It’s a wonderful name, isn’t it? Beverly Cleary. It’s homespun with gold around the edges. You can’t help but smile as you say it.
But Beverly Cleary was much more than just a nice name. She was a children’s author—a children’s author who changed the way books for kids were written, spreading immeasurable joy through her stories about Ramona, Ralph, Ellen, Beezus, Henry, and all her other characters. It would have been her 105th birthday today, on April 12, 2021.
When Beverly Cleary was a little girl, people weren’t writing books about mice who rode motorcycles. They weren’t writing about boys with dogs named Ribsy or little girls who insist on writing “age 8” after their names. They were writing books that were flat-out boring.
So when Beverly became a children’s librarian, she understood why kids could not find books with characters they identified with. They were simply not being written.
Beverly Cleary wanted to change that. She said, “If you don’t see the book you want on the shelf, write it.” And so she did.
Beverly wrote about kids, for kids. She wrote about the world from her own experiences and helped children connect to books and characters in ways they had never been able to before. She took her college professor’s words to heart when he told her, “The proper subject of the novel is the universal human experience.”
The universal human experience. Maybe that’s why children all over the world still love her books. Maybe that’s why Beverly’s writing, humor, and stories still resonate with all of us today—because they are about living life as it is. And regardless of the era or year, we are all still experiencing life in the same ways with the same emotions, dreams, and shortcomings.
So thank you, Beverly Cleary. Thank you for real stories about real kids like all of us. Thank you for the warmth you spread in our third-grade classrooms. For the pictures you painted in our minds in full color and for the laughs, the smiles, and the goodness you brought—and are still bringing—to all of us.
And Happy Birthday.
Written by Elizabeth Sargent, Children’s Assistant Librarian