I saw a YouTube video in which a monkey was riding a tiny motorcycle on a street in Indonesia. I was a bit disturbed by it because the monkey was chained. But seeing it on the bike, with the helmet and everything, reminded me of Ralph Mouse in The Mouse and the Motorcycle. Then, my thoughts turned to the author of that book and others she wrote. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: the Beverly Cleary novels.
How I first came across this moment? My exposure to Beverly Cleary was when I read Ramona the Pest in the 3rd grade. From there, I managed to get my mother to order Henry Huggins and Beezus and Ramona along with Louis Sachar’s Sideway Stories from Wayside School.
What it meant to me then? I found the novels to be very interesting. The Quimby family was certainly a weird bunch but not necessarily unlike most families. I found that I related a lot to Henry Huggins as a youngster: (1) I had a Beezus-like neighbor whom I was really cool with, (2) often found myself at odds with one of the girls that lived down the street because she thought she was better than us even though she lived in the projects just like us, and (3) I had an elderly neighbor who didn’t really like my mother, which meant that she didn’t like me…at least in my mind. I really loved the Ralph Mouse series: the vision of a house mouse on a motorcycle was always funny to me. The books were fantastic reads and provided plenty of laughs in my early novel reading.
What it means to me now? The last Beverly Cleary book I read was Dear Mr. Henshaw. I checked it out from the Huffman High School library and read it over a week’s time in October 2001. It was a different read from the Henry Huggins, Ramona Quimby, or Ralph Mouse series. It was much darker in tone and a bit more serious with regards to issues that young teenagers go through. Today, I still hold the Beverly Cleary novels in high regard…though I don’t own any of them personally. That might change for me though. Maybe I’ll purchase the entire collection and add it to the library for Ashton when he is of age to understand the messages in the novels.