(Editor’s Note: This piece was originally posted on Avidly, one of our LARB Channels, and was featured on USA Today this morning. What they said: “If you read Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books as a kid like I did, you’ll want to read this piece.” We’ve reproduced it in full below; read it here, or read it on Avidly.)
I always knew Beverly Cleary was a great writer. I read every single one of her books growing up — even the lesser-discussed ones like Otis Spofford and Ellen Tebbits with all the angst over something called “long underwear” that was mystifying to me as a kid in the 80s. I read most of them multiple times, and certain, VERY IMPORTANT aspects of those books have stuck with me for life. I still want to make Fong Quock’s rice “so that each grain was separate and fluffy and there was a crisp brown crust on the bottom of the kettle,” I still want to know how Emily’s crust rose through her custard pie for the church potluck, and I still really, really want to squeeze an entire tube of toothpaste into the bathroom sink.
So, yeah, Beverly Cleary: great writer, as certified by 10-year-old me. However, I didn’t realize just how great a writer she was until I reread her books as an adult. Or, more specifically, as a parent. Continue reading