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Children's Book Author Beverly Cleary Celebrates 103rd Birthday

Apr 12, 2019
Originally published on April 12, 2019 4:16 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

We want to take a moment now to wish happy birthday to a woman many of us grew up on. Children's book author Beverly Cleary turns 103 today, which gives us an excuse to celebrate her.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Yes. Ramona Quimby, Beezus, "The Mouse And The Motorcycle" - vroom-vroom.

SHAPIRO: Cleary's books have sold more than 90 million copies. As she told Oregon Public Broadcasting, she wasn't always a big reader.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "DISCOVERING BEVERLY CLEARY")

BEVERLY CLEARY: Oh, I remember a moment of terror in the first grade when we were in a reading circle. And I'd figured ahead what word I was going to have to read. And it was city. And I knew it wasn't pronounced kitty, but I couldn't remember.

CHANG: About two years later, she was browsing through a book when something happened.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "DISCOVERING BEVERLY CLEARY")

CLEARY: I was really just looking at the pictures and discovered I was reading it and enjoying what I read. It was quite a revelation.

CHANG: She started reading more and writing stories, too. The school librarian suggested she become an author.

SHAPIRO: She grew up, went to college and became a children's librarian in Yakima, Wash. She learned to write for children there, standing up in front of big groups and telling them stories.

CHANG: A few years later, she was ready to write books of her own.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "DISCOVERING BEVERLY CLEARY")

CLEARY: And I waited and waited, and no ideas came. And I thought about the little boy in the Yakima Public Library who (laughter) faced me rather ferociously once and said, where are the books about kids like us? And it changed my whole attitude.

CHANG: And the rest is history.

SHAPIRO: Thanks to Oregon Public Broadcasting and their documentary "Discovering Beverly Cleary."

CHANG: In honor of Cleary, April 12 is Drop Everything and Read day. So if you want to celebrate Beverly Cleary's 103 years, find some time on this Friday and read a book.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLAMINGOSIS SONG, "BELIEVE IN ME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.