Elizabeth: Happy Birthday Beverly Cleary!

Beverly_ClearyI’m writing this on Tuesday evening California time, so there are still a few hours left to wish author Beverly Cleary a happy 100th birthday.

I don’t know about you, but Ramona, Henry, and the rest of Cleary’s characters were favorites of mine as I worked my way through the titles at my local library when I was a kid.  I distinctly remember being disappointed when I my reading outpaced her writing.

In reading the various articles posted about Cleary in recent weeks, there were a few good pieces of writing advice that stood out.

You don’t know until you try

Like many authors, Beverly has said she sat down and wrote her first book to see if she could.  Forty-one books later, with 85 million copies sold, I’d say that experiment was a definite success, but it never would have happened if she hadn’t started that first book.

Find a niche and fill it

During her time as a librarian she said she saw the need for books for children that depicted everyday lives – stories that children could relate to.  Her books, which were drawn from both her childhood and her imagination, were just that.

“I think children want to read about normal, everyday kids,” she told NPR in 1999. “That’s what I wanted to read about when I was growing up.

She saw that there was a need for a certain kind of book that wasn’t being filled, the kind of book she herself would have wanted to read, and she went about filling it.  Her stories are warm and fun and friendly, full of characters that, as a child, I would have loved to have met.  She has also inspired new generations of writers.

 Don’t Wait for Inspiration

Everyone has their own writing style, but one common piece of advice I’ve seen time and again is to write every day, or at least on a consistent schedule, to get your mind in the writing mode.  Consistently writing tends to keep the creative mind engaged and can actually trigger bouts of inspiration.   Cleary was a disciplined writer, sitting down and writing each day when her children went off to school.

In honor of Cleary’s birthday, and in response to her observation that children seem to live such scheduled lives these days, kids and adults are being asked to “Drop Everything and Read.”  Sounds like a great way to celebrate a birthday.

Happy Birthday Beverly!

So, what favorite books / authors do you fondly remember from childhood?

6 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Happy Birthday Beverly Cleary!

  1. Wow, 85 million books. I never heard of Beverly Cleary until this week – not sure she made it across the Atlantic, but she sounds great.

    When I was growing up our local town had a separate children’s library and whoever selected the books did a brilliant job. The library was in the same building as my dad’s office and he used to work on Saturdays, so most weeks I went into town with him, went to the library, and then sat in a corner of his office all day, reading. It was perfect. There was Enid Blyton, of course (Famous Five and even better, Mallory Towers), CS Lewis, Louisa May Alcott, Alan Garner, Tolkien, Arthur Ransome, Ian Serraillier (I’d like to read him again now to see if he’s as good as I remember), and many, many more. Good times. Thank you for reminding me 😀 .

    • Sounds like some of your favorites didn’t make it across the pond this way either, though a few did. I love that there was a separate children’s library and *in* your dad’s office building. How fun.

      I had the little branch library a few blocks down the street where I spent most of my summer days reading L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables books, Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy, Tacy, and Tib series, and of course, my quirky favorites, Eleanor Cameron’s Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet books. It was such a treat when I was finally able to move to the grown-up side of the library. Elizabeth Cadell was the first author I read there.

  2. My favorite book as a child was Winnie the Pooh; I just couldn’t read it often enough. My favorite multi-book author was Dr. Seuss; I love(d) him. After that, the books I remember best from my small town’s library are the orange cloth-covered children’s biographies of famous people: Florence Nightingale and George Washington Carver are the ones that stick, for some reason. I also read all the Nancy Drews and Trixie Beldon mysteries. (Just found them in my mom’s garage, too, and I saved all the Nancy Drews and donated all the Trixie Beldons.) I read all of Louisa May Alcott and Laura Ingalls Wilder, too, and remember thinking that they were historicals, not really relevant to me, although like everybody else I know, I cried (spoiler alert!) when Beth died.

    I never read any Beverly Cleary, but I love this story because it makes me think that as an author, I have potentially a long career in front of me. Go, Beverly!

  3. Kay – I remember many of those as well. I’ll even admit that I went through a “little-house-on-the-prairie” clothing phase at one point. Fortunately, I don’t think there is any photographic proof.

  4. I have fond memories of Beverly Cleary. What a wonderful salute!

    Curious timing on this piece. Japan’s Education Ministry just started distributing two picture books to the boards of education this week. The picture books are in English, and are meant for third- and fourth-graders to study English. And they are just horrible — built by committee. More than a dozen random animals in one book (because everyone in English-speaking lands love to talk aobut animals, and you never know when you will need to say, “Get rid of this PHEASANT in my bathtub.”). Including monkey and pheasant — setting the stage for future English books about Peach Boy going to whip foreign ass into shape, I fear.

    The pictures are soft and fuzzy, but there is no love, no cleverness, no fun in the words.

    Of course, I’m sure the Japanese government would be very reluctant to indoctrinate the kids with the morals of Beezus and Ramona . . . but maybe I and my fellow English teachers should be stealth ambassadors.

  5. A Wrinkle In Time is a standout from my childhood. It’s one of the few books I read with a female protagonist, something even rarer in the Science Fiction/Fantasy realms where I tended to hang out. Plus it has that minor advantage of being wonderfully written in every way.

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