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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

April 12, 1916

Are you ready for another Tuesday Timeline?  I know I've said it before, but I absolutely love doing these.  For one, there's a brand new subject every single week I do these.  It could very well be considered like a Trivial Pursuit game, where each question could be from a variety of subjects.

I'll admit that this week's subject deals with the topic of literature, and that the subject of this blog is doing something that not a lot of people can brag about!  More on that later.

So, today's April 12.  Let's see what happened throughout history on this date.

1204 - The Crusaders of the Fourth Crusade breach the walls of Constantinople and enter the city

1606 - The Union Flag is adopted by Scottish and British ships

1831 - The Broughton Suspension Bridge in Manchester, England collapses from the weight of several soldiers marching across it!

1861 - The American Civil War begins

1864 - Several African-American soldiers are executed by Confederate forces following their surrender at Fort Pillow, Tennessee

1912 - Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross, dies at the age of 90

1917 - Canadian forces successfully take Vimy Ridge from Germany during World War I

1927 - Chiang Kai-Shek orders the Communist Party of China members executed in Shanghai, China

1932 - Singer/ukelele player Tiny Tim (d. 1996) is born in Manhattan, New York

1934 - The U.S. Auto Life strike begins

1936 - Actor/singer Charles Napier (d. 2011) is born in Mt. Union, Kentucky

1945 - President Franklin D. Roosevelt dies at age 63 while still in office

1947 - Author Tom Clancy (d. 2013) is born in Baltimore, Maryland

1955 - Dr. Jonas Salk announces the news that a vaccination for polio has been created

1961 - Yuri Gagarin becomes the first human to travel into outer space

1980 - Terry Fox kicks off his "Marathon of Hope" for cancer research

1981 - The first launch of a Space Shuttle takes place - in this case, it was Space Shuttle Columbia

1989 - Social activist and founder of the Youth International Party Abbie Hoffman dies at the age of 52

1992 - Euro Disney opens to the public in Paris, France

1994 - The first commercial mass Usenet spam message is sent by Canter & Siegel

1999 - President Bill Clinton is cited for contempt of court for giving "intentionally false statements" in his sexual harassment civil lawsuit

2010 - A landslide causes a train derailment in Merano, Italy, killing nine

2014 - Valparaiso, Chile is devastated by a fire which kills sixteen people and destroys two thousand homes

And for celebrity birthdays, we have quite a few turning one year older.  Happy birthday to Wendy Savage, Dennis Banks, Herbie Hancock, Bill Bryden, Ed O'Neill, Alex Briley, Dan Lauria, David Letterman, Lois Reeves, Scott Turow, David Cassidy, Tom Noonan, Reuben Gant, Pat Travers, Andy Garcia, Vince Gill, J. Alexander, Will Sergeant, Magda Szubanski, Amy Ray, Tom O'Brien, Mellow Man Ace, Alicia Coppola, Toby Gad, Nicholas Brendon, Shannen Doherty, J. Scott Campbell, Claudia Jordan, Marley Shelton, Claire Danes, Jennifer Morrison, Paul Nicholls, Brian McFadden, James Alexandrou, Brooklyn Decker, Brendon Urie, Jessie James Decker, April Rose Pengilly, T. Mills, and Saoirse Ronan.

Oh my goodness, that is a lot of people celebrating a birthday today.  I hope I didn't forget anyone! know what?  I actually did.  But that's all right.  Because her birthday happens to be the same date that I've chosen for today's Tuesday Timeline.

And that date is...April 12, 1916!

Wait?  April 12, 1916?  That would make her one hundred years old today!  I'm telling you - it's extremely rare for someone to make it to birthday number one hundred.  The only two celebrities that I can think of that made it to 100 are George Burns and Bob Hope - and both of those men passed away not long after.

So, needless to say, this is a very special Tuesday Timeline.

And, to be honest with you, this person wrote a book that has a very special place in my heart.

It goes all the way back to second grade.  Unlike the previous year where I had a teacher who more or less tried to destroy me, this teacher was a lot more fun.  Her name was Miss Johnson, and I think that she recognized the abilities in me that no other teacher really wanted to touch.  While I was still segregated from some of the other kids in the class in some ways, it was only because I was placed in the enriched reading program along with seven other kids.  So, it wasn't like I was being frozen out of the class completely.

Anyway, back to the story...I remember in second grade, while the majority of the class read from primers that were suitable for second grade reading, the eight of us were given an independent study assignment for class where we read a full-length novel and we did a bunch of activities based on that book.

The book that was chosen for us was the book "The Mouse and the Motorcycle".  And as you may well know, the author of the book is Beverly Cleary - who turns 100 years old today!

There was just something so special about that book.  I absolutely love it to this day - and it seems hard to believe, but it was over fifty years ago that the book first hit store shelves.  Who knew that a little mouse named Ralph and his toy motorcycle would have such an impact on me?

I guess part of the reason why I could relate with this book was because I could relate to the main character so much.  No, I am not a rodent covered with fur that can ride a motorcycle - but I was a kid who had trouble fitting in because he felt as though he were secretly judged by everyone else.  It was bad enough that Ralph was warned by his mother not to trust a human, but when Ralph did befriend a little boy named Keith, Keith had to keep his friendship with Ralph a secret, for he didn't want his own parents to know that he was socializing with a mouse.  In a way, the story is a frustrating one, for you have a forbidden friendship between boy and rodent, and how both of them want to stay friends forever even though the world is against them.

I have to wonder if maybe "The Mouse and the Motorcycle" was a clever way to display the time period of the day.  After all, this book was written right around the time of the Civil Rights Movement and the Feminist Movement.  It was definitely a period of social change, and I think that had I though of it, it would have made an interesting project.

Then again, in second grade, I was seven.  That project was a little TOO ambitious even for me.  But I do remember doing some writing assignments on the book, and even had the opportunity to design what Ralph's house would look like using nothing but stickers.  That was such a fun project!  I wish I still had it.

The point is that "The Mouse and the Motorcycle" was really the first novel I remember wanting to read and re-read over and over again, and I think that Beverly Cleary's writing was a huge part of it.  She didn't try to dumb down the novel for a specific audience...rather she told a story in such a way that every single person could understand what she was trying to illustrate.

And, she wrote so much more than that one book.  In her century on this planet, it is estimated that Beverly Cleary has written no less than 44 novels - almost all of them being huge successes with children.

Perhaps you might have read a few of the books starring the precocious Ramona Quimby - a little girl that very well could have been an unofficial mascot for Cleary's excellent body of work.  And, I certainly do remember reading all about Ramona, her sister Beezus, and her life and times of growing up in your typical nuclear family in an average neighbourhood with an overactive imagination that would make any eight-year-old proud.  Also featured in these books is another Cleary character - Henry Huggins - who happens to be the star of Cleary's first novel, published all the way back in 1950!

Or if you were a little bit older, you might have been enthralled by the novel "Fifteen", a story about falling in love for the very first time and the trials and tribulations of what it might be like to go out on dates with a steady boyfriend.  It's amazing how that book was written six decades ago and yet still be relevant to teenagers today.

Really, any of the Beverly Cleary library is worth a look.  Of course, I'm partial to "The Mouse and the Motorcyle", but any of the Beverly Cleary books are definitely worth checking out.

In fact, I issue you a challenge.  In celebration of Beverly Cleary's 100th birthday, I want you to go to the library or download a copy of any of her books on your Kindle or iPad, and sit down and read it.  I think that would be a fantastic way to celebrate the life of one of the world's most beloved children's authors.

Happy 100th birthday, Beverly Cleary!

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