Beverly Cleary

“I hope children will be happy with the books I’ve written, and go on to be readers all of their lives.” — Beverly Cleary

Very sad news on the weekend. Beloved children’s author, Beverly Cleary, died at the age of 104.

Beverly Cleary was born in Oregon in 1916. Her family lived on a farm and their town was so small that it didn’t have a library. Cleary’s parents valued literacy, so to fill this void her Mother arranged with the State Library to have books sent to the town and she acted as the librarian.

The family relocated to Portland and, as Cleary started school, it became apparent that despite her love of books, Cleary’s reading skills were below par. She would later say that her own struggles to become a strong reader gave her sympathy for others facing the same challenges.

By age 8 her reading skills were strong and Cleary was well on her way to becoming a voracious reader. Cleary loved visiting the school and public libraries to borrow lots (and lots) of books. As much as she enjoyed the books she borrowed, she couldn’t find funny stories about like the ones she knew and neighbourhoods like her own. With the urging of her school librarian, Cleary decided that, when she grew up, she’d write books for children like those she craved but could not find. And she did!

In 1950 at age 34, Cleary’s first book, Henry Huggins, was published. Since then she has written 41 other children’s books, with the final book being Ramona’s World, in 1999. Over 91 millions copies of her books have sold worldwide, translated into 28 languages. Cleary also wrote two memoirs, one about her childhood (A Girl from Yamhill) and one about her years in college and those leading up to writing her first book (My Own Two Feet).

In the late 80s, Ramona, a 10-part Canadian TV series aired starring Sarah Polley as Ramona Quimby and in 2010, Ramona and Beezus hit the big screen with Joey King as Ramona and Selena Gomez as Beezus.

Deservedly, Cleary’s books received many prestigious awards, including Newbery Awards for Ramona and Her Father and Ramona Quimby, Age 8 and National Book Awards. She herself was the recipient of the American Library Association’s Laura Ingalls Wilder Award (1975), the National Medal of Art from the National Endowment of the Arts (2003), was named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress, as well as being a nominee for the Hans Christian Andersen Award.

— Sandi H.