If you think back to the books you carried around with you as a little kid, at least one of them was probably by Beverly Cleary. The characters in Cleary’s stories, like Ramona Quimby and Henry Huggins, quickly became like best friends. The Washington Post wrote an article honoring Beverly Cleary, who turns 100 on April 12, and the stories she penned. She lives humbly in a retirement home in California and plans to celebrate her milestone birthday with a simple slice of carrot cake. Although Cleary isn’t eager to talk about her big birthday, that isn’t going to stop us. On this Throwback Thursday, let’s reminisce about our childhood and some of the fun stories Beverly Cleary entertained us with.
Beverly Cleary only wrote three books about a mouse named Ralph, but every kid who read them wanted a pet mouse. Ralph is probably the most adventurous rodent many of us will ever meet. In “The Mouse and the Motorcycle,” Ralph sets out to ride a boy named Keith’s motorcycle. He, of course, finds that riding the hog isn’t as easy as it originally seemed. He obviously loved the freedom of the open road, though, as Cleary wrote two more books about Ralph and his travels on a motorcycle.
Henry Huggins was Beverly Cleary’s most popular boy character. He is the all-American boy with a dog named Ribsy (who we’ll talk about more in a minute) and a knack for getting into sticky situations. “Henry Huggins” was Cleary’s first novel and she couldn’t have started with a more memorable, likeable character. Surprisingly, the book was rejected at first by her publisher. This ended up being a good thing, though, because, as Cleary re-worked the story, she ended up creating a couple more of what would be her most famous characters, Ramona and Beezus.
Ramona Quimby is the first character many readers (including myself) think of first when they start listing their favorite Beverly Cleary books. How can you not fall in love with the little girl who everyone can relate to? Even if you weren’t as outgoing or silly as Ramona, you laughed with her and a little part of you wanted to be her. In the Washington Post interview, Cleary revealed that Ramona is her favorite character. She said that she “thought like Ramona but was a very well-behaved little girl.” A feeling and way of life that many of us can identify with. Based on her revelation of how much she loved Ramona, it is fitting that Cleary ended her writing career in 1999 with a Ramona book, “Ramona’s World.”
Ribsy is really why Henry Huggins is such a memorable character. Ribsy is who Henry meets in his first book and this special dog is who changes his life forever. After all, there is never a dull moment when Ribsy is around. Although the dog himself only has one book that is entirely dedicated to him, he’s involved in many of Henry’s adventures in Beverly Cleary’s other books featuring Mr. Huggins.
“Dear Mr. Henshaw” is my personal favorite Beverly Cleary book. I still remember reading this book and how vivid some of the scenes were. This book won Cleary the Newberry Medal. Ironically, the book is about a boy who writes his favorite author, Mr. Henshaw, after being assigned a school assignment to do so. The two end up forming a friendship that entrances the reader. Since the art of letter writing isn’t practiced regularly anymore, I wonder if Cleary’s beautiful story is lost on this generation.