By Kristin J. Bender, AP
SAN FRANCISCO–As she turns 100, the feisty and witty author Beverly Cleary remembers the Oregon childhood that inspired the likes of characters Ramona and Beezus Quimby and Henry Huggins in the children’s books that sold millions and enthralled generations of youngsters.
“I was a well-behaved little girl, not that I wanted to be,” she said. “At the age of Ramona, in those days, children played outside. We played hopscotch and jump rope and I loved them and always had scraped knees.”
Ramona, perhaps her best-known character, made her debut in “Henry Huggins” with only a brief mention. But that changed soon.
“All the children appeared to be only children so I tossed in a little sister and she didn’t go away. She kept appearing in every book,” she said in a telephone interview from her Carmel, California home. Cleary herself was an only child.
Her birthday on Tuesday will be marked with a slice of carrot cake at her retirement home, where they’ll show the movie “Discovering Beverly Cleary: An Oregon Art Beat.” The documentary not only marks her 100th birthday but it also examines her Oregon roots, and the impact of her work.
She hasn’t seen the film yet, but is quick to point out, “I think I’m much better looking in my photograph.”
She’s also been known to joke that she doesn’t look a day over 80.
Cleary, who started writing in her 30s, doesn’t write anymore because she feels “it’s important for writers to know when to quit.”
“I even got rid of my typewriter. It was a nice one but I hate to type. When I started writing I found that I was thinking more about my typing than what I was going to say, so I wrote it long hand.”