Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Beezus Hits the Big Screen

Circle this date on your calendar: March 19, 2010. (What? You don't have a 2010 calendar?) After years of resisting Hollywood, Portland's much-loved author Beverly Cleary has finally given the green light to let her characters loose on the big screen. The project has been working its way through the Hollywood system and now has actual actors attached and a release date scheduled. Elizabeth Allen will direct the Fox 2000 movie, with Joey King playing Ramona and Selena Gomez playing Beezus. John Corbett and Bridget Moynahan will play the parents, Bob and Dorothy Quimby, and Ginnifer Goodwin will play Aunt Bea.

Beverly Cleary was born Beverly Bunn on April 12, 1916, in McMinnville and grew up on a farm in Yamhill. When she was old enough to attend school, her family moved to Portland -- Northeast Portland, to be exact. As a child she attended Fernwood Grammar School. In 2008, the combined Hollywood-Fernwood Elementary School was renamed Beverly Cleary School in her honor.

She moved to California to attend college -- first Chaffey College and then UC-Berkeley, where she received a BA in English. She then entered the School of Librarianship at the UW, earning her degree in 1939. Her first job was as the Children's Librarian in Yakima, where she lived until she married Clarence Cleary -- whom she had met in college -- and they moved to Oakland, CA. Beverly and Clarence had twins - a son and a daughter. Her husband died in 2004, and Cleary now lives in Carmel.

She has written more than 30 books, which have been translated into 14 languages and sold more than 91 million copies worldwide. Her first book (Henry Huggins, published in 1950) was about a boy named Henry and his dog Ribsy, who lived on Klickitat Street. Also living on Klickitat Street were Ramona, age 4, and Beezus, just turning 10. Beezus and Ramona was published in 1955. Also living in the neighborhood were Otis Spofford and Ellen Tebbits. Motorcycle-riding Ralph S. ("S" stands for "smart") Mouse lived in Room 215 of the Mountain View Inn in California.

The Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden for Children, with bronze statues of Henry, Ramona, and Ribsy, was created in Grant Park in 1995.

As a beginning student, Cleary struggled with reading until the third grade, when she encountered both a teacher she loved and (finally) a book she loved. From that point on she became a voracious reader and started writing. When she began writing her own books, she stuck to the advice her mother had given her, that the best writing is simple and filled with humor. Her books have stayed in print all these years -- truly a remarkable phenomenon in today's publishing world -- because she understands her audience. Let's hope Fox 2000 understands as well!

She has written two memoirs: A Girl from Yamhill and My Own Two Feet. Although she has lived most of her adult life in California, you can tell she's truly an Oregonian at heart by this quote: " this day, whenever it rains I feel the urge to write." Just think how many books she might have written had she stayed in Portland!

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