A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
- Happy birthday Gary Soto (Baseball in April and Other Stories, Too Many Tamales).
- Itâ€™s the birth date of C. W. Anderson (1891-1971), Billy and Blaze: A Boy and His Pony, Hardie Gramatky (1907-1979), Little Toot, Paul Showers (1910-1999), The Listening Walk, and Barbara Corcoran (1911-2003), Wolf at the Door.
- In 1954, musical group Bill Haley and His Comets record the song â€śRock Around the Clock.â€ť Read Bats Around the Clock by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, and Boom Chicka Rock by John Archambault, illustrated by Suzanne Tanner Chitwood.
- Itâ€™s National Licorice Day. Read Arthurâ€™s Funny Money by Lillian Hoban.
All 95th birthdays are special, but today marks this important milestone for one of Americaâ€™s most beloved writers for children, Beverly Cleary. When Clearyâ€™s characters are listedâ€”Henry Huggins, Ramona Quimby, Ribsy, Ralph S. Mouseâ€”they remind people of childhood favorites, even friends.
Born in McMinnville, Oregon, on April 12, 1916, Beverly Alice Bunn lived for a short time on a farm in Yamhill before moving to Portland when she was six. In Girl from Yamhill, Cleary provided one of the most honest and poignant autobiographies that we have been given of a childrenâ€™s book writer, one that shows how difficult at times her path to becoming an author has been. As her editor Barbara Lalicki has noted, Cleary emerged from her trials as a person with â€śa sparkling laugh and a unique, upbeat way of observing the world.â€ť
Although Cleary loved having stories read to her, she had to endure being placed in the reading groups for underachievers. One day she picked up Lucy Fitch Perkinâ€™s The Dutch Twins and found herself enjoying reading a book for the first time. Much later, after attending library school at the University of Washington, Cleary married, had children, and worked as a childrenâ€™s librarian.
The children she had contact with on a daily basis became her muses. Those in first, second, or third grades often asked her for books about children, just like themselves, who have everyday adventures. As one said to her, â€ťWhere are the books for kids like us?â€ť The books of the time favored foreign settings, wild adventures, or mysteries. Unable to find the type of stories she wanted, Cleary set out to write them. In 1950 she published Henry Huggins, a book about a third grader who lives on Klickitat Street in Portland and who believes that nothing much ever happens to him. But then Henry discovers a stray dog, names him Ribsy, and life gets much more interesting. Each episodic chapter stands on its own, an ideal format for those learning to read. The chapters focus on Henryâ€™s problemsâ€”as when his pet goldfish begins to multiply.
Though these books, and those about Ramona and her sister Beezus, keep children laughing and happy, they have a great deal more depth than is at first evident. In Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Childrenâ€™s Book Pulitzer Prizeâ€“winner Michael Dirda wrote about the final chapter Henry Huggins, in which Ribsy needs to choose between his former owner and Henry. â€śIn those final pages of her novel, Beverly Cleary compels the reader to think hard about conflicting loyalties and obligations, to recognize the necessity of accommodation to circumstances, and to acknowledge one of lifeâ€™s great, sad truths: Nothing that involves people and their feelings is ever plain and straightforward. All of us live with shadow and uncertainty and sometimes with qualms and regrets.â€ť
I hope today, on her 95th birthday, Beverly has no regrets! For sixty-one years she has made children want to read and enjoy reading. Happy birthday, Beverly, and thank you from your millions of devoted fans. For those who want to join in the festivities, Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R.) is officially celebrating Clearyâ€™s 95th birthday. Visit their website for ideas.
Hereâ€™s a passage from Henry Huggins:
Ribsy opened his eyes and, without moving his head, turned them first toward the strange boy and then toward Henry. â€śCome on Ribsy,â€ť they both coaxed.
Slowly Ribsy stood up, and after a backward glance at the stranger, trotted eight squares down the sidewalk toward Henry. He paused, scratched again, and trotted the remaining squares to Henry. Then he sank down with his head on Henryâ€™s foot and closed his eyes again.
Ribsy had chosen Henry!
Originally posted April 12, 2011. Updated for .