Farewell, Beverly

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Ninety-one million copies of Beverly Cleary’s books have been sold across the world. (Source: Christina Koci Hernandez/San Francisco Chronicle by Getty Images)

By Catherine Cox, Staff Writer

Known and loved by generations of children and young adults, author Beverly Cleary’s writing has entertained people all over the world. Born on April 12, 1916 in McMinnville, Oregon, Cleary has earned literary fame for her myriad of works, including the Beezus and Ramona series, Henry Huggins, Mouse and the Motorcycle and Dear Mr. Henshaw. Her numerous awards include the 1981 National Book Award for Children for Ramona and her Mother and the 2003 National Medal of Art from the National Endowment for the Arts. Although she passed away this March 25 at the age of 104, her legacy survives and is remembered dearly by family, friends and her worldwide fanbase.

From Henry Huggins, her first publication in 1950, Cleary’s work captured the hearts of a large audience, selling over 85 million copies of her works across the world. Readers with different tastes have appreciated Cleary’s characters over the years. They found laughter in the escapades of Ralph in Mouse and the Motorcycle, sympathized with Beezus as she dealt with a difficult younger sibling in Beezus and Ramona and enjoyed Ramona’s frequent run-ins with trouble. Although her books are targeted toward children, her books appeal to readers across all age groups, and her fanbase has reached many readers within the Boston Latin School community.

Caroline Hubbard (V), who has read most of the Beezus and Ramona series, shares why they were her favorite books by Cleary: “Probably Ramona and her Mother [was my favorite] because I remember it made my younger self laugh.” Hubbard also connected Cleary’s work with happy memories from her childhood. She explains, “Mouse and the Motorcycle reminds me of watching the movie with my family when I was younger.”

Nicla Marabito (V), whose favorite book by Cleary is Beezus and Ramona, also has fond memories of the author’s work, saying, “I have many good memories associated with Beverly Cleary’s books. My seven-year-old sister has listened to the audiobook version of the Beezus and Ramona series multiple times, so I hear Ramona references from her all the time. Now, because of her, I have a lot of memories associated with Ramona and Beverly Cleary’s other characters.

Cleary’s books are not only popular among students at BLS, but the staff as well. Ms. Susan Harari, a school librarian at Keefe Library, has read all of her works and shared her opinions on her favorite Cleary book, Ramona the Pest.

Ms. Harari says, “Cleary chooses every word so carefully, and the book is a marvel of economical writing. Each chapter is perfect in and of itself and yet shows incremental growth in Ramona’s character so that her transition from kindergarten to first grade happens organically. It’s also a fabulous read-aloud that will keep absolutely any kid on the edge of their seat.”

When asked about her favorite character, Ms. Harari states she could relate to Beezus. She says, “I love Ramona, but my favorite character is Beezus. I was just like that long-suffering sister, with three younger siblings that each had some of Ramona’s traits. I also have a soft spot for Miss Binney, Ramona’s young and pretty teacher who probably was in her first year, which seems like a tough time to get Ramona for a student.”

Beverly Cleary’s books have become so popular that multiple movie adaptations have been made from them, enticing a new wave of fans. The most recent adaptation was Beezus and Ramona, released in 2010. Starring Joey King as Ramona Quimby and Selena Gomez as Beezus, the movie brought Cleary’s famous characters to life on the big screen. With books, movies and many good memories among her readers, Cleary’s work and life will not be forgotten for generations to come.