We love many old-fashioned children’s books, but what makes Beverly Cleary’s books extra special is that 80 years after the publication of the first Henry Huggins novel, they don’t feel anachronistic. Sure, Ramona and her peers have a little more freedom to wander than today’s children do, but the basic aspects of their lives — elementary school teachers, friendships, sibling rivalries, chaos, loving parents — haven’t changed. As a child, it’s easy to find yourself in dependable Beezus, lively Ramona, enterprising Henry, and their friends; as parents, our hearts leap in recognition every time a weary Mrs. Quimby comes home to start dinner, only to find a Ramona-inspired disaster. Baked doll, bluing-tinted skin, toothpaste mountains, crown of burs — no one beats Cleary’s capacity for imagining trouble.
Cleary understood the business of childhood and, unusually for a children’s book author, the everyday humor and anxiety of parenting. We are lucky to have had her with us for so long, and luckier still to have her stories to guide and entertain us for generations to come.
Like so many, I grew up reading Beverly Cleary. I remember sitting rapt at bedtime with my brother as Ralph S. Mouse first learned the sounds which would bring a toy motorcycle to life. I moved to Portland when I was seven years old and the Klickitat Street kids helped me through the move. We visited the statues in Grant Park when we arrived. My first Portland friends. As a bookseller, like speaking a secret, I tell wide-eyed readers that I went to the same school as Ramona Quimby. We celebrate Cleary’s birthday every year. Customers, remembering discovering her books as children themselves, would marvel that she was still alive. Perhaps this is because we all grew up reading her stories. She felt immortal because her books feel
immortal. Timeless. Set as she herself said, “in childhood.” — Sarah R.
My parents both grew up reading Beverly Cleary, so they read her books aloud to my sisters and I as we grew up. We all adored her sense of humor and how well she understood the world through the eyes of a child. As a sensible old Beezus myself — complete with younger sisters Ramona and Roberta — these books continue to hold such a special place in my heart. I know that any children I or my sisters have will be the third read-aloud generation. — Madeline S.
Reading The Mouse and the Motorcycle
on the floor of the Eugene Public Library is one of my earliest reading memories. — Tove H.
Beverly Cleary was and is always a part of my life. Growing up in Portland, librarians and schoolteachers would read her books aloud, filling our minds with the world of Ramona, Beezus, and Henry as we sat on the carpet surrounded by beautifully organized children's books or in small wooden chairs with the distinct smell of chalk and pencil shavings. Her books were faced-out or on book stands everywhere I went, from public and school libraries to local toy shops and bookstores and I'd take walks with my family in NE Portland, near the K-8 Beverly Clearly school, close to her house near Klickitat street. Beverly Cleary lived a long life and leaves an iconic legacy which we're forever grateful for. — Kim T.
I read Beverly Cleary’s books well before my family moved to Portland when I was in 7th grade, but they gave this rainy, bookish city a magical shine that hasn’t worn off. When my first daughter was born, I’d push her stroller down Klickitat St., and a few years later we read through all of the Ramona books together. Now my two daughters fight over who’s most like Ramona, and honestly, it’s a fight I can get behind because if they’re arguing about books instead of toys, dessert, or who’s breathing more on whom, we must be doing something right. — Rhianna W.
Do you have memories of reading Beverly Cleary’s books? Share in the comments below.