Proving it is possible to find good news amid the wreckage of our feelings, beloved author Beverly Cleary turned 104, and with any luck spent the day being reminded just how formative she was to multiple generations of children who are now having children of their own — some of whom may even have their own children by now. [The slideshow above, since we lack sufficient photos of Clearly herself, flashes back to the 2010 movie starring a TEENY TINY WEE Joey King as Ramona.]
I loved her books, which goes very nearly without saying. My most distinct memory is of reading Beezus and Ramona and being just as confused as Ramona by the national anthem. We moved to England just before my sixth birthday, and while I went to an American school and therefore knew the pledge of allegiance, we didn’t sing the national anthem anywhere. For a long time, I thought it was “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” — which, who knows, maybe that was because it imprinted on me that it’s the same tune as “God Save The Queen” and I thought all anthems were the same. But mostly, it’s just… I hadn’t heard it, to my memory. I didn’t know it. So when Ramona had to learn it, and talked about “the donzer’s lee light,” I was every bit as puzzled as she was. I was of course older than Ramona, and my situation was different than the one Beverly Cleary put to the page, but there’s a commonality there that makes it one example — one miniscule example — of how well Cleary understands the minds of children.
What are your favorite Beverly Cleary moments? The essential books, the passages and plots that imprinted on you? Let’s imagine she’ll know it, and feel it, and put some love into the air today.