The beloved 94-year-old children's author talks about the Ramona and Beezus movie – and where Ramona would be now

By Michelle Tauber
Updated July 23, 2010 08:45 AM
Gerald Herbert/AP

Attention, Ramona Quimby fans of all ages: the mischief-making kid sister is back. Ten-year-old Joey King takes on the iconic role in the new film Ramona and Beezus, in theaters Friday. (Selena Gomez plays big sis Beezus.) In honor of the Ramona renaissance, we talked to beloved children’s author Beverly Cleary. Here’s what’s on her mind:

1. She’s not a red carpet type, but she did enjoy the premiere of Ramona and Beezus at her quiet community near Carmel, Calif.

Arriving in a golf cart festooned with ribbons and wearing “a very old dress,” the 94-year-old phenomenon, who has sold 75 million books worldwide, offered a few words to the gathered crowd of 150 or so: “If you like car chases, guns and fights,” she offered dryly, “then this movie is not for you.”

2. She doesn’t analyze her characters.

During one meeting with Ramona and Beezus director Elizabeth Allen, “[Beverly] asked, ‘What are the themes in Ramona?’ ” recalls Allen. “I said, ‘It’s about this iconoclast who’s learning how to navigate in society.’ And she looked at me cross-eyed and said, ‘No. It’s about growing up.’ ”

3. She wrote all 32 of her books in longhand.

With the exception of her first, 1950’s Henry Huggins, all were in her pen, and she never had a single rejected manuscript. Of her dozens of famous characters, she most identifies with well-mannered Ellen Tebbits. “But inside, I had Ramona-like thoughts,” she says.

4. Her rules for the new movie: no gadgets, no slang words, no trendy clothes.

Cleary wanted to ensure that Ramona and Beezus remained timeless, so she nixed anything that might date it. “Kids today feel like the books were written currently,” says Allen. “Every generation thinks the books are theirs. It’s amazing.”

5. Cleary’s last book was 1999’s Ramona’s World, but she has notes on another Ramona book.

Where would the ever-curious little sister be as a grownup? “She might go backpacking around Europe,” says Cleary. “I don’t know. I’d have to write it and find out!”