Born in 1916 in a town in Oregon so small that it had no library, Beverly Cleary grew up with a love for and appreciation of books thanks to the dedication of her mother, who arranged to have books sent to the community and acted as the local librarian.
Cleary eventually followed her love of books into her own work as a librarian and then in a bookshop. Finally she transitioned to being a full time writer for children.
She wrote over 40 books for children, which have garnered numerous awards from both literary critics and children. Relatable and realistic characters made her books beloved by children and adults alike.
Her love of reading shone through in her work. One of her most loved characters, Ramona Quimby, helped create the D.E.A.R. program – Drop Everything And Read.
D.E.A.R. is now an annual event celebrated on April 12th – Cleary’s birthday – which encourages children to love and enjoy reading.
In remembering the impact of Cleary’s work we asked our staff:
“What was your favourite Beverly Cleary book?”
“When did you read it?”
“What do you remember about it?”
I remember reading The Mouse and the Motorcycle for Battle of the Books when I was in grade 3 or 4. My team did really well in the competition that year, but I don't think I could recount many of the details of the book for you now.
However, the impression of a road opening up before a small mouse on a motorcycle has stuck with me vividly through the years. There was so much freedom and wonder in it.
Her books were kind of a cornerstone of childhood. The one I remember best was the Ralph S. Mouse series because I absolutely loved mouse stories for a while and his motorcycle was the coolest thing to me. I read a bunch of them when I was in grade school.
Ramona was another one that stuck just because that series was basically required reading for little girls back then.
My love for reading is all because of Beverly Clearly and a little mouse with a ping pong ball helmet.
When I was little, our summers were spent at the family cabin. My Mom would take us to a second hand bookstore at the end of June and let us pick enough comics and books to fill a box to last the summer.
Beverly Cleary's, The Mouse and the Motorcycle was one of my picks. It was the first novel I read a thousand times. It started my journey as a lifelong reader.
Cleary just had a way of capturing a child's imagination through words and stories.
Not too long ago, I received a copy of the book in my stocking at Christmas. Rereading one of her stories by the Christmas tree as an adult was just as special as it was the summer I turned 11 years old.
I love so many of her books, but the one that stands out for me is Runaway Ralph. I read it myself when I was in grade 3.
I have a very distinct memory of sitting at my desk during silent reading time and being so absorbed in the book that I didn't hear my teacher when she said it was time to put our books down and come sit on the carpet for our next lesson.
She had to ask me several times to put it down before I finally tore my eyes away from Ralph's riveting adventures and reluctantly joined the rest of the class.
The image of Ralph waiting for the right moment to speed out from under that grandfather clock will probably stick with me forever!
The Mouse and the Motorcycle is my favourite - hands down! My teacher read it to my class in grade 3.
That was more than a few years ago and I still remember being captivated by the story and Cleary's ability to spark imagination.
I read it to my children when they were small and am now motivated to read it with my granddaughter. A cherished favourite.
I was obsessed with the Ramona books when I was a kid.
My favourite was Ramona Forever because a lot happened: Aunt Bea’s wedding, the birth of Roberta and the loss of the cat Picky-Picky. I was pretty much in awe of how Beezus and Ramona handled his death while home alone.
I wasn’t as much of a fan of other Cleary books, but the Ramona character was so relatable. I read these with my mom when I was a kid. My cousin and I would share the books back and forth.
A few years ago I was in Portland and made a point of visiting Kickitat street where Ramona was supposed to live. There's a lovely bronze statue of Ramona there too.
Your Favourite Beverly Cleary
We’ve pulled together a list of all the Cleary titles in our collection. Re-read an old favourite – or discover a new one!