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April 8, 2020

Quarantine with Beverly Cleary #HappyBirthdayBeverlyCleary

by Alison DeLuca

Who out there remembers Beverly Cleary? She remains one of my favorite authors, a writer whose stories spoke to kids, teens, and even adults.

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Somehow I skipped the Ramona books as a kid. My first Beverly Cleary novel was Fifteen, set in the late 1950's. Jane Purdy, the main character, was so relatable - she had a small wardrobe! She babysat for money! and her first boyfriend, Stan, was a mystery.

cover for Fifteen by Beverly Cleary
Just look at this fabulous retro cover!

Fifteen followed Jane and Stan as they dated, bickered, went to dances, talked on the phone... It unfolded in a series of small problems that seemed very big to a young teenaged girl. I read it over and over again.

After that, I devoured more Cleary's books: Jean and Johnny, Sister of the Bride, Mitch and Amy.

However, it wasn't until my daughter came along that I discovered Ramona Quimby. I loved her at once. She named her doll Chevrolet because it was 'such a beautiful name.' Her suggested name for her new sister was Aston Martin.

cover of Ramona the Pest

She did awful things like inviting her entire class over without letting her mother know until the guests showed up. She had an awful rival named Susan who always had to be perfect, often to Ramona's detriment. Ramona and Susan slowly learned to understand each other over the entire series of books in one of the longest slow-burns ever written.

Beverly Cleary just looks like an author. Her pictures, both early and late, show a woman with an old-fashioned hairdo and glasses. Maybe you'd think she resembles a librarian - and you'd be correct.

Headshot of Beverly Cleary
Is this a writer or what?

She worked in libraries for years, trying to find books that kids could relate to and enjoy. There were so few titles that she decided to write some herself - and she never stopped. Beverly created dozens of titles and several series, some becoming movies and plays.

April 12th is her birthday, a date that has become D. E. A. R. day (Drop Everything And Read.) In 2016 she turned 100. I'd like to think she still creates stories in her mind, dreaming up characters and those tiny, utterly important moments that are so important to children when living them.

If you've somehow missed her books, you couldn't do better than Fifteen or the Ramona series. Henry and Beezus is incredible (and introduces Ramona the Pest.) The Mouse and the Motorcycle and Dear Mr. Henshaw are classics.

Yes, these books were written in a different time, but the mark of a true author is that her stories survive time and space. Beverly Cleary's stories are eternal.

Happy Birthday, Beverly!

Alison DeLuca is the author of several steampunk and urban fantasy books.  She was born in Arizona and has also lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain.
Currently, she wrestles words and laundry in New Jersey.

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