March 31, 2006

Old friends

I've learned from Susan's Chicken Spaghetti weekend reading list that Beverly Cleary, the eternal Ramona, is alive and well and will be celebrating her 90th birthday on April 12th; just as remarkable an achievement, all 39 books she has written since 1950 have remained in print. But her last, Ramona's World from 1999, marks the end of the line and, according to the Newsweek interview, though Mrs. Cleary "admits she's made 'notes on another book,' she doesn't plan to write it. 'It's important to know when to stop,' she says."

Stopping by Mrs. Cleary's own website, though, I learned that Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins, and Ribsy will live forever in bronze at the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden for Children in Portland, Oregon.

And from Kelly at Big A little I learned that Mike Mulligan's and Mary Anne's friend Dickie Berkenbush (misspelled in 70 million copies as Birkenbush) is alive and well at 81, and was recently profiled by The Boston Globe. My kids were thrilled to learn that little Dickie, who in real life as in print came up with the idea of using Mary Anne to provide steam heat for the new town hall, grew up to serve as both the fire chief (for 37 years) and police chief (for 10) of Popperville, er, West Newbury, Massachusetts. The interview came about to publicize the special display mounted by Mr. Berkenbush's wife Sue at the GAR Memorial Library in West Newbury, celebrating the life and work of author and illustrator Virginia Lee Burton, a close friend of the Berkenbush family. The exhibit runs through next month.

I'm such a big fan of Burton's, with clear memories of borrowing Katy and the Big Snow and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel from the library week after week during my own childhood, and a newfound adult appreciation for her lyrical The Little House and Life Story, that the other year I bought a copy of Virginia Lee Burton: A Life in Art for myself, from BookCloseouts. Highly recommended, for her own life story and her beautiful art.

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