Today is children's author Beverly Cleary's 95th birthday. Here is a nice article in the NY Times, profiling her.
I began to read Beverly's books as soon as I could read. My first was Ramona the Pest. Ramona's kindergarten room was just like mine; I grew up on Blanchard Street, which could have doubled for Klickitat Street, and my brother was kind of a dead ringer for Henry Huggins, a smaller, beleaguered boy with good ideas that didn't quite come through and a paper route.
I adored Beverly's pre-teen and teen books (so innocent! so funny!): Fifteen, The Luckiest Girl, Jean and Johnny, and my favorite, Sister of the Bride. I can remember standing at the library shelves, looking at the many, many Beverly Cleary titles and deciding which one I was going to read (or rerererereread).
I own many of them now, and my girls can't get enough of them either. Of course, they ARE Beezus and Ramona--Lucy, the smart, serious, long-suffering big sister, and Elaine, the pesky, vocal younger sister who thinks she's a cat in curlers. Recently when Lucy had to pick one of the 50 states to write about, she chose Oregon. When her teacher asked why, Lucy said, "Because that's where Beverly Cleary is from," (and added to me later: "Mrs. Shockey knows I'm all about the books, Mom.")
So far, I think their favorites are Mitch and Amy (loooove it) and one you don't hear of much, Emily's Runaway Imagination. That one is a little departure from the contemporary, middle class American dramas and is set at the beginning of the 20th century, but it is a hoot. The chapter where Emily gets the pigs drunk at the Ladies' Aid Society meeting is worth the price of the book. I also have to give a special shout-out to the 50th Anniversary audio version of Henry Huggins, read by Neil Patrick Harris, who is brilliant. He does all the voices, and no matter how many times I hear the chapter "The Green Christmas," I laugh out loud.
Despite how times have changed and the influx of junk there is out there for kids, I love how in the NY Times article, a librarian says she still can't keep Beverly's books on the shelves. She is an author whom I never have to pre-read before I read to my kids.
Happy 95th birthday, Beverly Cleary!
Which are your favs?