Beloved children’s book author Beverly Cleary dies at 104

By the time ‘Beezus and Ramona’ was released, Ms. Cleary had twins, Malcolm and Marianne, to provide her with fresh material. They survive him, along with three grandchildren and a great-grandchild. Her husband died in 2004.

Credit…William Morrow

Ms. Cleary tended to find both comedy and drama in life’s little incidents, but she didn’t shy away from tackling big themes. In “Ramona and Her Father”, Ramona mounts a campaign to get her father to quit smoking, a habit he abuses after losing his job. In “Dear Mr. Henshaw”, loner Leigh Botts, a sixth-grade student upset by his parents’ divorce, begins to write to his favorite children’s book author for advice and eventually finds solace in keeping a journal. This book won the Newbery Medal in 1984. A sequel, “Strider”, followed in 1991.

In 1965, Mrs. Cleary introduced Ralph S. Mouse – the S. stands for “smart” – in “The Mouse and the Motorcycle”, primarily as a way to hook her son into reading. Plagued by many of the worries of his human counterparts, the brave Ralph deals with mouse issues as well as human relations while riding a mouse-scale motorcycle in the novels “Runaway Ralph” and “Ralph S.Mouse”.

Ms Cleary has also written a series of young adult novels dealing with teenage issues, including ‘Fifteen’, ‘The Luckyest Girl’ and ‘Sister of the Bride’.

Her constant guide as a writer, Mrs. Cleary once wrote in The Horn Book, was the girl she once was: “a rather strange and serious little girl, prone to colds, who sat in a rocking chair in child with his feet on the hot air outlet of the furnace, reading for hours, searching for laughter in the pages of books while his mother warned him that he was going to ruin his eyes.

She continued: “This little girl, who stayed with me, stops me from writing to children, making fun of my characters and writing an adult reminiscence of childhood instead of a book for the children.”

Grover Z. Barnes