People Are Telling Beverly Cleary What Her Books Mean To Them On Her 103rd Birthday

by Julie Scagell
Originally Published: 
Courtesy of the Cleary Family archive and Harper Collins

Beverly Cleary’s books exemplified many people’s childhoods

If you’re of a certain age, you grew up reading every Beverly Cleary book you could get your hands on. The beloved author was able to perfectly capture every nuance of her characters in a way that you felt like you were there experiencing everything with them. Once I became a parent, Cleary’s “Ramona” series was the first I bought my daughter when she started to read, passing down the true gift of her books. Now, on her 103rd birthday, fans are writing to tell Cleary what her books meant to them.

Her birthday, April 12, is officially National D.E.A.R. Day (Drop Everything and Read) in honor of her accomplishments and success. According to her website, when kids have asked her where she finds her ideas, she’s said, “From my own experience and from the world around me.” In fact, she included a passage about the D.E.A.R. program in “Ramona Quimby, Age 8” because she was inspired by letters she received from children who participated in D.E.A.R Day and wanted Ramona to have the same experience with her class in the book.

Fans were eager to tell the author just how much her books meant to them, sharing memories and favorite passages from their childhood:

Though Ramona was a fan favorite, many connected with her other characters like Ellen Tebbits, ballet extraordinaire, Ralph the Mouse, Beezus, and Henry Huggins. It felt like their worlds were familiar, and many believe Cleary’s characters were finally ones that most kids could relate to. There were no nannies, nothing fancy about them — just regular kids living in a regular neighborhood, all brought to life by Cleary’s imagination and writing talent.

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“By the third grade, she had conquered reading and spent much of her childhood either with books or on her way to and from the public library. Before long her school librarian was suggesting that she should write for boys and girls when she grew up,” her website continued. “The idea appealed to her, and she decided that someday she would write the books she longed to read but was unable to find on the library shelves, funny stories about her neighborhood and the sort of children she knew.”

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Cleary was also able to capture the magic of childhood and also the mundane moments when kids were stuck between the desire to grow up and the ease of being cared for. “Ramona could not understand why grown-ups always talked about how quickly children grew up. Ramona thought growing up was the slowest thing there was,” she wrote in “Ramona the Pest.”

Cleary was named a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress and her books have appeared in over 20 countries in 14 languages, but my guess is that her proudest moments are the ones above, hearing from fans who grew up on her books; ones whose childhoods were made just a little bit better between the pages of a Beverly Cleary book.

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