Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Happy 95th Birthday, Beverly Cleary!

One day soon, the "Wimpy Kid" books will be found by the bushel in library discard piles and used book stores.
Vampire books, zombie books and angel books will be gone, gone, gone.

I'd venture that the dystopian novels, the fart joke books, the "clique" books will be just memories of those of us who had to spend the taxpayer money on them.

Most of the recent Newberry and Caldecott winners so beloved by the librarians who voted for them will  still be around because they won the medals. But they will just be books read because teachers assign them, not because they are loved by the kids who have to read them.

And yet, some of the books on my shelves right now will still be on those shelves forever. Books that are loved, generation to generation, passed from parent to child, kid to kid. Books read for the sheer pleasure of reading them because they speak to children.

Technology changes, but kids remain the same. They still have school issues. Sibling rivalry. Clashes with their parents. Fears and hopes and dreams.

Books that reach out and speak to those fears and hopes and dreams--that speak to children's hearts--are truly what you can call "classics". Books like some of those written by Beverly Cleary.

Mrs. Cleary started writing about Henry Huggins in the 1950s. He was a typical boy of the times with his paper route, coonskin cap and love of radio shows. His friend Beezus and her little sister Ramona were just side characters, with Ramona there for extra comedy. Eventually Cleary began spinning Beezus and Ramona off into their own books.

The Henry Huggins books dated. He aged. I sort of imagine that he grew up, went to the local college, married some girl next door other than Beezus and is now out there somewhere newly retired with grandchildren.

And those grandchildren would probably read Ramona books!

Ramona and Beezus haven't aged. Over the last 50 or 60 years Cleary has continued to chronicle their adventures. Because despite small changes in the details, Ramona and Beezus feel just as REAL to kids today as they did decades ago.

Here, for your viewing pleasure, is part of one of the episodes of the wonderful "Ramona" series done for public TV in the 80s. Please note that Beezus doesn't look like Selena Gomez, but like a nice, ordinary  girl--the sort that other  girls could identify with. And of course Sarah Polley made a perfect Ramona.

Happy Birthday, Mrs Cleary. And on behalf of the kids who've read, and all the kids who will read your books, thank you!

1 comment:

Saints and Spinners said...

We are lucky to have had Beverly Cleary for so long. I was surprised to read her autobiographies and then return to her chapter books. I appreciate how she gave most of her characters really great parents--flawed, multifaceted, compassionate parents. That's something I didn't realize as a child.