Happy 103rd Birthday, Mrs. Cleary!
by Alexie Basil
Celebrate Beverly Cleary’s 103rd birthday and Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) Day with your students by reading this fun and imaginative interview with the beloved author of Ramona Quimby, Age 8.
It’s hard to imagine children’s literature without Ramona, Beezus, Henry, Ribsy, and, of course, their creator, the wonderful Beverly Cleary!
On her 103rd birthday, April 12, we are excited to take a moment to celebrate Mrs. Cleary’s enormous contributions to not only our classrooms but to the lives of so many generations of young readers. She always encourages us to be curious, fun-loving, caring, and kind, and shows us through her stories that sometimes it’s tough to be a kid—and that’s okay.
Below are some excerpts from a 2016 interview with Beverly Cleary about Ramona Quimby, Age 8. So drop everything and read—discover what inspired Ramona’s most iconic moments, what Mrs. Cleary thinks about fan responses to her work, and even what Ramona may be up to today.
What has stood out to you, since first publishing the Ramona books, about fans of Ramona Quimby?
I’ve been surprised by the variety of readers who love Ramona. Boys and girls of all different ages enjoy Ramona’s stories. Parents too! I know this because readers will often send me their photos in the mail. Quite a few of them are teachers too, and sometimes they’ll send a photo of the whole class.
You’ve always disliked it when critics labeled Ramona as “mischievous.” Explain the importance of celebrating Ramona’s curiosity and the trouble that it sometimes gets her into.
Yes, it was always something that annoyed me when reviewers or critics would call her “mischievous” because, in my mind, she wasn’t. So her curiosity got her into trouble sometimes, but she was never mischievous. She was imaginative, funny, and curious—all things I think are great for children to be.
Were any of the blunders that Ramona got herself into—whether at home or in school—inspired by experiences from your own childhood?
Not directly, but I do remember an embarrassing moment in first grade. I started the grade in this great big school after having lived on a farm for most of my life. I was afraid to go to the bathroom because it was all the way down in the basement. I was scared to go down there—at the time it seemed terribly frightening.
So when the time came that I needed to go to the bathroom, I held it and held it and held it. Until I couldn’t anymore, and I went in my pants. That was certainly humiliating. But sure enough, as time went on, I overcame my fear.
If Ramona was a teenager, what would she be doing right now?
Well, I suppose she could be doing any number of things! She probably wouldn’t make the best baby-sitter, though!
If Ramona was in the workforce today, what sort of career would she have?
I think she might end up as a travel agent. I think her love of the unknown and her curiosity would lead her down a path where she could help other people find their own adventures.
What do you think Ramona would be up to today? Do you think she’d have a family of her own? Pets? Fun hobbies or an interesting career? We’d love to hear from you and your students! Share your thoughts about Ramona and her stories on social media using the hashtag #ScholasticBookClubs.
Beverly Cleary is one of America’s most beloved authors. As a child, she struggled with reading and writing. But by third grade, after spending much time in her public library in Portland, Oregon, she found her skills had greatly improved. Before long, her school librarian was saying that she should write children’s books when she grew up. Instead she became a librarian. When a young boy asked her, “Where are the books about kids like us?” she remembered her teacher’s encouragement and was inspired to write the books she’d longed to read but couldn’t find when she was younger.
She based her funny stories on her own neighborhood experiences and the sort of children she knew. And so the Klickitat Street gang was born! Mrs. Cleary’s books have earned her many prestigious awards, including the American Library Association’s Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, presented to her in recognition of her lasting contribution to children’s literature. Dear Mr. Henshaw won the Newbery Medal, and Ramona Quimby, Age 8 and Ramona and Her Father have been named Newbery Honor books. Her characters, including Beezus and Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins, and Ralph, the motorcycle-riding mouse, have delighted children for generations.
Photo Credit: Alan McEwan
This Book Is Available from Scholastic Book Clubs