Today is Beverly Cleary’s 95th birthday. Her books, especially the Beezus and Ramona series, have been very popular with my daughters over the years.

When I was a kid the Runaway Ralph book was my favorite. The idea of a mouse who rode a motorcycle was compelling to me.

The New York Times posted a profile of her today. I especially like this part:

How does Cleary explain her popularity? “I wrote books to entertain,” she told me. People often asked what she was trying to teach in her books. She would reply, “I’m not trying to teach anything!” This was the same attitude she had when she was first reading. “If I suspected the author was trying to show me how to be a better behaved girl, I shut the book,” she remembered.

And:

An only child, whose parents were forced to sell the family farm, Cleary was painfully shy. Troubled at school and beset by bad teachers, she didn’t learn to read until the third grade. Though, as she remarked tartly in our conversation, “My mother always read to me, so why should I learn to read?”

What ultimately drove her to write for children, she recalled, was a book she noticed when she had a job in a children’s bookstore in the 1940s. In it, a puppy said: “Bow-wow. I like the green grass.”

“No dog I had ever known could talk like that,” Cleary said. She wondered once again, as she frequently had while working as a children’s librarian, “What was the matter with authors?”

Her conclusion: “I knew I could write a better book.”

I let my youngest daughter take a personal day off from school today, so as to give her have some down time away from both her sisters and the classroom. I’m now going to see about reading some Runaway Ralph to her, in honor of Beverly Cleary.

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