I was always an avid reader as a child. I loved to read — it did not matter what genre. I read at home, school, the library, on the bus, in the car and just about anywhere else.
I would beg my mother to take me to buy books at Borders or Barnes & Noble. She would often joke that she wanted to drop me off at the bookstore for a couple hours to read the book I wanted instead of purchasing the book. My constant need to update my book catalogue was not cheap, so we relied on the school and community libraries and the beloved Scholastic book fairs.
Throughout my elementary school days, I always enjoyed reading about the mischievous Ramona Quimby. Ramona is smart, imaginative and at times loud and annoying (a “pest” as Beezus would say). Ramona felt like someone I knew. She was unapologetically Ramona — a strong girl who knew she wanted to do big things. And while there may have been (comical at times) bumps in the road, Ramona persevered while we both learned a few lessons along the way.
Beverly Cleary, the woman behind Ramona Quimby, was one of my favorite authors. Cleary died March 25 at the age of 104.
Cleary’s impact is immeasurable. She published the first Ramona-centered book in the mid 1950s and the last hit bookshelves in 1999. But how are these books still impacting readers who were not even born when Cleary wrote them?
Whether I knew it then or not, I searched for books as a young reader with characters in whom I could relate. The fantasy and other fictional genres I read had magic and good characters but what set Ramona apart? After all, she is just a regular kid.
The magic of Cleary’s writing is that Ramona was just a regular kid. Ramona felt real, had real problems and dealt with the problems through the lens of a young girl.
I learned about real-life issues through Ramona. Cleary touches on a parent’s loss of job and resulting financial instability, the death of a pet, as well as divorce. These are important and sometimes tough lessons to learn during childhood. Cleary tackled these “big” topics in a way that was not scary to the reader but explained them in a way that made sense to kids. Cleary leaves a legacy of generations of readers and more to come.
Cleary once said, “If you don’t see the book you want on the shelves, write it.”
I am so glad that she had the courage to tell the story of Ramona Quimby for all of the Ramonas out in our world.