Beverly Cleary has died at 104 years. I don’t have anything else to say—really. Maybe it’s because I am a Portlander by birth and that Beezus and Ramona spoke to me from an early age. (I was “Ramona, the pest” to my older brother and sister! “Ramona did not think she was a pest. No matter what others said, she never thought she was a pest. People who called her a pest were always bigger, so they could be unfair.”) Henry Huggins and all the kids on Klickitat Street became my neighbors, too.
Just recently Oregon’s Art Beat (OPB) featured Beverly. If you haven’t watched it, maybe you’d like to? In it Portland’s children recount their love of Cleary’s books, books that still resonate, no matter where you live. As Cleary herself said, “‘I think deep down inside children are all the same…They want two loving parents and they would prefer a house with a neighborhood they can play in. They want teachers that they can like. I don’t think children have changed that much. It’s the world that has changed.'” (NPR Obituary)
I remember coming much later to her autobiography, A Girl from Yamhill, first published in 1988 when I had departed from childhood reading. But the loves of our childhood return if we’re lucky enough and wise enough to recognize their worth. My son had just been born when I sat in the big armchair in New Jersey, his dozing self cradled in my lap, and returned to the world of my childhood, the Portland neighborhoods I knew by heart.
A good, long life she lived—life that continues through her books and the kids who read them. I just put A Girl from Yamhill on my “hold” list at the public library and discovered that there’s a later memoir that I haven’t yet read, My Own Two Feet. I’m adding that one, too.