Reviewing the Literature

“Wistful and willful; see 
Beverly Cleary’s
Protagonists vivid,
Forever sincere—
Beezus; Ramona; a
Mouse, motorcycling; list 
Funny, true, dear.”

After the week of lab-centered light verse, the next week of NaPoWriMo 2021 was focused on “Twitter biographies”: short poems about the lives of scientists and writers.  The first was posted on 12 April 2021 and had a near-double-dactyl form.  It was posted on “Drop Everything and Read” Day, which is celebrated on author Beverly Cleary’s birthday.  

“Wistful and willful; see /
Beverly Cleary’s /
Protagonists vivid, /
Forever sincere…”

It was interesting in reading Beverly Cleary’s autobiography, long after I encountered her fiction books, to realize how many of the characters and scenarios she described in the latter were drawn from her own life.  That helped explain the vivid details behind so many of these classic scenes and stories!  

As stated above, this particular Twitter bio was posted on “Drop Everything and Read” Day, or “D. E. A. R.” Day.  Cleary’s most famous character, Ramona Quimby, celebrates the D.E.A.R. routine in Ramona Quimby, Age 8.  Ramona greatly enjoys reading books of her own for an hour in the midst of the busy school day (although she prefers to refer to it as the more sophisticated routine of “Sustained Silent Reading”).   

“Beezus; Ramona; a /
Mouse, motorcycling; list / 
Characteristic’ly /
Funny, true, dear.”

In addition to Ramona, I remember her sister Beezus, their neighbor Henry Huggins: humorous and heartfelt characters dealing with everyday scenarios.  Cleary also wrote wonderful stories about animal protagonists: The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Ribsy, Socks.  

Only a few of Cleary’s characters have names that lend themselves to the dactylic meter, so only a few are noted specifically here via verse. However, I could write at length about how these books have all inspired me in terms of my own reading and writing. In particular, Dear Mr. Henshaw was my first introduction to an epistolary novel and the interesting flexibility that that form provides.  

Cleary passed away just last year, at age 104, leaving a legacy of characters true-to-life, sympathetic, and inspiring: a “list / characteristic’ly / funny, true, [and] dear.”