Happy Birthday, Beverly Cleary!
Today is Beverly Cleary’s 100th birthday!
Hooray for the long, wonderful life of the author of the Ramona books.
Hooray for a fellow librarian!
Schools, libraries and readers all over are celebrating Beverly Cleary today and this week.
In the months leading up to the big day, HarperCollins re-released the Ramona books with new covers, and forwards from people like Judy Blume and Amy Poehler, who grew up loving the Ramona books.
It sounds like Beverly Cleary is happy and healthy, enjoying time with friends and family and time spent reading. She plans to keep her own celebration low-key with a slice of carrot cake. Here’s a glimpse of her life from the Washington Post.
I don’t remember which Ramona Quimby book I read first. I remember I was in first and second grade, and that I zoomed through absolutely anything and everything Ramona I could get my hands on: library books, gifts from relatives. I read the books about the mouse too, and Dear Mr. Henshaw, (I liked that he was writing to an author who wrote back.)
I think it was the summer after fifth grade, that I found A Girl from Yamhill, and got to satisfy my curiosity about Beverly Cleary’s own life and childhood, then see her thoughts about young adulthood in the following volume, My Own Two Feet. Reading about Beverly Cleary and her life, now that I’m older has a new fascination. In “Most People Love Ramona, but I Remember Beverly Cleary,” on Jezebel, Kate Dries does a great riff on Beverly Cleary’s upbringing and interior life.
Yes, energetic, curious, brave Ramona was always Cleary’s favorite. Reading her autobiography let me see how much of Cleary’s own energy came through on the fictional page.
Cleary is both set in her ways — “I don’t think I joined this century” — and keenly aware of how times have changed. “I think children today have a tough time, because they don’t have the freedom to run around as I did — and they have so many scheduled activities.”
I remember reading about Ramona’s adventures on Klickitat Street, mishaps and triumphs and getting into mischief or trouble. I know that Cleary’s writing drew on her own childhood, growing up in the early 20th century, being a kid in a small town. Time and setting made it seem ageless and far, far away from my own city kid life. I read, and re-read every word.
I’m delighted that her books are still loved, discovered, laughed over. Maybe even passed down from grandparents and parents to kids.
And Beverly Cleary has even inspired scholarly articles, which delights me.
To celebrate her birthday, I’m planning to Drop Everything And Read. (I realize, this is not all that different from a normal day’s plan for me.)
And maybe I’ll have a slice of carrot cake.