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Children's book author Beverly Cleary, 95, looks back at Ramona

BeverlyclearyBeverly Cleary, the author of "Beezus and Ramona" and dozens of other books for children and adults, turned 95 this week. She lives near Carmel, Calif.

"[T]alking with Cleary, it's impossible not to connect the writer with the child she once was," book critic David L. Ulin writes in a feature that will appear in Sunday's Times. Cleary spoke to Ulin about her life and work:

Asked which is her favorite character, the 95-year-old doesn't hesitate. "Well, it must be Ramona," she says in a low, matter-of-fact voice. "She was just a little brat in 'Henry Huggins.' She was sort of an accident because it occurred to me that all the children appeared to be only children. So I tossed in this little sister, and at that moment, a neighbor called out to another neighbor who happened to be named Ramona. So I just named this little girl Ramona. And she kept growing in the Henry books. And my editor said she would like a whole book about Ramona, and I was thinking about it myself."

There's a sense of both serendipity and tenacity to such an anecdote, two qualities that define Cleary as well. For many years, she has been an icon — not just of children's literature but also of American literature, the writer who changed everything with the publication of "Henry Huggins," her first novel for middle readers, in 1950. In the decades since, she has been a Newbery Medal and Honor winner; she's a recipient of the National Medal of Arts and has been declared a living legend by the Library of Congress.

On April 28, Cleary will receive the Robert Kirsch Award at the L.A. Times Book Prizes. It's the first time the honor has gone to an author of books for children.

Read more about Beverly Cleary here.


A few words with Beverly Cleary on her 95th birthday

2010 Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalists announced

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Beverly Cleary. Credit: Harper Collins

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My dad used the Ramona books to help me learn to read...and the first time I tried my hand at writing, it was a story about Ramona's little sister Roberta. I haven't thought about these books for years and it's neat to hear a little about how Ramona came to be.


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