Mrs. Cleary at 100

Four years ago I sent a short essay about Beverly Cleary’s birthday to KQED’s Perspective series. The editor Mark read it and enjoyed it, but will anyone else remember Beverly Cleary? He asked his colleagues. Instantly they responded with their favorite characters and plot lines: Henry Huggins trying to get a paper route! Ralph S. mouse on his motorcycle! Ellen Tibbetts and her best friend Augustine wearing matching dresses! Socks the cat getting lost in the cold! Leigh Botts writing to his favorite author, Mr. Henshaw! But the name that came up over and over was Ramona.

They remembered everything about her: her doll named Chevrolet. She couldn’t stand Susan with the boing boing curls. How she used a worm for an engagement ring. The time she loved her new flannel pajamas so much, she wore them under her regular clothes. No secret Ramona Geraldine Quimby is one of my favorite characters in literature. Like Ramona I felt misunderstood and at times lonely. I read about Ramona and loved her courage, her toughness. Who else after being confronted by a dog throw a shoe at him? And when given a choice between wearing a old boot or making a paper slipper, she made a slipper? And while doing that, she-gulp-asked older sister Beezus’ 6th grade teacher Mr. Cardoza to borrow a stapler? Yes, I can remember this but I forget to buy creamer at the store. Priorities, people!

Ramona was bad at spelling and had no patience with grown ups who talked down to her. We still have that in common. She loved her family and her neighborhood, but always had to live down her old nickname “”Ramona the Pest.” She wasn’t a pest! She just wanted to be with the crowd! She wanted to be like Henry and have a paper route, so much so she followed him in the snow one cold day. Or when Beezus was being teased by boys, she stood up for her. She was every girl, the one that was brave, the one who knew every neighbor on her block.

I’ve been hesitant to write a Beverly Cleary blog; mostly because I was worried Mrs. Cleary was going to die before her birthday. I know that sounds silly, but in the Death March of 2016 we’ve lost so many people. But I am throwing caution to the wind and creating a challenge to honor Mrs. Cleary on her birthday.

On your social media of choice (Facebook. Twitter, Instagram, etc) change your profile pic to three options:

1. The cover of your favorite Beverly Cleary book

2. Your favorite Cleary character

3. A picture of Mrs. Cleary herself. Bonus points if you use a vintage one.

On April 12th, wish Mrs. Cleary happy birthday with the hashtag beverlycleary100. Then do something else: pick a presidential candidate, then ask them to wish her happy birthday as well. I have no idea how this is going to go, but it’s like Ramona asking Mr. Cardoza for a stapler. Risk failure. Make that paper slipper. And most of all, be brave. If you make a cake forever the occasion, here’s a tip: don’t your baby doll in the batter. If you know our friend Ramona, you will understand.

Originally published at