Beloved children’s author Beverly Cleary has passed away, just a few weeks short of her 105th birthday.
Beverly Atlee Cleary (née Bunn; April 12, 1916 – March 25, 2021) was an American writer of children's and young adult fiction. One of America's most successful authors, 91 million copies of her books have been sold worldwide since her first book was published in 1950. Some of Cleary's best known characters are Ramona Quimby and Beezus Quimby, Henry Huggins and his dog Ribsy, and Ralph S. Mouse.
The majority of Cleary's books are set where she grew up, in the Grant Park neighborhood of Portland, Oregon. She has been credited as one of the first authors of children's books to figure emotional realism in the narratives of her characters, often children in middle-class families.
She won the 1981 National Book Award for Ramona and Her Mother and the 1984 Newbery Medal for Dear Mr. Henshaw. For her lifetime contributions to American literature, Cleary received the National Medal of Arts, recognition as a Library of Congress Living Legend, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal from the Association for Library Service to Children. The Beverly Cleary School, a public school in Portland, was named after her, and several statues of her most famous characters were erected in Grant Park in 1995.
Cleary was an only child and lived on a farm until she was six years old, when her family moved to Portland. The adjustment from living in the country to the city was hard for her, and she found school challenging; in first grade, her teacher placed her in a group for struggling readers. Cleary said, "The first grade was separated into three reading groups—Bluebirds, Redbirds, and Blackbirds. I was a Blackbird. To be a Blackbird was to be disgraced. I wanted to read, but somehow could not." With the help of a school librarian who introduced her to books she enjoyed, Cleary caught up by third grade and started to spend a lot of time reading and at the library. By sixth grade, a teacher suggested that Cleary should become a children's writer based on essays she had written for class assignments.
After high school, Cleary went on to the University of California, Berkeley, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in English in 1938. She also met her future husband, Clarence Cleary, during her time at Cal. The couple eloped and were married in 1940. During World War II, she got a job as a librarian at the U.S. Army Hospital in nearby Oakland. Working with children, Cleary empathized with her young patrons, who had difficulty finding books with characters they could identify with. After a few years of making recommendations and performing live storytelling in her role as librarian, Cleary decided to start writing children's books herself, and in 1942, she became a full-time writer.
4K notes · View notes