...Although she put away her pen, Cleary re-released three of her most cherished books with three famous fans writing forewords for the new editions.
Actress Amy Poehler penned the front section of "Ramona Quimby, Age 8;" author Kate DiCamillo wrote the opening for "The Mouse and the Motorcycle;" and author Judy Blume wrote the foreword for "Henry Huggins."
Cleary, a self-described "fuddy-duddy," said there was a simple reason she began writing children's books.
"As a librarian, children were always asking for books about 'kids like us.′ Well, there weren't any books about kids like them. So when I sat down to write, I found myself writing about the sort of children I had grown up with," Cleary said in a 1993
Associated Press interview...
I was surprised to find that the novel Mitch and Amy was based on her own twins!
From the New York Post: In all her books, Cleary says, she's always stuck to one rule: "I never reform anybody. Because when I was growing up, I didn't like to read about boys and girls who learned to be better boys and girls."
From the Horn Book: "When I wrote Dear Mr. Henshaw, I did not expect every reader to like Leigh as much as Ramona. Although I am deeply touched that my books have reached two generations of children, popularity has never been my goal. If it had been, I
would have written Ramona Solves the Mystery of the Haunted House and Finds a Baby Brother or something like Henry and Beezus Play Doctor, instead of a book about the feelings of a lonely child of divorce."
There's a link to a very funny parody of the first two pages of Ramona the Pest - yes, it still works.
Also, in the post, I pointed out some details about Halloween that Beezus didn't know. Plus, I pointed out the ways that the Ramona books COULD be called a bit old-fashioned in ways the critics don't always talk about. Namely, the parents and teachers
are dignified and, overall, competent - unlike, say, the adults in more than one Judy Blume book. (More details in the post.) They do not revolve around Ramona's feelings, and Cleary does not allow Ramona to seethe in contempt for adults.
But that's what makes the books refreshing, these days!
(I only wish the publishers of Cleary's books hadn't replaced the old illustrations with ones that not only make Ramona look PRETTY, but have the characters constantly SMILING! Ridiculous. As the old illustrators knew, childhood often ISN'T pretty - and
neither are kids, necessarily.)
About the second article - wow! I would never have thought to connect Ramona to Pippi. Mainly because a lot of the dialogue and scenarios in the Pippi books are just fantastic nonsense, after all.
Check out the few comments, too.
But, when it comes to the Harry Potter books and Hermione...I can't help but be reminded of what cartoonist Alison Bechdel had one of her characters say, back in Nov. 2000:
"'Bollocks!' cried Hermione. 'I'd be running this show if those slags
in marketing weren't convinced girls will read books about boys, but
boys won't read books about girls!'"
I like this passage from The Daily Beast, too:
“I was so annoyed with the books in my childhood, because children always learned to be better children, and in my experience, they didn't. They just grew, and so I started Ramona, and—and she has never reformed,” Cleary told Reading Rockets. “
Her intentions are good, but she has a lot of imagination, and things sometimes don't turn out the way she had expected.”
With that in mind, it's too bad she didn't have a sequel to Mitch and Amy - which was based on her own squabbling twins, as I found out! That is, true to Cleary's rule of not allowing her characters to reform, they don't stop squabbling - but they aren't
really enemies in the first place, which is made clear early on, since they support each other when it really matters.
But...maybe it's a good thing she didn't write a sequel to Otis Spofford. (Contrary to what it says in the 2008 hardcover edition, the book was published in 1953, not 1963.) That is, no, he doesn't reform, and he's NOT a bully like the boy Alan in Mitch
and Amy, but he IS mischievous - a term that Cleary refused to apply to Ramona. Example: "Except for learning things, Otis liked school."
So, given the overall wholesomeness of Cleary's books, it's a little hard to imagine how Otis could "just grow" without turning into a boring adult, as Mark Twain predicted about Tom Sawyer - or a preteen drop-out. (As it happens, there HAVE been very
young drop-outs who became rich and famous in real life, including ones born in the 19th century, but Cleary would never have gone that far in a novel, if only because she was never controversial, IIRC.)
From Lenona@21:1/5 to All on Sun Mar 28 20:01:17 2021
Just to clarify - I meant that Cleary would likely never have had a drop-out as a protagonist.
Oh, and this is from chapter 6, from Henry and the Clubhouse. I thought the part about the "smiling lady" advice columnist, in particular, was a very amusing jab, by Cleary, at the "Leave it to Beaver" atmosphere so prevalent at the time. (The show was
still on the air, in 1962.)
Mrs. Huggins laughed. “Yes, I do. She is just a lively little girl who gets into mischief sometimes. Ignore her, and she will stop bothering you. She only wants attention.”
Henry could not help feeling that his mother did not understand the situation. He had ignored Ramona. That was the whole trouble. He was not paying any attention to her so he had found himself locked in the clubhouse. This was not a little mischief. It
was a terrible thing for her to do.
“Surely you are smarter than a five-year-old,” remarked Mr. Huggins jokingly.
Henry did not have an answer for his father, who, after all, was safe in his office all day and did not know what a nuisance Ramona could be...
...Henry paused to read (the advice) column. A girl who signed her letter “Flat Broke” said that her father did not give her a big enough allowance. Her father did not understand that she needed more money for school lunches, bus fare, and other
things. What should she do about it? The smiling lady told her to talk it over with her father and explain to him exactly what her expenses were. The smiling lady was sure he would understand.
Henry thought this over. Maybe he should write to the lady about Ramona. He could write, I have a problem. A girl in my neighborhood has a little sister who pesters me on my paper route. How can I get her to stop? Then he could sign the letter Disgusted.
Henry tried to think how the lady would answer his letter. Dear Disgusted, she would say, but what would she say next? Probably she would tell him to talk his problem over with Ramona’s mother and everything would be all right. Oh no, it wouldn’t,
thought Henry, just as if he had really read an answer to a letter he had really written. Ramona’s mother knew all about his problem and had not been able to solve it. As Beezus said, Ramona never listened very much...
And, when you think about it, chances are the advice columnist wasn't really any help to the girl who wrote the letter, either! Why? Because chances are, the girl wasn't telling the whole story - and the father ALREADY knew what her expenses were! That
is, those "other things" were likely non-essentials that the father just plain would not pay for. Which makes you wonder why the columnist didn't choose a different letter to publish.