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So long, Beverly Cleary, friend of the child in us all

Life when you’re young is an exciting, disconcerting, joyful and charged adventure through the funhouse of childhood. You want to grow up and fast, to know all the secrets that you are sure the guardians of the world – those annoying adults – are hiding from you. Adults may yearn for the innocent and carefree days that fill their nostalgic childhood memories, but they suffer from amnesia. When you are there, you see your life as anything but happy.

It’s a riddle Beverly Cleary has uniquely understood. The author of the children’s , whose death at the age of 104 was announced on Friday, may have been one of those aggravating adults herself – a 33-year-old when she published Henry huggins, the first of her beloved books – but she became the best friend of all the young readers who skipped the pages of Klickitat Street.

Growing up, I was a voracious reader, avid for entertainment and escape from the worlds I discovered between the covers. But I also saw books as the key to unlocking the mysteries of the world. I often felt like the Ramona in the room, happily singing “dawnzer lee light”, only to discover with a blush that the words weren’t a mess of confusion, I was.

“Beverly wonderfully captures the essence of childhood.“

– Judy Blume

But when I think back to the long afternoons I spent reading – my favorite day at school by far was the Drop Everything and Read Day, which takes place on April 12 in schools across the country in honor of Cleary’s birthday – I don’t have strong memories of Beezus, Ramona, Henry or Ralph. I know I read Cleary’s books, read everything I could get my hands on, but the memories of the Klickitat clan had faded in my adult mind, which admittedly matured to resemble the Swiss cheese. (My mother confirmed that I was more of a Anne of the Green Gables and fan of the American Girl Doll series. I was a Felicity, in case you were wondering.)

It puzzles me that I haven’t made a more lasting connection to Cleary’s books, as I see so much of myself and my childhood on its pages as I reread them today. Cleary’s characters feel familiar and heartwarming, like family members who have come home to transport me to the jungle of youth. Like Ramona, whom Cleary and I share as our favorite character, I was the second child of an older sister whom I followed in hopes of being invited to play … and who generally had better things to do than entertain her. pesky shadow. I was also curious and eager to learn and often found myself uninformed.

It is a state of being that can seem so isolating, until, as you age, you realize that it is the universal and prosaic nature of youth. Cleary not only understood this visceral condition of growing up, but she also wrote about it in a way that has served her readers like no author before her. For decades, children have found in Cleary’s books the one thing every reader wants to see on the page – themselves.

“I was so bored with books as a kid, because kids have always learned to be better kids, and in my experience, they haven’t. They just grew up, so I started Ramona, and – and she never reformed, ”Cleary told Reading Rockets. “Her intentions are good, but she has a lot of imagination, and sometimes things don’t turn out the way she expected.”

While Cleary has always maintained that Ramona was an accidental creation – she realized that all of her characters were just children like her and decided to give Beezus a little sister – it’s hard not to spot the similarities. between the author and his favorite. courageous creation. Cleary’s memories of his childhood, A girl from Yamhill, is filled with antics that will sound familiar to all other Ramona-stans.

Cleary’s early years were spent on a farm in Yamhill, Oregon, where she enjoyed tripping chickens, throwing rotten eggs, peering under the door of the town saloon, and going on an adventure to around the world (only to have his journey cut short by his parents and their constant chorus of “What will you think of next?” and “Remember your pioneer ancestors.”)

Cleary was born into a family of readers and librarians, and it was clear from an early age that she shared the family vocation. She loved meeting new words and was so excited to learn to read in school that she refused to learn how until that momentous day arrived.

But, like many of her readers, she didn’t find things easy at school. Like Ramona, she was often bewildered by the crazy rules she encountered and the confusing information that came to her. While she loved to read from a young age and eventually discovered a passion for writing in high school, she found the material offered to her during her elementary years boring and about children whose lives were nothing like the his.

This is why she was uniquely placed to respond to the problem posed by a disgruntled young boy who approached her “rather fiercely” while working as a librarian in Yakima, Wash., To ask, “Where are the books on children like us? ” Cleary realized there really wasn’t any.

“I think children’s emotions don’t change. Their life situations change, but inside they are as they always have been.“

– Beverly cleary

So she decided to write hers. In 1950, Henry huggins was published with great success and Cleary will continue to produce new stories over the next five decades. She’s written about the big things – the joys and struggles of starting a new school and making friends, the family struggles of divorce and money issues – but also the little everyday things that seem so big in this. moment, the things that make up a childhood.

“I think children’s emotions don’t change. Their life situations change, but inside they are as they always have been, ”Cleary said. “They want a house. They want parents who love them. They want friends. They like the teachers they like. And – and I think – it’s pretty universal.

For his literary achievements in producing such beloved works, Cleary has received the National Medal of Arts Award (from President George W. Bush), the Living Legend Award from the Library of Congress (in 2000), and the Newbery Medal (three times). An elementary school was named in his honor in Oregon, a library chair created in his honor at the University of Washington, and a children’s sculpture garden built in Portland.

But the greatest testament to Cleary’s legacy are the generations – both past and future – who develop a love of reading after discovering the children of Klickitat.

“Beverly beautifully captures the essence of childhood,” Judy Blume told Pamela Paul in The New York Times in 2011 on the author’s 95th birthday. “We might not all have a childhood like this, but there is always something so universal about it. I think kids will always love these books. “

Cleary has entertained and comforted generations of American children as they faced the dangers of growing up. But, above all, she showed us that we are not alone. Through the adventures and trials, the tears and the limitless joys of childhood, Cleary has been a constant friend to every child who needed someone to understand what they were going through.

As one of those American children, Beverly Cleary, thank you.

#long #Beverly #Cleary #friend #child

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