Beverly Cleary celebrates her 100th birthday today! The prolific author brought the characters Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins, Ralph S. Mouse and more to life, and in doing so impacted the childhood of generations of readers. Cleary’s books have stood the test of time, and she is beloved by several generations. She’s also won the Newbery Medal and the National Book Award, and was named a Library of Congress Living Legend.
In honor of her birthday, here are nine reasons to love Beverly Cleary and her books.
Her stories and characters are timeless.
I remember my parents enjoying reading the Ramona series, and I loved sharing them with my daughter. I couldn’t have been more pleased when she opted to theme her eighth birthday party after “Ramona Quimby, Age 8,” complete with a game like Pin the Tail on the Donkey that involved cracking eggs on a cardboard Ramona’s head.
Her books have so much heart.
I love that in each book there are so many people to root for. You so want them to have a happy ending and I appreciate that while the books often do have a satisfying conclusion, they aren’t too treacly.
She made us laugh.
Ramona in particular can be the source of many laughs. I love that the books are lighthearted and so very funny. It makes them fun to read, and kids who have fun reading, read more.
Her characters remind adults that childhood is complex, and not always easy.
Growing up can be difficult. Cleary’s books serve as valuable reminders of how complicated childhood can be, and can help adult readers remember that it can be hard to be a kid.
There are a lot of of strong women in her books.
Ramona was a strong and feisty girl, with an indomitable spirit. She marched to the beat of her own drum and did so with aplomb. Ramona is not the only strong female character in Cleary’s books. There are lots of smart, capable women in her stories.
Adults in her books aren’t perfect.
All the adults in the book generally do their best, but that doesn’t mean they were perfect, particularly Ramona’s parents. Whether it was packing raw eggs in a lunch or not plugging in the Crock-Pot or a host of other mishaps, things don’t always go according to plan. Cleary’s books wonderfully illustrate that love and good intentions matter more than perfection.
Her books made reading cool.
I just read that Cleary herself was not an early reader and in the lowest reading group in first grade, the year she tried to drop out of school. She grew to love reading and went on to become a librarian herself, but her sympathy for struggling readers come through loud and clear in her books. She also does a wonderful job of conveying the joy that reading can bring. Remember how Ramona loved D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read)? To honor Cleary’s birthday today, make it a D.E.A.R. day with your kiddos.
Her books remind us that the everyday activities and simple things matter.
I love that her books are fascinating, but also about everyday life. While fantasy is fun, it’s also great to see how Cleary crafted great reads out of typical experiences. She tapped into a lot of common human experiences that made us all feel like we have been in Ramona’s shoes at some point.
Her books send the message that family matters the most, but also helps readers see that those relationships aren’t always easy and require work.
Siblings in the book often are at odds, especially Ramona and Beezus, but deep down inside, they love and support each other. Aunt Bea is there for her nieces. And the parent-child relationships are powerful.
“I couldn’t get along without my Ramona,” says Mrs. Quimby to her daughter who had tried to run away. It’s safe to say that readers of all ages felt the same exact way.