Miss Smith pulled out a paper that I recognized as mine and began to read aloud. My mouth was dry and my stomach felt twisted. When she finished, she paused. My heart pounded. Then Miss Smith said, "When Beverly grows up, she should write children's books."
I can't even imagine how many times I've read one of the "Ramona" books to my kids. And every single time I read one of the books, I laugh. Henry Huggins, Ribsy, Ramona and the Quimby family feel like old friends.
I think it's Beverly Cleary's matter-of-fact, honest voice that I adore so much, and in her memoir, A Girl from Yamhill, her voice is even clearer. Cleary details her life growing up on an Oregon farm and later moving near Klickitat Street in Portland. She had a rather isolated, lonely childhood in many respects, especially in a home where love and encouragement was given reluctantly and infrequently. But early on, her teachers recognized that she had a gift for writing and actively encouraged her.
I absolutely loved this narrative of Cleary's life up through high school. She was just an average girl with a gift of writing and a determination to make things happen, in spite of economic hardships. I don't often read memoirs of writers, and I have no idea why. The few that I have read, I have enjoyed immensely—and I come away feeling inspired. I can hardly wait to get my hands on her second memoir, My Own Two Feet.