Wednesday, March 31, 2021
REMEMBERING BEVERLY CLEARY (1916-2021)
The summer I was eight years old, I discovered “chapter books” in the library, falling in love with Henry Huggins (1950), Ellen Tebbits (1951) and Henry and Beezus (1952) by Beverly Cleary. She was my favorite author. Beverly Cleary went on to write many more books and became a favorite author of my children and grandchildren. I was saddened to learn of her passing last week at the age of 104. As one headline said, she was the last of her generation.
I was lucky to meet Beverly Cleary several times. We shared the same publisher–Morrow Junior Books–and took part in dinners and receptions that accompanied national conferences such as ALA and IRA. At one of these dinners my editor assigned me to host Beverly and her husband, which I found to be an uphill battle, as both were quite reserved. I met Beverly Cleary another time when she came to Los Angeles to speak at the SCBWI summer conference. It was the only time my husband Art came to the conference. As a family, we had been reading her books aloud in the evening, chapter by chapter. He too was a Beverly Cleary fan and wanted to hear her in person. His favorite book was The Mouse and the Motorcycle (1965).
Beverly Cleary’s stories were inspired by her own childhood in Oregon in the 1930s, but the themes of school, friendship and family are universal. I believe that they are just as meaningful to children today as they were in my generation. Beverly Cleary is no longer with us, but she will live on in her books.