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:
Ramona Quimby is a character that opened the possibilities of wonder and wisdom for this young reader. Thanks for being an advocate for literature and the importance of representing the children's perspective.— The Queen of Sheba (@LilyEPloski) April 12, 2019
Happy 103rd Beverly Cleary!!!
Happy birthday to Beverly Cleary. I grew up on her books and loved Ramona, Henry Huggins, Ralph S. Mouse, and the rest of her characters.— Ali (@Poproxandcoke) April 12, 2019
"She was not a slowpoke grown-up. She was a girl who could not wait. Life was so interesting she had to find out what happened next."
— Free Library of Philadelphia (@FreeLibrary) April 12, 2019
I love the gently countercultural tone here (and elsewhere in Cleary) — she was almost 50 when writing this in the early 1960s and you can almost see on the page a cool WWII-era writer making room for the 'free spirits' of the younger generation
— Saladin Ahmed (@saladinahmed) April 12, 2019
A wondrous passage from THE MOUSE AND THE MOTORCYCLE, the first novel I ever read.
By living legend Beverly Cleary, who is 103 years old today. pic.twitter.com/GOJJUwZOnP
— Saladin Ahmed (@saladinahmed) April 12, 2019
I have a special place in my heart for Beverly Cleary; I met Ramona Quimby as a newly migrated 8 yo. To this day, Gasoline being thought of as a beautiful name makes me smile + I can sing "here comes the bride/ short fat and wide/ here comes the groom/ skinny as a broom"
— sunflowers are smarter than straight men (@HappyCosmopolit) April 12, 2019
— Matt Jacobs (@tarantallegra) April 12, 2019
3rd grade we had all of the Ramona Quimby books (and the Ralph S Mouse ones too!) read to us by my favorite elementary teacher. The amazing work of Beverly Cleary will always stick with me. I cannot wait to share the books with my daughter.
— Simply Psyke (@SimplyPsyke) April 12, 2019
Happy 103rd birthday to Beverly Cleary! Ellen Tebbits is my favorite (not just because the concept of long underwear mystified me as a kid on the Gulf Coast) but Ramona endures, & that series resonates almost more to me as a parent as it did when I was a kid. pic.twitter.com/E1EYI01NSp
— Teri Anulewicz (@tanulewicz) April 12, 2019
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.
“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.”
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.