Brown: Do you read much contemporary children's literature? Have you read the Harry Potter series, for example?
Cleary: No, I haven't. I rarely read children's books.
Brown: Do you think that your success as an author, and becoming a national figure in children's literature and publishing, influenced your writing?
Cleary: I don't think it has, because I am so surprised by it all. I just wrote about childhood as I had known it.
Brown: Benjamin Schwarz, The Atlantic's literary editor, observed that over time your books seemed to grow more topical, sometimes in ways that seemed to contrast your initial efforts to avoid message-y stories. Was this intentional?
Cleary: I don't agree with the interpretation. I simply have written about a little girl growing up, and so her life is different at different stages.
Brown: In the new World of Beverly Cleary collection, the illustrations have been updated from Louis Darling's originals to reflect more 21st-century-looking children who wear backpacks and bicycle helmets. Why try to contemporize them?
Cleary: I was always very happy with the Louis Darling and Alan Tiegreen illustrations, but my publisher felt it was time for a change.
Brown: Did you see the recent Ramona and Beezus movie? What were your thoughts?
Cleary: I thought Joey King, the actress who played Ramona, was very good. She had loved the books and was eager to play the part. Although there were scenes left out that I would have liked to see, on the whole I think it was a movie that parents could take their children to without worry.
Brown: While I read many of your books as a child, I've continued to re-read your two memoirs, A Girl From Yamhill and My Own Two Feet, throughout adulthood. I've often wondered what happened to your best friend, Claudine? Did you ever hear again from the boyfriend you called Gerhart? And how did your parents react to your professional success as a writer?
Cleary: Claudine and I were friends all of her life; she died a couple of years ago, and I still miss her. We didn't see each other often but we had a long telephone friendship. I never did hear from the man I called Gerhart, but he did go see my mother once in a while. My parents were very proud and happy for me. And I suspect my mother felt a tinge of envy, because she always wanted to write. I don't know why she didn't.
Brown: Can you tell us a little about your life as a beginning author? My Own Two Feet ends just as this phase of your life begins. In particular, how did you balance raising your own children with writing for (and corresponding with) thousands of others?
Cleary: It wasn't easy. I loved my family and I loved my young career. A neighborhood woman felt that I needed help and offered to come babysit the children. I would write while she looked after them. They would draw pictures and slide them under my door. It worked out nicely.