She lived a **ahem** storied life for 104 years. I probably should have sent her a letter thanking her for her early books, since they profoundly changed my view on reading.
I was an advanced reader and read whatever I could get my hands on. But not kid’s books. They were boring and dull, while young adult books weren’t. Give me the Outsiders over the boring chapter books we had available in the late 60s.
Not completely true; Scholastic sent around a catalog we could buy books from, and my amazing parents wanted to encourage reading, so they bought me almost everything in the catalog. And I did read them, three a day. The stack would last a week and it was off to the library for grown-up books.
Except this one time. Cleary’s Motorcycle Mouse was on the bottom of the stack (we had a mouse problem and I didn’t want to empathize with them). But when I got to and fell into it, I suddenly saw children’s books as having value. I think I read that book a dozen times. Then Runaway Ralph a few years later. I’d picked up Cleary’s other books about Beezus and Remona and Henry Higgens. Good, but not as good as Motorcycle Mouse. This was Cleary’s only mystic realism book (she probably didn’t think about it that way), giving a mouse the power to ride a motorcycle in an otherwise realistic setting (oh, her DETAIL!). Because of her, I gave other writers a try (I read most of Judy Bloom’s books a tad early. Puberty terrified me).
Beverley Cleary graduated from the University of Washington, not too many miles from where I grew up… 25 years before I was born, but that’s close to rubbing shoulders with greatness.
Our own writer, Bonnie Manning Anderson, wrote a wonderful grade school novel called Always Look for the Magic that has a Cleary feel to it with delightful details of an earlier time. Same magic as Cleary’s, same vivid pictures. Buy a copy today as a tribute to Beverly Cleary. You won’t regret it. Oh, and buy some of Cleary’s many books. They really are that good (and if you have children you MUST buy them!)