In honor of Beverly Cleary’s 100th birthday today, here’s a photograph Bookherd gave me a few years ago. The back says “Taken at Albany, Ore. 1922,” but as Bookherd noted, don’t they look like Beezus and Ramona?
I feel lucky that my lifetime has overlapped Mrs. Cleary’s so that a garage-sale paperback of Ramona the Pest was waiting for me as soon as I could read chapter books. Ellen Tebbits, Otis Spofford, and some of the Henry Huggins books were around the house, too (it probably helped that my sister is three years older than me). In 1977, both Ramona and I were seven years old and I got the new hardback Ramona and Her Father for Christmas. So I’ve had the pleasure of reading books written 20 years before I was born, with their slightly retro topics of guppies and woolen underwear, and also the excitement of spotting brand-new Beverly Cleary books.
I’ve read and watched a bunch of tributes in the past few weeks. I think my favorite is this set of two anecdotes by her longtime editor David Reuther.
To me, Beverly Cleary is one of my lifetime’s great writers. I hope she feels the love today.
Last weekend I took Friday and Monday off work, and Sang and I drove out to Stub Stewart State Park to stay in a one-room cabin, sans internet. The plan was for Sang to study for her comps and me to do my thing of reading, writing, and looking out the window. There were enough trails around that we could also get out for walks as the weather allowed– for example, the bike path where we walked our marathon last month!
We turned on the heat and lights when we arrived at our cozy little cabin. The heater got right to work raising the temperature from 40 degrees to 70, but man, the lights. The lights worked, but they consisted of one small overhead fixture, probably with compact fluorescents inside, and it was DEPRESSING AS HELL.
Sang could see my mental health unraveling as we sat there. At her urging we got back in the car and drove toward Forest Grove, looking for a big-box store that might sell us a couple of lamps for cheap. We walked into the Walmart in Cornelius and Sang started laughing. We were turning to soul-sucking Walmart to stabilize my mood?
So now we are the proud owners of a five-dollar desk lamp and a plastic screw-together floor lamp, and with their help the cabin was cheery and snug for the rest of the weekend! We drank many hot beverages and Sang studied stats like a champ. I read four books:
- To Tell Your Love, by Mary Stolz. Her first YA novel, published in 1950. I’m going to read them all; there’s something I love about her style. I do notice lots of Madeleine-L’Engle-style quoting of literature by the characters to endear them to us bookish artsy types. The book’s prescription: go to college instead of marrying right out of high school. But if you’re pushing 27 or 28, grab your man and no matter if you met him four days ago!
- Charlotte Sometimes, by Penelope Farmer, a 1969 children’s novel of boarding school and time travel. I guess it’s a classic, as everyone I mentioned it to said they’d read it. I liked the spooky identity questions about how to stay yourself and whether anyone but your sister will even notice if you become another person.
- The Residue Years, by Mitchell S. Jackson. Portland setting by an African-American writer from Portland who got his MFA at PSU (but now lives in Brooklyn), a novel about a mother and son fighting poverty and addiction. It had a tragic quality to it that made me think it could be transposed to opera.
- Ask the Passengers, by A.S. King. I had very high expectations for this YA novel, and they were disappointed a little. The characters’ changes did not seem to be believably driven by the events in the story, for me; they seemed to be driven by it being that time in the page-count of the book for them to change. Then again, school bullying and gay-bashing are on my Not Favorite list of topics, and King seems to write about bullying a lot.
And on Monday I started my reread of The Subtle Knife. Boy, he doesn’t worry about explicating via discussion and conversation, does he? And I didn’t remember Will being such a little hardass at the beginning in Cittagazze. There is something about this series that makes me miss my bus stop while reading it, even when I hadn’t thought I was all that absorbed.
Oh, and when we got home I opened the crisper drawer in the fridge and the Cider Fairy had visited and stuffed it full of bottles of delicious Spire Mountain cider! It’s not every day that happens.