Tracing the impact of Beverly Clearly’s writing in the world would take so much tracing. Speaking for myself, after I read all her books as a young one I got most of them on audiotape and later CD so I could remain immersed in the lives of Ramona Quimby and her big sister Beezus and Ellen Tebbits and Otis Spoffard and Jane Purdy and Henry Huggins and Mitch and Amy and Spots the cat. To this day, some iTunes song will finish playing and instead of another song starting up, it's Stockard Channing reading “Beatrice Quimby’s biggest problem was her little sister Ramona . . .” Of course I have to keep listening. And no matter how many times I’ve revisited that story, I again have to smile and ache and sigh so deeply along with Ramona's small hurts and small triumphs. I also enjoyed one of Mrs. Cleary’s autobiographies, and when I recently learned that Beverly Cleary is currently 99 years old, I reread it. My Own Two Feet, like each of her books, is another beautiful telling of the human experience, where the woes and triumphs are small yet deep. But in this case it's the story behind all the other stories. I loved reading it again. This is one little triumphal telling in it that I loved, about her English Composition class in junior college.

Mr. Palmer assigned us a daily three hundred-word paper on any subject, to be poked through a slot in the locker nearest his office by three o’clock every school day. We were to do this until someone in the class earned an A. At first it was easy. I described the view from our kitchen window, the scene inside a shoe repair shop, my grandfather’s store in Oregon, the sound of palm trees at night, but as the days went by, I began to feel as if I had written everything in the world there was to write about. Still Mr. Palmer hoarded his A’s. I also began to think, but did not write, about myself in the third person: Her saddle shoes crushed pepper berries into the lawn as she walked under the feathery trees. She joined her friends on the school steps, tore open her lunch bag, and bit into a peanut-butter sandwich. Bending over, she tightened the laces of her gym shoes and tied them in a neat bow before she . . .
      Because I was also studying psychology, I began to wonder if I might lose my mind if this went on. Finally,
finally, after what seemed like weeks, Mr. Palmer announced that an A paper had been turned in. In was mine, a description of a shabby old man shuffling through a restaurant trying to sell violets, a sad Depression scene I had witnessed when a young man named Bob had taken me to a Portland restaurant for a hamburger. People had money for hamburgers, but no one had any money for violets. When Mrs. Palmer read my melancholy description aloud, the class was grateful to me for commuting our sentence of a daily three hundred words.