The literary community is a buzz with well wishes to one of our favorite authors. We, at KidLit TV, join in to say, Happy 100th Birthday, Beverly Cleary!
Cleary, is best known for her books Henry Huggins, Ramona Quimby, Age 8 and The Mouse and the Motorcycle. She has been awarded the National Book Award, a Newbery Medal (for Dear Mr. Henshaw, published in 1983), two Newbery Honors, and a National Medal of Art from the National Endowment of the Arts. She was also awarded the American Library Association’s 1975 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. In 2000, the Library of Congress gave her a Living Legend Award.
In an interview with NPR, Cleary’s daughter credits genetics and determination for her mother’s success:
“My ancestors crossed the plains in covered wagons …” says Marianne Cleary. “And so my mother is from Pioneer stock. … She’s very disciplined. When she would write every morning, she would sit down after breakfast, my brother and I would go to school, and she’d write, till noon or so. She never waited for inspiration, she just got to it.”
Cleary grew up in Oregon. She had a rough start to elementary school, nearly failing out of the 1st grade. Surprisingly, she didn’t enjoy reading books at this age. She, like every other child, had to discover an author (Lucy Fitch Perkins) that she connected with. Thereafter, she became passionate about reading. Later, Cleary put herself through college during the Great Depression. During this difficult time, not many people could afford college, and very few women attended. On top of the financial hurdles, she struggled with poor eyesight for many years until she was able to get glasses.
Her mother discouraged her from becoming a writer (hey, it’s hard to make a living in the profession). When Cleary did sit down at her typewriter and create stories, her books were rejected by her publisher. However, Cleary wasn’t deterred. She re-worked the story, adding Beezus and Ramona. And thank goodness she did! Cleary has been delighting readers since 1950, when Henry Higgins was published.
As a kid, my mom had a home library in our hallway. It was bookcase that held probably a hundred children’s books (or at least it seemed to me). We had several Cleary books that I read as a kid in the 80’s. I am the oldest sibling and I related to Beezus, but was focused on Ramona. I couldn’t believe all the trouble that Ramona would get into and would look at my little sisters with a raised eyebrow of suspicion!
So what does Cleary say about the character I found the most memorable? The Washington Post shared the scoop:
Ramona, she says, has to some degree been misunderstood. It’s not that she’s naughty, Cleary says, it’s that “things just didn’t work out the way she thought they should.” But for her creator, things pretty much have.
I love seeing my own kids doing their “reading minutes” with Henry Higgins, Ralph and Ramona. The core of Cleary’s stories are timeless because they focus on childhood itself: parents, teachers, bullies, siblings, and pets, as well as other concepts of [mis-]adventures, every day life and the fantastic.
Happy 100th Birthday, Beverly Cleary! We hope you have a wonderful day and enjoy your slice of carrot cake!
Photo: courtesy of http://www.beverlycleary.com/.