Sara and Ramona finally meeting
in Portland, Oregon.
photo by Flo Bright
That's right. It's Beverly Cleary's birthday! She's 102 years old today.
It's almost impossible to believe that the creator of Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins, Ralph S. Mouse and so many other characters is still alive. Her books were such an integral part of my childhood, and they seemed like they were always there.
The first book of Beverly Cleary's I ever experienced was The Mouse and the Motorcycle. My second grade teacher read it aloud to the class. That, in and of itself, was kind of miraculous. I don't recall any other teacher reading a story aloud, especially over the course of several days.
But the story captivated me. I'm not usually a fan of talking animal stories -- at least not in novels -- but I adored Ralph S. Mouse and his little red motorcycle. Perhaps it was because I like toy cars myself. I wanted to find a little mouse (or a hamster or a gerbil or any tiny rodent) and put them in a toy car to drive. I still think that would be fun.
I read the other books about Ralph myself and enjoyed them, but then I met Ramona.
She was a delight. She got in trouble (like me). She was punished (like me). She had a temper (like me). She was so real that I honestly thought if I could get to Portland I would find her and we would be best friends.
Ribsy, another adored Beverly Cleary creation,
in Portland, Oregon.
photo by me
Ramona's World came out when I was in graduate school (to be a librarian like Beverly Cleary!). Did that stop from buying it and reading it in one sitting? Of course not! After classes were over for the day, I immediately went to the bookstore, drove home and devoured the story.
For Beverly Cleary's 100th birthday, her publisher had a huge birthday card for people to sign at the Texas Library Association Annual Conference. I proudly signed my name and included my small hometown. I wanted her to know that even people from places she had never heard of had adored her stories.
Happy birthday, Beverly Cleary!