Jen Robinson has reminded us that today is official DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) Day, in honor of Beverly Cleary, who is, I think, an amazing 93 years old today. (That's good Oregon pioneer stock for you.) For those who haven't picked up a Ramona book in too long, you may remember that DEAR was the daily silent reading time Ramona got to enjoy in Ramona Quimby, Age 8, although she preferred the more grownup name of "Sustained Silent Reading".
I'd thought that in honor of Beverly Cleary, I'd use this post to highlight a few of my favorite Cleary books--but when it came down to it, I simply couldn't decide which ones. Would I treat you all to my dissertative "Sister of the Bride as Feminist Treatise"? Marvel about how well Cleary, an only child, could write about sisters? Reminisce about my childhood longing to play Brick Factory? Tell about how I dreaded having to read all of Dear Mr. Henshaw for my Newbery Project, but ended up loving it? Attempt to convince my friends one more time that Jean and Johnny is one of her masterpieces, and the only reason they don't like it is because it hits too close to home and makes them uneasy?
Not long ago, my aunt told me, "When I first read Ellen Tebbits I felt like it had been written especially for me." Well, I was no Ellen Tebbits--I would have been the girl with the sloppy dress, not the bright, crisp sash--but Ramona was very comforting to me when I was a kid. I felt that we were misunderstood together.
I love three of Cleary's four teenage novels (I can't really stomach Fifteen), and I sometimes wonder if Ramona grew up to be one of those girls. She must have. Do you think Ramona was a Shelley or a Barbara or a Jean or a Jane? It's an interesting idea, but it's hard for me to imagine Ramona grown up; I don't want to think of her spirit stifled. Perhaps she grew up to be Winona Root from the Betsy-Tacy books.
Of those four teenage characters, which one do you think is most like a teenaged Ramona? Were you, yourself, a Ramona or a Beezus?
A final note: anyone who visited my college dorm rooms was bewildered and/or amused by my bookshelves (even though people frequently borrowed things like Madeleine L'Engle and commented on other childhood favorites they saw there). No title created greater amusement more consistently than Beverly Cleary's The Luckiest Girl. Forget the title, forget the silly covers; it's a very fine book, and if you've never gotten around to reading it, do it now.