Drop Everything And Celebrate Beverly Cleary's 94th Birthday

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I am celebrating because one of my favorite authors, Beverly Cleary, turns 94 today. It doesn't take much to convince me to grab a cup of coffee, a cupcake and a good book, but today is extra special. Whose early reading years weren't marked by a delight in the adventures of Ralph S. Mouse, or schemes of the enterprising Henry Huggins, or travails of Ramona, one of the most realistic young characters ever written? Beverly Cleary's legacy of over 30 award-winning children's books have turned countless young people into avid readers and lifelong lovers of good stories.

Beverly Cleary Mouse and the Motorcycle

The Cleary library includes many picture books for little ones, like Two Dog Biscuits; romantic novels for girls older than 10, like The Luckiest Girl; and two memoirs. But Cleary is most remembered for the treasured elementary reader books about families, bullies and schoolyard feuds that saw many of us through our first magical years of reading chapter books. Among many formal accolades earned throughout her career, Cleary was awarded the National Medal of the Arts in 2003 and received a Newbery Medal for her Dear Mr. Henshaw in 1984.

I remember re-reading a few Ramona books, one after the other, on the linoleum floor of my third grade classroom, even though Mrs. McMillen told me that I if I re-read a book I wouldn't be given a second body segment for the bulletin bookworms that tracked each students' reading. But who cared about competitive bookworm growth when I had Ramona to keep me company? She turned a worm into an engagement ring! She pulled that mean girl's hair! She threatened to say a bad word! Ramona gave me a great incentive to read, because she taught me that some cool friends could be found in books, and that with a library nearby I would never be alone. A fully formed character from a skilled writer's pen is a profound gift, and Cleary has given us many.

Remembering how much I loved Cleary's books meant that one of my great excitements as a parent was finally getting the chance to share The Mouse and the Motorcycle with my sons, complete with the all-important vrrrooom-vrroom noises. Timeless. The thought that they could live to be 94 like Mrs. Cleary, and read that book to another generation or two or three, makes me immeasurably happy.

Today is also National Drop Everything And Read (D.E.A.R.) Day. D.E.A.R. is a practice promoted to encourage the joy of reading in schools and at home. National D.E.A.R. Day is celebrated on Cleary's birthday, with Ramona Quimby as the spokes-character. Schools and libraries sometimes participate by scheduling character costume parties, read-ins, author appearances or other celebrations.

I'm planning my own quiet D.E.A.R time, with a cupcake and tea, in honor of Beverly Cleary's 94th. I'm not alone. Anna Alexander at Fragments and Shrapnel is in. In Real Life is reading Socks with her kids. Jodi Cromey atI Will Dare says her first real book love was Beverly Cleary.

Do you remember reading Cleary, either as a child or to the children in your life? Happy Birthday, Beverly Cleary!

Deb Rox blogs like a freaking butterfly, stings like a Tweet, and would totally protect you from a third grade bully. She might even say "Guts!"

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