Our Wednesday Fox asked, “If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?”
Normally, I’ll sit down and write my post for the week in one sitting. But this topic required more thinking time. First, I started to think about all the classic literature, most of which I haven’t read. Of the few titles I did manage to slog through, thanks to my awesome high school English teachers, I noticed a few that presented problems. Some have come under fire for the way they represent parts of the population. Others are so long and rambling I had difficulty staying awake to read them, and putting readers to sleep is not my idea of success.
Then I started thinking about more recent best-sellers. Some are quite gritty, and I don’t do grit. Some are quite spicy, and I don’t write spicy stories. Most deal with stuff I will never experience. There are several romance authors whose books I greatly admire, and I’d love to be able to create wonderful stories with the pace and quality that they do. But choosing just one would be difficult, because I love them all for different reasons.
I began to despair that I wouldn’t have selected a book and author in time for this post to appear on my blogging day, when I learned that the author of some of my favorite childhood books passed away. I remember my second grade teacher reading Henry Huggins to our class. The next time we went to the school library I found the shelf where Beverly Cleary’s books were kept and I began reading my way through the whole shelf. When I read all those, I turned to my local library. Years later, I read several of these books aloud to my elementary classes.
As I mourned Mrs. Cleary’s passing along with the rest of the world, I realized that I could have no better mentor than the author of Henry Huggins, Beezus and Ramona, and all the other books about the residents of Klickitat Street. These were stories that resonated with us because they were about characters with whom we could relate, living through situations with which we were all familiar, and dealing with them in a way we could all understand. These are things I strive for in my stories, but the Cleary books set the standard.
Almost 50 titles were published by the great Beverly Cleary. Which do I wish I’d written? Any of them, but if I must choose one, it would probably be The Mouse and the Motorcycle. Even though it’s about a mouse, the thoughts and actions described seem totally logical and understandable, especially from a child’s point of view. This is the first of three books about Ralph, an intrepid little mouse who takes off on all sorts of wonderful adventures. When I read this and the two sequels (Runaway Ralph and Ralph S. Mouse) aloud to my second and third graders, there was very little fidgeting and no behavior problems, because the children were totally engaged in the story. What more could an author wish for?