Saturday, April 16, 2016

Thank you, Beverly Cleary.

Books have been a big part of my life almost as far back as my memory goes.  I love reading and I love books.  When people tell me that they don't like to read, it baffles me.  Truly.

As a child, I spent many hours reading: at home, at school, and at the public library.  I can remember the Knoxville Public Library clearly.  I spent many hours there, happily lost in a good book.  And among my very favorite books were those written by Beverly Cleary, who turned 100 years old this week.  In honor of that, I want to thank her.

Fictional characters have always been some of my closest friends.  There are all different types of characters: those we hate, those we admire, those we want to be, and then there are those few very special characters with whom we feel we just might be one and the same person--those characters don't come along that often. Ramona Quimby was (and is) that character for me.

While I dreamed of  becoming a titian-haired detective like Miss Drew, it was Ramona to whom I could truly relate.  She suffered misunderstandings with her parents and teachers for her behavior as I frequently did.  She longed for beautiful long hair instead of boring mousy brown hair cut short--just as I did. And there were times when she got mad, really mad--just like me.  She had great curiosity and enthusiasm for life.  She had her own way of thinking and doing and it made her mad when adults laughed at her.  Just like me!

"She was not a slowpoke grownup.  She was a girl who could not wait.  Life was so interesting she had to find out what happened next." --Ramona the Pest. 

I still feel this way.  Many grownups are slowpokes! As a child, I often felt that I spent most of my life waiting around for the slowpoke grownups to finish doing whatever boring thing it was that they were doing-shopping, errands, and the worst, "visiting" with other grownups--so that maybe, just maybe, I could do something fun.  Our parenting culture today revolves around the kids much more than it did when I was growing up.  Back then, I had to do whatever my parents or grandparents were doing first.  Most of the time, anyway.  I've never been a very patient sort of person so this was frustrating.

I've read that when Beverly Cleary was a children's librarian a child once asked her why there weren't any books about kids like him--and that was what inspired her to start writing.  Thank goodness she wrote!  Her insight into children and the way they really think is nothing short of brilliant.  I can't think of any other author who captures this the way she did.  And for that, I want to thank her.  I can't imagine my childhood without her books.

One of my favorite memories I have with my little guy was reading the Ramona books to him a couple of years ago.  I sensed that he would understand and appreciate her as I did and I was right.  He loved her!  So much, in fact, that when we picked out a new kitten two years ago, he named her Ramona.  Which was definitely the perfect name for her, because she is certainly prone to pestering like her namesake!

Mrs. Cleary, thank you for all the books, and the good times you gave me and so many other children. Thank you for writing.  Thank you.

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