Beverly Cleary Celebrates 100th Birthday

Beverly Cleary Celebrates 100th Birthday

Sanika Nayak, World News Editor


Beloved children’s author Beverly Cleary turned 100 years old on April 12. She has written countless treasured books, including the eminent Ramona series, Newbery Honor-winning Dear Mr. Henshaw, and critically acclaimed The Mouse and the Motorcycle.

At 100, Cleary retains her wit and charm. When asked the secret to a long life, she responded with “I didn’t do it on purpose!” She also joked that she didn’t look a day over 80.

Cleary was born in Oregon as an only child. She classifies her younger self as being “painfully shy”, and was even put into a group for struggling readers when first going to school.

Cleary started her career in books as a school librarian, but her love for stories came from a young age, when she would immerse herself in books from the state library. After realizing that there were very few books that appealed to boys as well as girls, she set out to create stories that would be fit for any child. In 1950, her renowned character Henry Huggins was born, as was the rest of Klickitat Street. A story about Henry’s faithful dog Ribsy soon followed. However, the dynamic Ramona Quimby started out as simply a minor character in the Henry Huggins series, as Cleary had not intended for her to star in her own books. Beezus and Ramona came out in 1955, told mainly from Ramona’s older sister Beezus Quimby’s point of view. Ramona’s very own book, Ramona the Pest, was not published until 1968, and carried through to Ramona’s World in 1999.

Cleary’s writing has expanded past Klickitat Street, with revered works such as Dear Mr. Henshaw (1984), The Mouse and the Motorcycle (1965), and Strider (1991). Her books generally focused on the hardships of growing up, the acceptance of change, and the importance of family. For many, her stories have been deemed as relatable and carry the uncanny ability of transcending through time. The New York Times described her work as having an “ageless appeal”,  and many Westwood students seem to agree.

“I had no idea, until recently, that a lot of her books were published in the 1960s. It’s really weird to me, because whenever I read them as a kid, I always thought Ramona lived during the same time period as us,” Rucha Joshi ‘18 said. “I guess that just shows how good of an author she is, because her stories share themes that are relatable no matter how the times change.”

In 2010, Cleary’s stories were brought to the big screen with the movie Ramona and Beezus, which starred leading actresses Selena Gomez as Beezus and Joey King as Ramona.The film garnered positive reviews, as many were happy with the way the characters were depicted.

“I remember watching that movie when I was a kid and thinking that it was hilarious,” Kavyaa Choudhary ‘18 said. “I probably watched it about 10 times because I loved the books and I loved the way they came to life in the movie.”

Other respected authors and celebrities are also celebrating Beverly Cleary and her contributions to literature. Comedian and actress Amy Poehler and fellow writers Judy Blume (author of the popular Fudge books)  and Kate Dicamillo (author of Newbery Medalist Because of Winn Dixie) are all writing new forwards for the new editions of Cleary’s books. Each have expressed the influence that Cleary’s stories have had on them.

“I think it’s really cool that she’s 100 years old now. I mean, to think of all the stuff she’s lived through, it’s awesome,” Joshi said.  “But even if she’s a 100 years old, it’s clear that her books are going to live on forever.”