, and Ralph S. Mouse was produced by Churchill Films for American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. (ABC-TV); Ramona, a ten-part series based on Cleary's character Ramona Quimby, was broadcast on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in 1988; television programs based on the "Henry Huggins" books have appeared in Japan, Sweden, and Denmark. Many of the stories have been adapted for the stage.

SIDELIGHTS: Beverly Cleary's humorous, realistic portraits of American children have rendered her among the most successful writers for young readers. Books were important to Cleary from an early age, for her mother established the first lending library in the small town of McMinnville, Oregon, where Cleary was born. "It was in this dingy room filled with shabby leather-covered chairs and smelling of stale cigar smoke that I made the most magic of discoveries," Cleary recalled in Top of the News. "There were books for children!"

Cleary eagerly anticipated attending school and learning to read. Once she became a student, however, she found herself stifled by the rigid teaching methods of that time. "We had no bright beckoning book with such words as 'fun,' 'adventure,' or 'horizon' to tempt uson….Our primer looked grim," she remembered in a Horn Book article. "Its olive-green cover with its austere black lettering bore the symbol of a beacon light, presumably to guide us and to warn us of the dangers that lay within….The first grade was soon sorted into three reading groups: Bluebirds, Redbirds, and Blackbirds. I was a Blackbird, the only girl Blackbird among the boy Blackbirds who had to sit in the row by the blackboard….Tobea Blackbird was to be disgraced. I wanted to read, but somehow I could not. I wept at home while my puzzled mother tried to drill me on the dreaded word charts."

But under the guidance of her second-grade teacher, Cleary eventually learned "to plod through [the] reader a step or two ahead of disgrace," and she even managed to regain her original enthusiasm for books. She found, however, that the books available to her were ultimately unsatisfactory, for they bore no relation to the life she knew as a middle-class child in Portland, Oregon. Instead of reflecting Cleary's own experiences, the books told of "wealthy English children who had nannies and pony carts or books about poor children whose problems were solved by a long-lost rich relative turning up in the last chapter," she explained in a speech reprinted in Horn Book. "I had had enough…. I wanted to read funny stories about the sort of children I knew and decided that someday when I grew up I would write them." Cleary has achieved just that, and her books are now common fare in elementary school curricula and individual teachers' lessons plans.

Cleary wrote her funny stories, setting most of her books on or around Klickitat Street, a real street near her childhood home. The children in her books face situations common in real children's lives—finding a stray dog, forgetting to deliver newspapers, the horror of having to kiss in a school play. They misbehave, and they discover that adults are not always fair. In a speech reprinted in Catholic Library World, Cleary noted that one of her books, Otis Spofford, generated considerable controversy upon publication in 1953, and was even rejected by some libraries, merely because "Otis threw spitballs and did not repent."

Perhaps the most endearing and popular of Cleary's characters is Ramona Quimby, a spunky little girl who would make fairly regular appearances in Cleary's books after Henry Huggins began appearing in the 1950s. But it was not until 1968, with the publication of Ramona the Pest, that Ramona had assumed the position of heroine in one of Cleary's publications. Critics, as well as readers, responded enthusiastically to this expansion of Ramona's character, and ensuing works about Ramona would be met with almost unqualified praise. A critic in Young Readers' Review commented: "As in all her books about the boys and girls of Klickitat Street, Mrs. Cleary invests [Ramona the Pest] with charm, humor, and complete honesty. There are some adults who can remember many incidents from their early childhood; there are few who can remember how they felt about things and why; there are fewer who can communicate these feelings. And fewer still who can retain the humorous aspects. Mrs. Cleary is one of those rare ones…. Even boys and girls who dislike stories about children younger than themselves enjoy the incidents in which Ramona makes a pest of herself…. Ramona has never been funnier and has never been so sympathetic a character….As usual, this is standard Cleary first-rate entertainment." Polly Goodwin of Book World called Ramona "a wonderfully real little girl trying hard to express herself, to understand and be understood in a bewildering world."

The sequel to Ramona the Pest, titled Ramona the Brave, was equally well received. A reviewer in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books wrote that it is "diverting [and] written with the ebullient humor and sympathy that distinguish Cleary's stories. Ramona is as convincing a first-grader as a fictional character can be." A Growing Point reviewer called it "straight domestic writing at its liveliest and most skillful."

Cleary told CA that the books about Ramona reflect a "child's relationship with adults." This is evident inRamona and Her Father, in which Mr. Quimby loses his job and begins to smoke too much, prompting Ramona to start a ferocious no-smoking campaign in order to save her father's life. A critic in Booklist wrote: "With her uncanny gift for pinpointing the thoughts and feelings of children right down to their own phraseology—while honoring the boundaries of clean, simple writing—the author catches a family situation that puts strain on each of its members, despite their intrinsic strength and invincible humor…. [The resulting story is] true, warm hearted, and funny." A reviewer in Growing Point noted that "the humorous tone of these neatly particularized domestic situations is never flippant, and behind it a picture is built up of a stable and sensible American family, in which that wayward individualist Ramona is able to develop in happy security." Times Literary Supplement contributor Peter Hunt further praised Cleary for her skill in pulling off "the difficult trick of keeping to a second-grader's viewpoint without being condescending or 'cute.'"

Katherine Paterson analyzed Cleary's brand of humor in a Washington Post Book World article. "When I was young there were two kinds of funny—funny ha-ha and funny peculiar," Paterson wrote. "A lot of funny ha-ha things happen in Cleary's books, but her real specialty is another kind of funny, which is a cross between funny ha-ha and funny ahhh. Cleary has the rare gift of being able to reveal us to ourselves while still keeping an arm around our shoulder. We laugh (ha ha) to recognize that funny, peculiar little self we were and are and then laugh (ahhh) with relief that we've been understood at last…. Cleary is loved because she can describe simply the complex feelings of a child. But even more, Cleary is able to sketch clearly with a few perfect strokes the inexplicable adult world as seen through a child's eyes."

After publishing Ramona Forever in 1984, Cleary allowed fifteen years to pass before she revived the Ramona series with Ramona's World, which finds the plucky child in fourth grade. In this tale Ramona gamely endeavors to win a best friend while tolerating the arrival of a baby into her family. During the course of the book, Ramona attempts to vacuum a cat, and while playing in a friend's attic she manages to plunge through the thin ceiling and hang suspended over a dining area. A Publishers Weekly critic reported that "most of Ramona's triumphs and traumas are timeless and convincingly portrayed." A Booklist reviewer, meanwhile, concluded that "for the most part, this is just what readers have been waiting for: vintage Ramona."

Rosemary Herbert in a 1999 Boston Herald article found that Cleary's books were reappearing in the children's sections of bookstores. She asked, "Do you feel as if you've entered a time warp when you browse the children's section of your favorite bookstore? Look around. Here's Ludwig Bemelmans' Madeline. There's Beverly Cleary's Ramona…. What brought these plucky girls of the '20s, '30s, '50s and '60s back into print?" Interviewing several publishers provided the answer: "Mindful that parents hold the purse strings, [publishers are] marketing nostalgia to adults rather than books to kids." But in the case of Ramona, Cathryn Mercier, associate director of the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College in Boston, assured Herbert, "The release of Ramona's World—the first Ramona book to be written by the character's creator in fifteen years—is not clouded in controversy. Like Eloise, Madeline, and Hitty, Ramona remains appealing because she 'exhibits independence of thought and action.'"

The ability to portray the world of adults through a child's perspective is a strength of Cleary's nonfiction as well as her fiction. In her two volumes of autobiographical writing—A Girl from Yamhill: A Memoir, which appeared in 1988, and My Own Two Feet: A Memoir, which was published in 1995—Cleary "immediately makes one understand why [her] books are perennial favorites," according to Mary M. Burns in Horn Book. Recounting Cleary's childhood in Portland, Oregon, during the Great Depression, A Girl from Yamhill reveals the real Klickitat Street and shows that the roots of many of the fictional episodes of Ramona Quimby were based on her creator's own life. Praising Cleary's choice of topics—which include the emotional difficulties in moving to a new town, dealing with an overly demonstrative male relative, a less expressive mother whose affection was channelled into molding her children to her own designs, and dealing with the pangs of adolescent first love—Lillian N. Gerhardt wrote in School Library Journal, "As with her fiction, readers are likely to want her memoir to go on when they read her last page."

A Girl from Yamhill ends in 1934, as Cleary begins her college education in Southern California. My Own Two Feet takes up the story where its predecessor left off, with the future author on a Greyhound bus bound from Oregon to California, ready to begin her life as an independent adult. My Own Two Feet "is a Depression story and then a World War II home-front story," explained Perri Klass in the New York Times Book Review, "but most remarkably it is a story about craving independence and craving education." From college, where she studied library science, Cleary obtained a job as a children's librarian in Washington. The children she met there would inspire her early attempts at fulfilling her childhood dream of becoming a writer of books for young readers. In between attending college and publishing her first book in 1950, Cleary experienced courtship and marriage, the financial stresses caused by making a living during the Depression years, and an emotional confrontation with a strong-willed, controlling mother. Cleary's "vivid recollections" of the many small events that figured in her journey as a student and young wife "are continued evidence of this author's ability to convince readers," maintained Ruth K. MacDonald in School Library Journal. "It's all in the details."

While her autobiographies reveal that many of her books had their basis in her own life, Cleary has also written on topics with which she has not had first-hand experience. Publication of the 1983 volume Dear Mr. Henshaw, for example, marked Cleary's response to many letters asking for a book about a child of divorce. In this book, protagonist Leigh Botts's letters to his favorite author reveal his loneliness and confusion following his parents' separation. While Cleary's characteristic humor is still present, Dear Mr. Henshaw represents a change in her style and tone, and it is probably the author's most serious work. She remarked in a speech reprinted in Horn Book: "When I wrote Dear Mr. Henshaw, I did not expect every reader to like Leigh as much as Ramona. Although I am deeply touched that my books have reached two generations of children, popularity has never been my goal. If it had been, I would have written Ramona Solves the Mystery of the Haunted House and Finds a Baby Brother or something like Henry and Beezus Play Doctor, instead of a book about the feelings of a lonely child of divorce."

Some critics have questioned the role that Cleary's characters (especially Ramona) play in pressuring children to adapt to school homogenization. Linda Benson in Children's Literature in Education asked whether "the dominant culture manipulates the character of Ramona, who, if not silenced or entirely subdued by the end of the series, is at least much more civilized according to the norms of the classroom."

But many critics and children alike responded enthusiastically to Cleary's efforts. Natalie Babbitt declared in the New York Times Book Review: "Beverly Cleary has written many very good books over the years. This one is the best. It is a first-rate, poignant story…. There is so much in it, all presented so simply, that it's hard to find a way to do it justice. Mrs. Cleary knows the voice of children. Dialogue has always been one of the strongest parts of her work. And here, where all is dialogue, that strength can shine alone and be doubly impressive…. What a lovely, well-crafted, three-dimensional work this is. And how reassuring … to see that a 27th book can be so fresh and strong. Lots of adjectives here; she deserves them all."

Cleary told CA: "I doubt if my dear, encouraging highschool English teachers would approve of my writing process today. Fifty years ago, when I began to write, I dutifully tried to outline a story, a task I found so tiresome I quickly abandoned it and simply wrote. I often begin a book in the middle and work out a beginning and an end. This method leads to untidy manuscripts. Revising, however, is the part of writing I enjoy most, and when I can reduce a page to a paragraph, I know my story is headed in the right direction.

"I write in longhand on yellow, lined paper. I write on every third line to leave room for additions. When the manuscript is finished, I fight my enemy, the typewriter, to produce a legible copy for a good typist."



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Berg, Julie, Beverly Cleary, Abdo & Daughters (Edina, MN), 1993.

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Carlsen, R. Robert, Books and the Teen-Age Reader, Harper (New York, NY), 1967.

Chambers, Mary, editor, The Signal Review I: A Selective Guide to Children's Literature, Thimble Press, 1983.

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Children's Literature Review, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 2, 1976, Volume 8, 1985.

Cullinan, Bernice E., and others, Literature and the Child, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1981.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 52: American Writers for Children since 1960: Fiction, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1986.

Dreyer, Sharon Spredemann, The Bookfinder: A Guide to Children's Literature about the Needs and Problems of Youth Aged 2-15, American Guidance Service, 1977.

Eakin, Mary K., Good Books for Children: A Selection of Outstanding Children's Books Published, 1950-65, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1966.

Egoff, Sheila A., Thursday's Child: Trends and Patterns in Contemporary Children's Literature, American Library Association (Chicago, IL), 1981.

Gannon, Susan R., and Ruth Anne Thompson, editors, Proceedings of the Thirteenth Annual Conference of the Children's Literature Association, University of Missouri-Kansas City, May 16-18, 1986, Purdue University Press (West Layfayette, IN), 1988.

Hopkins, Lee Bennett, More Books by More People, Citation Press, 1974.

Huck, Charlotte S., and Doris Young Kuhn, Children's Literature in the Elementary School, 2nd edition, Holt (New York, NY), 1968.

Kelly, Joanne, The Beverly Cleary Handbook, Teacher Ideas Press (Englewood, CO), 1996.

Larrick, Nancy, A Teacher's Guide to Children's Books, Merrill (Cincinnati, OH), 1966.

Pflieger, Pat, Beverly Cleary, Twayne (Boston, MA), 1991.

Rees, David, The Marble in the Water: Essays on Contemporary Writers of Fiction for Children and Young Adults, Horn Book (Boston, MA), 1980.

Sadker, Myra Pollack, and David Miller Sadker, Now upon a Time: A Contemporary View of Children's Literature, Harper (New York, NY), 1977.

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Horn Book, December, 1951; December, 1959; October, 1962; October, 1963; December, 1964; June, 1969; August, 1970; August, 1975; December, 1977; October, 1982; December, 1982; October, 1983; August, 1984; September, 1984; May-June, 1988, pp. 369-370; November-December, 1990, p. 738; September-October, 1991, p. 595; May-June, 1995, p. 297; December, 1995, p. 775.

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Beverly Cleary Home Page, (March 6, 2004).

BookPage, (August, 1999), Miriam Drennen, interview with Cleary.


Meet the Newbery Author: Beverly Cleary (filmstrip), Random House/Miller Brody.*