Inspiring young readers has
been author’s 50-year mission
By Hope Katz Gibbs
“RAMONA QUIMBY WAS nine years old.
She had brown hair, brown eyes, and no
cavities,” writes beloved children’s book
author Beverly Cleary in the first chapter of
her bestseller, Ramona’s World. It chronicles
the day our heroine meets her new baby sister, Roberta.
This is one of more than three dozen
books penned by Cleary in the more than five
decades (her first book, Henry Huggins, was
published in 1950; her last was Ramona’s
World in 1999) that she has been drawing kids
into the adventures of her characters. Klickitat
Street, where several of them live, is based on
her own childhood neighborhood.
Inspiring kids to love reading, especially
struggling readers like herself as a child, has
been a lifelong mission for the woman who
grew up on a farm in Yamhill, Oregon—a
town so small it had no library.
“Until I was in third grade, I thought of
reading as something I just had to do in
school,” Cleary tells The Connection. “In the
fifth or sixth grade we had to write a story,
and the teacher told me I should write chil-
dren’s books when I grew up.”
Children everywhere are better for Cleary
receiving such sage career advice.
Prior to her career as an author, Cleary
worked as a librarian, which is how she first
encountered children who had trouble finding books that captured their imaginations.
That’s when she decided to start writing
books about kids young readers would recognize as being like themselves.
On April 12, 2010—the day Cleary turns
94—her love of books will be celebrated during National Drop Everything and Read
(D.E.A.R.) Day, sponsored by, among others,
the National Education Association, the
Parent Teacher Association, HarperCollins
Children’s Books and, of course, Ramona
Cleary recently took some
time to share her thoughts and
words of wisdom with The
The Costco Connection: Of
the dozens of books you have
written, do you have a favorite?
Beverly Cleary: I don’t have
a favorite title, but I have
favorite characters, including
Henry, Ramona, Ralph and all
the rest of them. My least
favorite books went straight
into the wastebasket. If I don’t enjoy writing
them, how can I expect anybody to enjoy
CC: Which of your characters is most similar
BC: People tell me that I was Ramona. I don’t
agree. I was much more Ellen Tebbitts, which
is really quite autobiographical. I was also
quite a bit like the mouse who rode the
motorcycle, not that I rode motorcycles, but,
like Ralph, I hoped for adventure.
CC: We understand that some of your
characters are hitting the big
screen this summer in a movie
entitled Ramona and Beezus. Did
you help write the script?
BC: I was consulted about the scripts
and rejected a few of them, and I made
suggestions about the final script,
but my involvement ended there. I
am excited about the movie.
CC: Do you still write? Is there any-
thing you wish you had written
about, but didn’t get to?
BC: I no longer write. I wish I had
written about Ramona in the fifth
grade, but didn’t wish hard
enough to actually do it.
CC: What was your favorite
book when you were a child?
BC: As a child, my favorite
book was Dandelion Cottage,
by Caroll Watson Rankin.
Every time I brought it home
from the library, my mother
would say, “Not Dandelion
Cottage again.” I’d also read
any book of fairy tales. As an
adult, I have no favorite titles,
but I especially enjoy autobiography.
CC: Where do you find inspiration and ideas
for your stories?
BC: Any place. Every place. From memories,
observations, newspapers, overheard conversations. I’m an unrepentant eavesdropper,
especially in restaurants.
CC: If you could tell anything to the millions
of children who have enjoyed your books,
what would it be?
BC: I think I would say, “Don’t stop now. Go
ahead! Be readers all of your lives. And don’t
forget, librarians and teachers can help you
find the right books to read.” C
Hope Katz Gibbs is a freelance writer in
Costco warehouses carry several
titles by Beverly Cleary and a variety
of children’s and young-adult books.