Many writers have been influenced by other writers. I know my love of reading is a big reason why I became an author. So it is with sadness that the world says goodbye to Beverly Cleary who passed away this weekend.
From the Beezus & Ramona series, Runaway Ralph, Henry Huggins, Otis Spofford, Fifteen, Sister of The Bride – the list of the books she wrote that touched my life goes on and on. Her literary voice, the way she portrayed the emotions of her characters and the situations they faced are just a few of the reasons why her books had such an impact on me when I was young. The banality of sibling rivalry, the desire for adventure in any form, the excitement and fear of growing up were all things I could relate to. It seemed that there was always a Beverly Cleary book that I could read no matter what age I happened to be. It’s a wonderful talent to be able to relate to children, tweens and teens. To captivate their imagination, to talk to them on their level while not talking down to them and broach an array of topics in life from silly and serious – divorce, boredom, sibling rivalry, dating, self-confidence, fitting in – and let them know they are not alone.
I know a writer has touched my heart when I read their books with our son. I even have some of the very books I used to read myself when I was a child. The Mouse and The Motorcycle was the second chapter book my son and I read together. His excitement at Ralph’s adventures and thirst for thrills was infectious. I plan on reading Otis Spofford this week with our son just after we finish reading the very inappropriate, but hilarious autobiography of Roald Dahl, Solo.
I hope in some small way my writing speaks to readers the way Beverly Cleary’s does. Kids laugh louder, cry harder and feel everything a little bit more than adults do. They have have not yet learned to fear life and that makes connecting with young readers such a delight. It requires that I use my imagination more, dig deeper into my emotions and simplify certain things while complicating others. Free from the drudgery of jobs and bills, kids get to live their lives in the full spectrum of emotion and it is dazzling to witness. And it’s no wonder it only lasts for a little while. I don’t think anyone could life an entire lifetime at that high level of emotion and joy.
Thank you for all your wonderful books, Beverly Cleary.