Teri Wilson
April 12, 2016 10:34 am

Dear Beverly Cleary,

It’s your 100th birthday! We want to thank you for filling our childhood with amazing characters like Beezus and Ramona, Henry Huggins, Otis Spofford, Ellen Tebbits, and Ralph S. Mouse. Your books taught me what it was like to have a sister and made my quiet room ring with the happy sounds of laughter and innocent mischief.

It’s your 100th birthday, Beverly Cleary! And we want to thank you for teaching us that animals make the best friends a kid could ever want. Thanks to you, we had dogs named Ribsy and cats named Socks. After reading Strider, we wanted to rescue every stray dog we ever saw. We still do, because these lines will always have a way of breaking our hearts: “Strider has a new habit. Whenever we stop, he places his paw on my foot. It isn’t an accident because he always does it. I like to think he doesn’t want to leave me.”

It’s your 100th birthday, Beverly Cleary! And we love that when you were a little girl, you wanted to be a ballerina (we did, too!), but you changed your mind when you fell in love with books. We love that you once tried to read the entire fairy tale section of the library. We love that you went on to become a librarian yourself while you wrote out your manuscripts in longhand on yellow legal pads.

We love that you grew up on a farm and that one of the first short stories you wrote as a little girl was about giving up her pet chicken to feed the troops. We love that you don’t really believe in the commercialization of children’s books, and think that all kids should have access to books from the library.

It’s your 100th birthday, Beverly Cleary! And we want to thank you for writing Dear Mr. Henshaw and showing us that loneliness and family troubles and change are part of life. Not just for us, but for everyone. But life is also full of wonderful things like words and friends and humor…

…and you, Beverly Cleary.

In Ramona and Her Mother, you wrote, “All her life she had wanted to squeeze the toothpaste, really squeeze it, not just one little squirt on her toothbrush, but a whole tube, a large economy sized tube…She unscrewed the cap and laid it on the counter. Then she squeezed that tube the way she had been told she must never squeeze it, right in the middle…The paste coiled and swirled and mounded in the washbasin. Ramona decorated the mound with toothpaste roses as if it was a toothpaste birthday cake.”

We hope your 100th birthday is wonderful and that right now, you’re blowing out candles on a cake piled with roses. Thank you for your words, and for teaching us to squeeze the tube from the middle, Beverly Cleary. Always.