Ramona Quimby, Age… 74 ??

Mar 27, 2021 | 0 comments

It’s not so hard for me to realize that beloved author Beverly Cleary has died.  After all, she was almost 105 and, as my friends and I frequently observe these days, it’s not as though any of us will live forever.  Besides, truth to tell, I wasn’t aware that Mrs. Cleary was still living in Carmel Valley, California right where she was the last time I “checked” — which was probably the last time one of my classes wrote her some fan mail after we had read one of her books.   Maybe in the 1980s.

Like Mrs. Cleary’s beloved Klickitat Street characters, she seems a part of my own, personal, literary lexicon.  She, herself, has been a larger-than-life personage in my mind since I first “met” her in the 1950s.  Perhaps she has never seemed quite real.   No… the hard part is to realize that, in non-fiction time,  Cleary’s beloved Klickitat Street characters (visually immortalized by illustrator Louis Darling) would be in their seventies and eighties now!  Thank goodness fictional children — especially those who have become real in the minds of millions of readers — remain young forever.

Thus far, her books have sold more than 91 million copies and I have no doubt that many of the readers feel a kinship with her characters and with Mrs. Cleary, herself, just as I do.  Klickitat Street, of course, is in Portland and, like the “Henry Huggins Neighborhood,” has probably been visited by many of Cleary’s fans — like us.  Years ago, we went to admire the statues (by artist Lee Hunt) of her characters — Henry Huggins, his dog Ribsy, and his friend Ramona — in The Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden for Children, at Grant Park.    I recently learned that there is also a map of Henry Huggins’s Klickitat Street neighborhood on the lobby wall of the Multnomah County Librarry, Hollywood Branch.  We sprobably should have checked that out beforehand.

I imagine there will be a resurgence of visitors now with the news of Mrs. Cleary’s death.  And, I suspect, there will be an uptick in readership of her wonderful books. She wrote 30 books for children and young adults.  In 1981, she won the National Book Award  for Ramona and Her Mother  and, in 1984, the Newberry Medal for Dear Mr. Henshaw. For her enormous contribution to American literature throughout her lifetime, author Cleary was awarded with the National Medal of Arts as well as the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal by the  American Library Association.

But, mostly, Beverly Cleary won the hearts of generations of children and adults with her books about Henry Huggins and his friends.  I’m pretty sure they’ll “live” forever!

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